Monday, April 23, 2007

Reactions to real horror

Various writers chime in on the Virginia Tech shootings.

First is the peculiar nature of the gun violence. Cho, it seems, wasn't a sniper, a marksman. He wasn't shooting carefully, at a distance. He wasn't, one can assume, aiming. He was shooting very much like Chow in the Woo pictures, with a gun in each hand, as witnesses state, up close, very fast. Woo saw gunfights in musical terms: His primary conceit was the shootout as dance number, with great attention paid to choreography, the movement of both actors within the frame. He loved to send his shooters flying through the air in surprising ways, far more poetically than in any real-life scenario. He frequently diverted to slow motion and he specialized in shooting not merely to kill, but to riddle -- his shooters often blast their opponents five and six times. Perhaps all that was at play in Cho's mind as well.
From this near-certainty Mr. Hunter makes a short trip to the assertion that during his rampage Mr. Cho “was shooting a John Woo movie in his head.” Evidence for this speculation is found in Mr. Woo’s fondness for two-fisted gunmanship, which Mr. Hunter credits him with introducing into movies, and also in a scene from “The Killer” that Mr. Hunter finds “strikingly similar to what must have happened Monday.”

It is hard to say what all this proves, other than that Mr. Hunter has no peer when it comes to wielding the conditional tense on deadline. He does not suggest that Mr. Woo is to blame for Mr. Cho’s actions. But his article does conjure a story line — the loner in his room watching ultraviolent movies on DVD, gathering inspiration for his own real-life action movie — that has unmistakable and familiar implications. Like guns, it seems, certain movies in the wrong hands can pose a threat to public safety.

This may be true, but only to the extent that a disturbed mind is apt to seek external confirmation of its own disturbance. It seems somewhat fair to conclude that Mr. Hunter, in linking Mr. Cho’s rampage to Mr. Woo’s films, was simply trying to make a guess as to the features of the killer’s mental world.
For most creative people, the imagination serves as an excretory channel for violence: We visualize what we will never actually do (James Patterson, for instance, a nice man who has all too often worked the street that my old friend George used to work). Cho doesn't strike me as in the least creative, however. Dude was crazy. Dude was, in the memorable phrasing of Nikki Giovanni, ''just mean.'' Essentially there's no story here, except for a paranoid a--hole who went DEFCON-1. He may have been inspired by Columbine, but only because he was too dim to think up such a scenario on his own.


Simon Crowe said...

"Spat Out By Jason Comerford?"....I'm worried...

Anyway, I linked to the Hunter and Scott articles too because I think they point up how facile it is to think we'll be able to understand what was going on in the shooter's mind. I don't think we know much about his movie watching habits, and even the guy who first made the comparison between one of the photos and the movie "Oldboy" is stepping back from saying that movies caused the rampage.

Hunter has won the Pulitzer Prize for movie criticism, but makes more money writing airport novels about a sniper named Bob Swagger - one was recently adapted as the movie "Shooter," in an unfortunate irony.

Biby Cletus said...

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Warm Regards

Biby Cletus - Blog

Jason Comerford said...

Hunter's put out a couple of pretty good collections of his film reviews: "Violent Screen" and "Now Playing at the Valencia." He's no Pauline Kael but he's fun to read. Have never read any of his shoot-em-up novels, though. I kinda outgrew the Tom Clancy military-heroics thing in like 10th grade.

The fundamental problem with something like the VT shootings is that its real cause is unknowable. We'd love to be able to trace it back to some kind of trigger incident, just so we can "understand," but there's no understanding something like this.

Dude was crazy, as Stephen King said, and crazy doesn't play by the rules.