Two thumbs down to `stylized violence’
The other night we rented “Spider-Man.” Before the movie even started, something flashed on the screen that had a bigger impact on me than witnessing Tobey Maguire shoot spider web gunk all over Manhattan and swing around on it.
It was the film’s rating: “Rated PG-13 for stylized violence and action.”
Say what? Stylized violence? Does stylized violence hurt less than out-of-style violence?
This is a frightening concept for the young’ns. If you can do a back flip over your opponent before repeatedly bashing him in the head, then that’s “stylized” violence. If you can radiate your enemies into skeletons before you pulverize them into dust, that’s “stylized” action.
My parents had a different way of teaching me about movie violence and action and how movie ratings work. My first experience with movie ratings came when I was 12. My older sister, who was 15 at the time, was starting to go to R-rated movies on occasion. I was highly offended by this. What could she see that I couldn’t?
After months of pestering my mother about this inequity, Mom finally gave in. She’d just finished reading Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather.” The movie version of the book was in theaters and was getting huge publicity about how great it was.
“OK,” she said. “You and I will go to an R-rated movie. But I don’t think you’re going to like it.”
That made it even better. A challenge! We went to a matinee screening. I remember feeling very mature.
We got through the trailers and the opening credits. Since Mom had read the book, she had a rough idea of when to expect the gory stuff. It didn’t take long.
During the first Mafia shoot-out, I instinctively put my head between my legs and tried to dive underneath the seat in front of me. This was horrible! I plugged my ears so as not to hear the sounds of gunfire and bullets exploding into bodies. Yuck.
Mom tapped me on the back when everyone on the screen had been either annihilated or had escaped in a speeding car. I came up for air.
“You may not want to be here during the horse head scene,” she whispered to me.
“What??!!” I asked. A horse head that’s not attached to the horse? This did not sound good.
We made it through more dialog I didn’t particularly understand, and through scenes where men in black suits threatened each other.
More blood and violence took place before Mom took my hand.
“The horse scene is coming up,” she said.
I was outta there. I got up and headed for the doors. It was a hot, sunny day that made me squint when I got outside.
The theater was in our neighborhood, so I walked around the block, came back, and walked around the block again. How long does it take to finish up a horse head scene? I figured about 15 minutes.
More out of pride than anything, I sat next to Mom during the rest of the movie, feeling a little sick to my stomach and not at all excited that I was now an official R-rated movie-goer. After that, Mom and Dad didn’t have to worry about me seeing movies that were too violent for me. Smart cookies, my parents.
Back then, the moving rating system didn’t have “stylized violence and action” ratings. PG was PG. R was R. Those were the good old days.
Now, I understand that comic books are filled with good guys and bad guys constantly destroying each other. In the comic books, the good guys always, ultimately, prevail. And so it is with these movie versions.
But “stylized violence”? There’s something not right about that. After all, pain is pain. Dead is dead. Watching “Spider-man,” I kept thinking about 9/11. “Spider-Man” was supposed to be released in 2001, but because of the terrorist attacks, some of the movie had to be re-written and re-shot. A whole scene of Spider-Man hanging between the Twin Towers was eliminated.
But there’s one scene left in. Spider-Man’s nemesis, the Green Goblin, flies over Time Square while a crowd of onlookers looks up and points with terror at the menacing sight. I couldn’t help think that that scene looked an awful lot like the people on the streets of New York on 9/11.
I don’t advocate getting so politically correct that we lose the balance between real and “stylized” violence. I just think we need to pay attention to how we expose our kids to reality and fantasy – and the consequences of both.
Post Independent staff writer Carrie Click’s column appears on Tuesdays.
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This will be my 500th column — my final column in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.