Brace yourself. LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Hulk, smash.” That’s what Captain America tells the Incredible Hulk to do in “The Avengers,” and that’s what the Marvel Comics superhero mash-up did at the box office, smashing the domestic revenue record with a $200.3 million debut.
America has always had a love affair with violence, and it makes sense that the biggest film on record epitomizes that love affair. It is surprising, however, that the movie is also a big hit overseas, which gives one pause: is love of violence contagious? It wouldn’t be surprising and as the world becomes increasingly cramped, we are likely to see more and more violence — and, of course, the media will be there to report it and even to glorify it. Which will, in turn, generate more violence. So it goes.
I mentioned in an earlier blog the interesting difference between the way the British treat their heroes — such as Sherlock Holmes — and the way Hollywood treats the same character. Note the mega-upgrade in violence in the latter — though the recent series on BBC called, simply “Sherlock” has considerably more violence than the series that ran previously with Jeremy Brett. The current hero comes complete with a Dr. Watson who is a retired army medic who packs a handgun (?) wherever he goes and is a crack shot. But as a rule, the British seem to prefer their heroes to have brains rather than brawn, at least until recently.
There has been endless debate about the causes of our love affair with violence, including a Michael Moore film that came to no conclusion whatever after leading up to an embarrassing “interview” with Charlton Heston in which Heston spent most of the interview making sure he said nothing. Heston, of course, leads the NRA into battle at every possible opportunity — in the name of the second amendment to the Constitution, which does not say anything about the NRA or about hand guns, or oozies. Or Charlton Heston. Or Moses. It does, however, talk about a militia and the absence of a standing army, which are why we have a right to “bear arms” — to protect our home and country. But the latter element of the amendment seems to have fallen by the wayside in the heated discussion about whether we should have a right to shoot our neighbors in the street, or our backyard — or while on “neighborhood watch.”
I suspect I know what causes violence. Aside from dementia, which plays a part, I suspect since men are the usual culprit it is the testosterone they are filled with combined with the increasingly crowded living conditions that tend to lead all animal species to violence. Why should we be exceptional? Also, our inclination to violence is certainly influenced by our love of violent movies and games — including the “Avengers” who solve every problem by violent means and don’t seem to share a brain among them. The fact that America leads the world in violent acts is a fact that may soon have to be corrected after recent events like those in Norway — and the popularity of this particular movie around the world. We shall see. Personally, I like my crime solvers to use their minds and will prefer to watch “Inspector Lewis” (who doesn’t carry a gun) and wonder why humans continue to act like the other animals when they have a conscience and might just as readily care about their fellow humans. But then, as Christopher Lasch points out, in our increasingly permissive society children frequently fail to form a super ego.