All violence is equal, but some violence is more equal than others

Movie review one:

The movie is a viscerally exciting, adrenaline-soaked tour de force of suspense and surprise, full of explosions and hectic scenes of combat, but it blows a hole in the condescending assumption that such effects are just empty spectacle or mindless noise.

[snip]

Ms. Bigelow, practicing a kind of hyperbolic realism, distills the psychological essence and moral complications of modern warfare into a series of brilliant, agonizing set pieces.

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It has intense, horrific violence and appropriately profane reactions to the prospect of same.

Let me sum that up: This is an incredibly violent movie, with really gross stuff, but we love it.

Movie review two:

[This movie] thoroughly blurs the line between high-minded outrage and lurid torture-porn.

[snip]

Not since “The Passion of the Christ” has a film depicted a public execution in such graphic detail. In the approximately 20 minutes during which the killing unfolds, the camera repeatedly returns to study the battered face and body of the title character (Mozhan Marno) as she is stoned to death.

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In one of the film’s sickeningly exploitative touches, Ali, wearing a triumphal grin, examines his wife’s crumpled, blood-drenched body to make sure she is dead and discovers signs of life in a rolled-up eye. The stoning is promptly resumed.

[snip]

Mr. Negahban’s Ali, who resembles a younger, bearded Philip Roth, suggests an Islamic fundamentalist equivalent of a Nazi anti-Semitic caricature. With his malevolent smirk and eyes aflame with arrogance and hatred, he is as satanic as any horror-movie apparition.

[snip]

As “The Passion of the Christ” showed, the stimulation of blood lust in the guise of moral righteousness has its appeal.

Again, let me sum things up: This is an incredibly violent movie, with really gross stuff, and we were deeply offended.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, the second movie is The Stoning of Soraya M. It depicts true events in an Iranian village that is subject to the worst kind of sharia law, misogyny, and power run amok. The movie does not shy away from showing what it looks like for someone to be stoned to death, nor the evil that motivates that kind of action. And lest you think the violence is exaggerated, just think of the beheading tapes the jihadis like to release, in which they are in an ecstasy of bloodlust. Bottom line: showing the true horror of a religious, misogynistic act is really tacky, and it’s downright cruel to force New York Times reviewers to have to watch it.

The first movie may not be one you’ve heard of. It’s called The Hurt Locker — and is a critic’s pick. Set during 2004 in Iraq, it shows a squad dedicated to disarming (or blowing up) IEDs. The only really problem, in the critic’s eyes, is that the film isn’t more antiwar. Thus, he lauds the fact that “you will . . . be thinking” but complains that the film did not go further:

[You will . . . be thinking] Not necessarily about the causes and consequences of the Iraq war, mind you. The filmmakers’ insistence on zooming in on and staying close to the moment-to-moment experiences of soldiers in the field is admirable in its way but a little evasive as well.

It is in this context that the reviewer thinks all that bloody, graphic, horrifying violence is just about the most thrilling thing he’s seen in, God, who knows how long. Bottom line: showing American military people and Iraqi citizens being blown up in graphic detail is incredibly exciting, because it reminds us that Bush lied and people died.

As I said, all violence is equal, but some violence is definitely more exciting and rewarding than others.

Cross-posted at Bookworm Room

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