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Art The Day After

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#1 Alexandra


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Posted 21 September 2001 - 01:55 PM

This was a letter to the editor in the Washington Post today. It relates very specifically to violence in movies, but I think it might be applicable to all the arts. Obviously, this is just one person's reaction; others may not be bothered by violence at all. But it's something to think about.

Do you generally agree, generally disagree? Do you react differently this week to TV and movie previews -- and ballet company marketing, which has stressed aggression, if not the special effects violence of movies. (On the other hand, if we're going to be in a militaristic period, we may be seeing a lot of aggressive art.)

Anyway, here's the letter, from a gentleman in Atlanta:

"For many years, a debate has taken place in this country as to whether the violence portrayed in movies has had a negative effect on society. I always felt that any such effect was minimal and that it is the responsibility of individuals to decide for themselves what they wish to view. I found films such as "Die Hard," "Deep Impact" and "Independence Day" a welcome diversion from the routine of reality.

"Now I can never look upon these types of movies the same way. If I do, I will not be thinking about the impressive special effects. Instead, I will be thinking of the thousands of lives lost on Sept. 11. I will not be marveling at the realistic sound effects. Instead, I will be thinking about the many children who lost their mothers and fathers on that horrible day.

"The portrayal of an exploding building, a hijacked airplane or a chaotic aftermath will never again be entertaining, no matter how good the special effects may be. For these types of films are no longer diversions from reality. Rather, they have become reality, and I'm not going to pay money to see that."

#2 Giannina


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Posted 21 September 2001 - 04:49 PM

I never did pay money to see that.

My reaction to TV/movies is that nearly every subject portrayed seems so insignificant. I'm in a gentle mood, that is I want everything to be gentle so that my shattered existance can try to recover. Most ballet is gentle; "Car Man" isn't.


[ 09-21-2001: Message edited by: Giannina Mooney ]

#3 vagansmom


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Posted 21 September 2001 - 07:27 PM

I'm with Giannina. I never did pay to see any of that stuff - in fact, I've always avoided it. I know that lots of people have seen such movies and TV as entertainment but to me they've always been depictions of my nightmares and I generally like to avoid nightmares. :)

As for right now, I've hit the point of wanting nothing but gentility. That awful first day, when I wasn't sure if my son was alive (he was in the subway under the first tower at the time of the attack), I couldn't watch or listen to the news because of my great fear. For four hours of waiting to hear from him, I played a Fonteyn/Nureyev video over and over again to keep my sanity.

I'm finding that everything is more beautiful now- the sunshine, trees, the smell of the air, classical music I'm playing all day long...I realize that I'm trying to cloak myself in as much beauty as I can for as long as possible.

[ 09-21-2001: Message edited by: vagansmom ]

#4 felursus


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Posted 21 September 2001 - 11:45 PM

When I turned on my TV on the morning of Sept. 11, I was faced with the image of the burning Tower I. As I was busy eating breakfast I didn't immediately process what the commentator was saying, so my initial reaction was that they were publicising a remake or a "bump-off" of "Towering Inferno." This was truly reality imitating art!

Now we are about to bomb Afghanistan from the dark ages (which they are already in) to the stone age. The TV will show lots of images of planes, bombings, colorful tracers - as they did during the Gulf War. It will look just like the violence we see in movies and on TV. Kids, who don't remember the Gulf War, will think it very exciting. It won't seem "real" until they start bringing back the bodies in bags. Even then, I'm not sure the kids will be able to distinguish the reality of so many dead (on both sides) and the unreality of a movie.

There are movie directors who want to impress upon us the violence of war and the problem of the modern-day John Wayne "ride in and hit 'em hard" syndrome, who know they are attempting to shock us with an ever-increasing cycle of violence. But as we have become innured to yet another multi-vehicle crash/fireball, another shoot-out with assault weapons that leaves countless dead and lots of body parts strewing the ground, another scene that graphically portrays throat-slitting, body mutilation, etc., they have to find more and more extreme ways to shock us. I think Americans are so used to being "shocked" by celluloid portrayals, that we are completely desensitized to the real thing.

i don't mean to imply that people aren't horrified and shocked by the WTC disaster. Here in NYC everyone either knows someone who died or knows someone who knew people who died. The hardest part is that there aren't many bodies - and I doubt that there will be. The fireballs caused by the jet fuel will probably have incinerated most of those still missing. But we still crave "action." Just wait a year: there will doubtless be both a movie and a "made for TV special" - or two - on the subject. They will make sure everyone sees the bodies jumping and falling from the Towers - as those of us who saw the events live or the initial, live broadcasts did. They will make sure to show firemen getting hit by the piles of debris. We will see the priest (sorry, I can't remember his name) who stopped to give last rites to a fallen rescue worker also being overcome. There will be lots of blood and severed body parts. We will see much-bloodied heros rescuing or attempting to rescue people. We are going to need all that blood and gore to keep our desire for revenge alive once the bodies start coming home.

#5 Michael


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Posted 22 September 2001 - 09:34 AM

The September 11th attack did look uncannily like an action movie. I've seen a lot of those movies with my teenage sons, but they have lost their innocence now.

On September 11th, there was no James Bond, Harrison Ford, Jean Claude Van Dam, Arnold Schwartzenegger or Jackie Chan to save the day. No Superman to fly in front of the airliner about to strike and strenuously to push it back in reverse, before setting it down and capturing the terrorists.

In retrospect, it is the happy endings, not the doomsday scenarios, that are unrealistic about action films.

Another eerie parallel is Super Nintendo, where the "player" draws a bulls eye on a building (or something) and, when hit, the "something" soundlessly crumbles to the ground in flames and smoke. I won't be able to watch people playing those games any more without anguish.

#6 Alexandra


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Posted 22 September 2001 - 12:20 PM

Some very interesting comments -- thank you all. I agree that this will have an effect on our arts -- not just pop culture, but throughout the arts. Is the recent American interest in "Xtreme Sports" partly because we were in a "nothing can touch us" phase, but also because our lives were so secure many found this boring? I'm one of those who believes that, while the arts reflect our lives, they also are in opposition to them. When our lives are in turmoil -- or uncertainty -- we want stability, reaffirmation, something to cling to.

#7 salzberg


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Posted 22 September 2001 - 04:23 PM

I've been thinking about this for about two days now, and this morning I decided that, within the next few years, there will be one truly great dance piece inspired by, if not based on, the attacks on 9/11.

Unfortunately, before then there will have been at least 1,000 tacky, melodramatic pieces of shlock.

#8 Alexandra


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Posted 22 September 2001 - 08:47 PM

Jeff, I think you're right -- unfortunately, this time. :)

#9 Estelle


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Posted 24 September 2001 - 08:47 AM

This topic reminds me of some conversations with a friend. In June 2000, his younger brother left their home with their mother's gun, and nearly two weeks later his body was found: he had killed himself. My friend said that now he is extremely sensitive to anything related to firearms (and also to suicide, of course): he said that any image of people being shot, in fictions or in reality, made him feel totally sick... And also he realized that (as felursus wrote) we have become very desensitized to violence, considering it as "usual", and having in fact a very "abstract" vision of it: on TV or cinema screens people get killed, we see explosions, blood, etc. and people get used to it. But we don't realize, until facing it personally, the infinite sorrow caused by a real person's death.

#10 samba38



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Posted 24 September 2001 - 11:48 AM

We may not weant to see militaristic images but I think there's a longing for to see art's response to suffering and the battle for justice. Perhaps this is a good time for performances of Lamentation (see photo at [url="http://"http://www.pathfinder.com/photo/gallery/arts/morgan/cap02.htm)"]http://www.pathfinder.com/photo/gallery/ar...rgan/cap02.htm)[/url] or The Green Table.

#11 dirac


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Posted 24 September 2001 - 01:24 PM

I don't see art being any different. As salzberg said, works will be made about or inspired by what happened, and some will be good, some will be terrible, most will be mediocre, and maybe one or two will be great, if we are fortunate.

The-violence-in-entertainment debate is not one that I'm going to wade into here. I will say that, of the movies mentioned in the letter to the Post, I quite liked the first "Die Hard" and enjoyed watching Will Smith punch out extraterrestials in "Independence Day." It's true that lots of things explode in these movies, but their cartoonishness seems fairly harmless to me, unlike some "serious" movies I can think of.

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Posted 26 September 2001 - 09:33 AM

I doubt very likely we will see much in the way of actual destruction when the US retaliates (as they should swiftly and in massive force).
Since this next war will be fought in fits and strikes (and covert/stealth- as it should be), likely all we will see are the after effects (though I sure it will be played out with pictures of bombed out baby milk factories, civilains killed (and whether or not the media (CNN) plays that as anti/ugly-American, and I predict they will).
As this relates to violent movies, it must be that I am getting older for these movies don't appeal to me any longer (they haven't for years). This recent murderous attack (I refuse to call this event a tradgedy; it was cold blooded murder of innocents), though disbelieving I will admit, will not effect the way I view violent movies (of those I may watch. I know the difference between fact and fiction. Fact has far more impact.

No happy endings, Micheal1? No heros to save the day?
Cheer up!
How about the deaths Hitler (self inflicted suicide; sure to face death by hanging by the allies),Yamamoto (assasinated by US Navy fighters)and Mussilini (assasinated by mobs of very angry Italians).They all died at the hands of heros (heros to some degree though certainly not Gary Cooper).

These evil people will get theirs in the end. I have absolute faith in that.

#13 dirac


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Posted 26 September 2001 - 02:05 PM

I thought it would be worthwhile to reiterate the general injunction against political commentary for its own sake on these boards. Politics inevitably obtrudes into discussions of art, for financial, social, and cultural reasons, but if we can avoid making such comments for their own sake it might be advisable, especially at such a tense time, with thousands dead in New York and hundreds of thousands hungry, homeless, and equally innocent Afghans who as I type this are at the Pakistani border in hopes of escaping our retaliatory measures. It's an ugly situation for everyone, and the less said here the better, perhaps.

Please don't take this personally, anyone. :)

#14 Alexandra


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Posted 26 September 2001 - 02:18 PM

Thanks, dirac. Yes. Ballet politics only, please. There are, I'm sure, many message boards devoted to bombs, covert operations and what the U.S. should or shouldn't do, and this isn't one of them :)

#15 Diana L

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Posted 26 September 2001 - 03:46 PM

I admit I like the no-brainer films mentioned.
The images I always find the worst are actually found on the news. In the U.S. sensational journalism is extreme.
One image from the Sept 11 day is the footage of people in the streets of foreign lands celebrating. I found that harder to watch than what I saw from my window.
What was done was in some ways "political" and I hope that there aren't any ballets done on it.
In 50 years from now (if they can wait that long) this will be a movie but until then we'll have our tv's to watch.

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