Sunday, 22 October 2017

Blade Runner & the pornography of violence

The Hollywood remake of the classic movie Blade Runner, which I saw last night, begins with a scene in which one replicant, the Blade Runner of the title, kills another, and messily removes his eyeball in order to provide ID for his masters. A replicant scalp.

Despite the lavish sets, the ravishing 2049 urban wastelands, the designer hologram babes in black leather ... the whole movie revolves on the armature of killing; graphic, premeditated, bloody killing, and in that sense it is very much a movie a clef for the American 21st century.

Top eye-gouger
Movie ratings website Rotten Tomatoes gives the movie 8 out of 10. I give the movie a Rotten Tomato.

To me, the ritualised violence of Hollywood movies is a symptom of artistic bankruptcy - and a deeper malaise to boot.

During my ten years in Kings Cross, London, which at the time was the nation's premier red-light and drugs hub, I saw a lot of violence, and experienced a little myself. Violence up close isn't like Hollywood's stylised pornography.

There's no beauty in it ... no discernible aesthetic; no victory for the good guys; no rapid re-mending of torn flesh by advanced self-healing replicant technology. The sterilised violence delivered to us by Hollywood's art directors and production designers is intended to boost box office; to provide a jag of adrenaline and testosterone (for the boys) regardless of the effect on the countless young minds who witness it.

It's also designed, in my opinion, to impart a predatory thrill. In Blade Runner we get to see beautiful, half-naked women being slit open like cadavers on a coroner's block.

Men rule, ok?
As if violence against women wasn't a big enough problem in every nation on earth, we continue to have the most powerful men in Hollywood depicting women (and men) like animal cadavers on the killing floor of a slaughterhouse.

Do I sound a little annoyed?

We go after the National Rifle Association for their stubborn and obdurate defence of the free availability of lethal weaponry in the US. But we rarely condemn the Hollywood moguls for peddling gratuitous imagery of violence that desensitizes our children - particularly - our young men. I have little doubt that the Las Vegas killer, Stephen Paddock, viewed many blockbusters in which macho warriors of the American Dream settled their grudges with prolonged and indiscriminate automatic weapon fire.

I have no doubt that tens of millions of young men and women around the world (including jihadis) unconsciously absorb the implicit message - violence is thrilling, beautiful, taboo ... and kind of ... cool ... y'know?

For those of us with a real and intimate relationship with violence ... soldiers returned from wars; women who have been beaten up in the home; the police ... we know a secret and harrowing truth. Violence - all premeditated violence - is a form of evil, and to present it as some kind of ravishing artistic tableau is corrupting of the soul.

Recent events in the Weinstein brothers' company have shown us one more facet of Hollywood's toxicity. It came as no surprise to me to hear the tsunami of allegations about the abuse of power at the top of the US film industry. Contempt for the common humanity of people - a kind of brutalized and blunted sensibility - radiates from many of the movies disgorged by the most powerful and uncontested myth-making engine on the planet.


  1. A very thoughtful review, John. I agree with you. Violence is glamourised in such movies and women objectified.

  2. Thank you for bringing this to our attention John. It's about time that we started to speak up about the movie/tv industry and their disturbing focus on scantily clad women and graphic violence. The "Me Too" campaign is maybe a beginning.