Friday 14 August 2015

Article: Appetite for Destruction

Since my mid to late teens, I've pretty much been considered the “cynical” one of my group of friends. It’s a tag I do try hard to sometimes shrug off. Particularly when I see so many others push past my own pessimistic leanings.

But here’s the thing.

When you read that Universal will look to reimburse cinemas for extra security costs over the weekend for the release of Straight over Compton, the hyped musical biopic of infamous rap group NWA, the pissed off Pitt alarm, blares loudly in my brain.

Of course people will consider the reasoning just. Racial anxieties in America are currently at their peak. The many protests that have featured in areas such as Ferguson as well as the violent disruptions have been well documented. I’m sure many could explain to me why people are nervous about a film in which the lead characters; who hail from the city with two groups of the most notable crime gangs, named one of their most famous anthems: Fuck Da Police…

But shouldn’t we consider, just for a minute, the reasoning behind these protests? Why has so much tension presented itself?  Why has so much anger flared up? One only needs to Google the words Black Lives Matter and read the many over the deaths of unarmed African Americans at the hands of armed Caucasian policemen. The protests that have occurred have yet again highlighted that Americas relationship with race is as convoluted and complex as its relationship with the same firearms being used to extinguish life. So quite strangely, the more black people killed or mistreated, the more protests occur. The more protests occur, the more conflicts flare. The more conflicts flare, the more studios worry about the (black) entertainment they release.

Annoyingly, I find this all gets a little Manson’s Helter Skelter. Was 8 Mile placed under such scrutiny when Eminem was at the height of his powers and notoriety? A film which treads lightly upon a gang culture within a multi-cultural, depressed town? Did any worry transpire when its infamous star (whom George Bush stated was “the most dangerous threat to American children since polio”) went on to pick up the best song Oscar? Nope. I doubt anyone would have believed that a woman who attack a man with pepper spray during a Mr Turner screening either. Mr Turner: a three hour period piece about a talented British Painter. Not one for frisking and metal detectors.

Can we also highlight that the shocking murders caused by Dylann Roof in an African American church, have been played down by many as not being an act of terrorism? The same goes for Anders Behring Breivik (although that is Norway). Do we know films did Elliot Rodger watch before he killed six people and then himself? This young man shot video "manifesto" raged at interracial couples, black men and girls that shunned him for not being successful. In fact, both Breivik and Roof also had angry manifestos of filled with disturbing views on how they viewed people of minority races. Were they James Bond fans? Rambo fans? Did they ever have a thing for Arnie's oeuvre?

I ask because in the years I've spent watching dashing white heroes, shoot and kill aliens either intergalactic or foreign. It's always considered for the right reasons. And no one believes that they the violence off the screens and into reality. When I read the articles and reports for the likes of American Sniper, I see no tightened security measures. Only the records they've broken at the box office. Of course, there's the political fallout, but no pre-emptive action taken. Looking at the articles that surrounded that movie, it's safe to say that a lot of fans of that movie seemed to enjoy guns.

Of course not every gun carrier in America is a troubled, unhinged person. And not every fan of of films with gun violence is going to start popping off like it's the 4th of July. That's a spiteful generalisation. Yet I can only be frustrated when looking at the likes of James Holmes, whose violent attack on a cinema in Colorado was quickly pinned upon similar nihilistic leanings of the Joker from The Dark Knight. A crime which sparked a rise in gun purchases along with security tightening afterwards. You can also look at the crime of Curtis Reeves; a retired policeman who deemed it fine to shoot and kill a man for texting in a cinema. The tragedy of the Lafayette shootings is still fresh and occurred during a screening of the romantic comedy Trainwreck. All these incidents are always considered as random as they are upsetting, yet often with them, dark, troubling reasons rise to the surface. Issues which no one seems to be truly aware of until it's too late. Yet when it comes to something like Straight Outta Compton, everyone appears to be all too sure of violence erupting.

This isn't to say that violence couldn't happen. Even looking from the outside in, tensions do appear to be running exceedingly high and I hope that no one does something to justify the already, clearly high suspicions. But here we are, looking at a carefully worded statement of heightened security over an "urban" film (sigh) which looks ready to do well at the box office. This to me speaks volumes. I do not wish to belittle the large and complex issues that a beautiful country (and it is beautiful) carries on it's shoulders.  But wouldn’t it be nice if people weren’t so automatically certain in their conformation of black violence as they are uncertain about the actions of white lone wolves?