Monday, December 17, 2012

We Interrupt This Program...

Our media culture is here to protect our delicate psyches in this time of national tragedy.  God bless you, Hollywood sensibilities.

Paramount Pictures is postponing the Pittsburgh premiere of the new Tom Cruise action film, "Jack Reacher."  Apparently, this movie opens with a disturbing scene of violence perpetrated by a man with a sniper rifle.  In this regard, it is indistinguishable from dozens of other movies, television shows, video games, or commercials shown during the Super Bowl.

The studio statement includes the sincere sentiment, “Our hearts go out to all those who lost loved ones."  The studio also hopes that the public comes to see the movie in droves, but that was left unstated.  It is assumed.

The movie will eventually be released, and millions will enjoy the simulated opening scene carnage from the security of their stadium style movie seat.  Oops, forgot – movie seats are no longer secure or safe.

Television executives have temporarily found their hearts as well.  To demonstrate their humanity, the Fox network will not air original episodes of "Family Guy" and "American Dad" this week. The episodes -- "Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" from "Family Guy" and "Minstrel Krampus" from "American Dad" -- will instead be replaced by reruns.  The reruns promise not to be funny out of respect for the victims.  Apparently the original episodes were deemed potentially insensitive, which is curious since the program’s raison d’etre is to be insensitive.  Being insensitive post-Newtown is insensitive.

The Syfy channel opted not to air its latest new episode of "Haven," which featured scenes of violence in a high school. One week ago, this program would have aired without a hint of remorse from any of the producers.  Not one child would have been shocked by the content last week.

I should be fair.  These shows and movies and games and songs do not cause violence.  Many of these pieces of entertainment air across the globe and are seen in countries with far less mass violence than we enjoy here in the states.  The arts are more reflective of society than creators of it.  ‘Don’t shoot the messengers’, as it were. 

It does bother me, however, that once the emotional scar tissue has sufficiently hardened across our national mood, these programs and movies with scenes that desensitize a complicit public will be back.  After an appropriate “grieving”, Hollywood will be back to its regularly scheduled programming.  Autopsies will be performed during the 8 o’clock hour on network TV.  Zombies will be beheaded during basic cable marathons.  The blood will again flow unabated.  Nothing will change – because our society won’t change, at least not overnight.

Changing society to be again disgusted by the gore and the blood that visits our living rooms and mobile devices every day will be hard to legislate out of existence.  Free speech, blah, blah, blah.  But we can turn off the extra violent stuff for more than a week, can’t we?  Please tell me we can.

The media doesn’t cause violence and shouldn’t be blamed when it creeps into our lives.  But I think we’ve had enough extra programming around the topics of murder and maiming for a while.  At least I have.

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