Home News - Off Topic Ann Hornaday Talks Movies, Guns the Continual Stoking of the Male Fantasy

Ann Hornaday Talks Movies, Guns the Continual Stoking of the Male Fantasy

36 min read

It seems like every year there is a new gun violence story to talk about — mass murders committed mostly by white (occasionally Asian, rarely African American) upper middle class or middle class (occasionally men of no means) men who are angry at the world, angry at women, angry at immigrants, angry at Jews, angry at the government. They are everywhere and access to weapons has never been easier. Want a gun? No problem. Want to stockpile weapons online? Easy as pie. No one is watching you. They’re all too busy looking for swarthy terrorists and busting pot growers.

It isn’t so simple to say that it’s untreated mental illness. Nope, the latest Isla Vista piece of shit was being well treated for mental illness. The Aurora shooter, the Newtown shooter and the Columbine shooters, not to mention the Virginia Tech shooter were all being treated for mental illness and most were being medicated. You want to blame medication? Can’t do that either because many of the less famous mass shooters who shot up fast food restaurants, post offices or synagogs weren’t being medicated. Blame guns? Well you can do that, sure, but guns have always been around. We’ve always had access to them. Blame hateful men for being angry? Sure, that’s a constant throughout human history and especially in the last 100 years. The rise of mass murders and serial killers is a fairly recent phenomenon, human history-wise. We’re overpopulated now, we’re living longer – it stands to reason weird shit is going to start cropping up in our DNA.

But what has really changed in the past 30 years? What has caused this epidemic of mass shootings, which has gone roughly this way:

1980s – 3 mass shootings recorded
1990s – 11 mass shootings recorded
2000s – 12 mass shootings recorded
2010 – 2014 13 mass shootings and counting
[source: LA Times]

In the last four years there have been more than in any other decade going back 30 years. That means we have to start looking at other factors of what might be causing the recent increase in these types of killings. Before we get to Michael Moore’s famous statement on the issue, which is dead on the money, let’s look at what happened to Ann Hornaday when she tried to explore the possibility that the continual fantasy fodder of films aimed young men might be partly to blame for the latest shooting, which Gawker then picked up.

What happened as a result of her name checking Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen was that they each tweeted to their millions of followers the following:

The last tweet I left in for effect but let’s just say that mental illness certainly was being identified, obviously, as the main motivator here. Oh, they threw around the term Asperger’s, like they did with the Newtown shooter but that appears to have been a misdiagnosis for what they really meant: psychopath. They exist in our world and we have to realize that sooner rather than later.

So what has changed in the past 30 years? Haven’t there always been psychopaths? Yup. What is new in our culture?

1. There are more people overall.

2. The hysteria-driven news cycle has done nothing but fan the flames for this kind of tragedy, poring over detail 24/7. If attention is what these guys are seeking, attention is what they get right away and often. The media delivers the shock and awe reaction they hope to get, even though most of these shooters kill themselves before they see that reaction. They don’t need to see it. They know it’s coming. They’ve seen it before. They saw it with Columbine.

3. The rise of violent video games and video game playing. Back in the Columbine days it was Marilyn Manson music that was blamed for violent behavior so no one really wants to take video gaming seriously but in fact it is often the common link, along with (sometimes) drugs and (sometimes) afflictions or disabilities that prevent them from fitting in with society. Video games can’t be blamed, ask anyone online and they will cut you down for even suggesting it. So many people play them, how could they be the cause? Wouldn’t everyone take to the streets shooting if video games were to blame? Probably. They do enhance a certain personality type, just as drugs probably do, towards acting out violently but you can’t lay blame there.

4. The rise of extreme violence in film, television and video games. You can look at The Exorcist, The French Connection, the Dirty Harry movies, the Wild Bunch, Ken Russell films, Argento movies — and then you can look at Tarantino movies. And Scorsese movies. All of the films we see now have taken screen violence to the ultimate extreme. But you have to ask yourself don’t they have extremely violent, way more violent, films in Japan? Yes. Do they have mass shootings in Japan? No. Mass murder occasionally but not with guns because they don’t HAVE GUNS.

5. Prescribing drugs to children. Children are now medicated starting as easily as two years old. These kids are all about to come of age. Many of the shooters were on anti-depressants either before or after the shootings but certainly not all. Still, it’s one thing that has really changed: the chokehold of Big Pharma on all of us but especially kids, especially young boys who have too energy from playing too many video games whose parents just need some quiet time. They can’t sit still at school so parents drug them up. What does that do to the developing brain? There has been no direct evidence to suggest that drugs cause extreme violence to others, just to self (suicide, etc).

6. The rise of the NRA’s power and the gun lobby with no one with balls to stop them. They are so powerful now that no gun control laws could even be enacted after the Newtown massacre. We can’t even regulate buying ammunition online in some states. This is a state by state thing but you can rest assured, the NRA is winning. There are more guns tucked away in communities than anyone could imagine. Obama’s presidency only increased the purchase of weapons and the stockpiling of them.

These things are new. But are they to blame? Ann Hornaday’s point (read below) wasn’t to blame these fantasy films but to really look more broadly at how we rear the typical American male. Most Americans (more specifically white, middle class Americans) are raised to believe that they can have everything they want — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is especially true with young white males who are born with privilege. The world is completely open to them. Every movie aimed at kids, every television show has things working out perfectly for the protagonist. In films the central male figure, a misfit, is recognized by the end and saves the day. The key is that they are recognized. A girl will love them. Their employer will reward them. Their parents will love them. Remember Rupert Pupkin’s fantasies in The King of Comedy where he imagines his school principal coming back and telling him “we were wrong, Rupert, and you were right.” That is the fantasy churned out in almost every film made for kids, probably every TV show.

Entitlement culture tells us that we matter more than everyone else, that what we want is what we’ll get. That if we buy the right car, wear the right clothes, live in the right places, go to the right schools, look the right way we will be happy. How many dishwashers you want? Two? Okay. Entitlement culture tells you that’s okay, no matter how many resources it uses up. You deserve that monster truck. You deserve that big house, that beautiful blonde on your arm. You not only deserve it but you’re ENTITLED to it. Every billboard, every TV ad that blares out at children (the most advertising blocks are aimed at kids programming) sends the same message, over and over again: your happiness/satisfaction matters more than anyone else’s.

But what happens when we all realize that we were raised on a big lie? Happiness can’t be bought. It can’t even be close to being bought. Most of us accept this and move on with our lives of either happiness or quiet desperation. But a certain kind of person, an angry sociopath, a psychopath or just an impulsive asshole amped up on drugs who can’t control his temper. Middle class male will feel even more angry, more slighted by being rejected from the very society that was supposed to accept him. After all, why should he? His parents always made him believe he was special and that everything would go all right because people would think the same things about him that they did. Except that they didn’t in most cases. Girls winced at the very sight of most of these guys. Not all of them. The Aurora shooter, for instance, was a good looking man with no problem getting laid. His problem was bigger than that, with mommy and daddy and high expectations. But we’re not quite there yet.

Some mass shooters, a small amount, aren’t rich at all but they carry around with them that American entitlement anyway. One guy believed America was being destroyed by immigrants and wanted to take them out before killing himself. Another shooter was homeless but hated women, threatened and beat them before opening fire and killing more women than men, as many as he could.

So where do movies fit in? They fit in where everything else fits in. We have created a perfect storm for a shooter to easily acquire a weapon, fly under the radar mostly undetected because they are usually so shy and quiet they are practically invisible. “Weird” isn’t a thing you call the police about. They sit there in their dark little rooms and fan the flames of anger while using any tool at their disposal — video games, music, movies, whatever mirrors what they feel inside, whatever helps back up their eventual plot of destruction.

That is the overall big picture of what’s happening now, I think. But ultimately, you can’t really do anything about that. What Ann Hornaday brings up is an overall look at how we treat women in Hollywood films and how that might help to foster that kind of hate. In other words, women should be easily acquired and if they aren’t — fuck them.

What Hornaday says is that misfit creeps look to movies like that, unrealistic depictions of unattractive males getting hot women, and feel even more slighted by women or society as a result. Why aren’t THEY recognized? Why can’t they have what that guy has? Haven’t American films flipped since the 1970s to give everyone a deserved happy ending? Travis Bickle didn’t get one, nor did many of the protagonists in the major motion pictures back then. But we had bizarre murders like Charles Manson and serial killers were on the rise. But mass shootings? That’s a new thing. Can we look at movies as at least part of the whole culture around entitlement?

Whether I agree with her or not on this — I agree with her overall point but I would not have called out these specific movies — she did not deserve to be called opportunistic and idiotic by someone as powerful as Judd Apatow. Perhaps he hasn’t been looking at how women are treated online by the misogynists who follow sites that celebrate Apatow films. That whole culture is tangled up in their mob mentality against women. The only prominent male blogger I’ve ever seen go after this dynamic is Badass Digest‘s Devin Faraci, who continually calls out misogynists he sees in this corner of the internet. I see it more and more in movie coverage and it’s a big drag. Apatow making those accusations at Hornaday has unleashed the rage once again. She is being accused of all sorts of terrible things when all she was doing was taking a closer look at one twig on one branch of one tree. I keep getting tweets like “shouldn’t she be called out for blaming Apatow and Rogen for mass murder?” Call her out, defend yourself but to reduce her to being “idiotic” seems to me to back up the overall point she makes in her piece about what men think about women. We know Judd Apatow doesn’t think this way — he reacted, angrily. I only bring it up to say why that’s different from merely “calling her out.”

We can’t solve this problem by blaming any one thing but we certainly can’t solve it by NOT looking at everything. But I can tell you one thing. If your answer to this is gun control that is not happening any time soon. With the frequency of mass shootings get used to it. Here is what Michael Moore said, whose Oscar winning Bowling for Columbine should have really sparked the kind of debate that did motivate elected officials to start going after the guns. But it didn’t. Welcome to the new normal. Here is what Moore said:

With due respect to those who are asking me to comment on last night’s tragic mass shooting at UCSB in Isla Vista, CA — I no longer have anything to say about what is now part of normal American life. Everything I have to say about this, I said it 12 years ago: We are a people easily manipulated by fear which causes us to arm ourselves with a quarter BILLION guns in our homes that are often easily accessible to young people, burglars, the mentally ill and anyone who momentarily snaps. We are a nation founded in violence, grew our borders through violence, and allow men in power to use violence around the world to further our so-called American (corporate) “interests.” The gun, not the eagle, is our true national symbol. While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns]), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do — and yet we don’t seem to want to ask ourselves this simple question: “Why us? What is it about US?” Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that? Even when 90% of the American public calls for stronger gun laws, Congress refuses — and then we the people refuse to remove them from office. So the onus is on us, all of us. We won’t pass the necessary laws, but more importantly we won’t consider why this happens here all the time. When the NRA says, “Guns don’t kill people — people kill people,” they’ve got it half-right. Except I would amend it to this: “Guns don’t kill people — Americans kill people.” Enjoy the rest of your day, and rest assured this will all happen again very soon.

And here is much of Hornaday’s piece — something I can pretty much guarantee that Judd Apatow’s defenders did not read:

Indeed, as important as it is to understand Rodger’s actions within the context of the mental illness he clearly suffered, it’s just as clear that his delusions were inflated, if not created, by the entertainment industry he grew up in. With his florid rhetoric of self-pity, aggression and awkwardly forced “evil laugh,” Rodger resembled a noxious cross between Christian Bale’s slick sociopath in “American Psycho,” the thwarted womanizer in James Toback’s “The Pick-Up Artist” and every Bond villain in the canon.
As Rodger bemoaned his life of “loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desire” and arrogantly announced that he would now prove his own status as “the true alpha male,” he unwittingly expressed the toxic double helix of insecurity and entitlement that comprises Hollywood’s DNA. For generations, mass entertainment has been overwhelmingly controlled by white men, whose escapist fantasies so often revolve around vigilantism and sexual wish-fulfillment (often, if not always, featuring a steady through-line of casual misogyny). Rodger’s rampage may be a function of his own profound distress, but it also shows how a sexist movie monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike.How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?

Movies may not reflect reality, but they powerfully condition what we desire, expect and feel we deserve from it. The myths that movies have been selling us become even more palpable at a time when spectators become their own auteurs and stars on YouTube, Instagram and Vine. If our cinematic grammar is one of violence, sexual conquest and macho swagger — thanks to male studio executives who green-light projects according to their own pathetic predilections — no one should be surprised when those impulses take luridly literal form in the culture at large.

Part of what makes cinema so potent is the way even its most outlandish characters and narratives burrow into and fuse with our own stories and identities. When the dominant medium of our age — both as art form and industrial practice — is in the hands of one gender, what may start out as harmless escapist fantasies can, through repetition and amplification, become distortions and dangerous lies.

Every year, San Diego State University researcher Martha Lauzen releases a “Celluloid Ceiling” report in which she delivers distressing statistics regarding the state of women in Hollywood. This year, she found that women made up just 16 percent of directors, writers, producers, cinematographers and editors working on the top 250 movies of 2013; similarly, women accounted for just 15 percent of protagonists in those films.

Even if 51 percent of our movies were made by women, Elliot Rodger still would have been seriously ill. But it’s worth examining who gets to be represented on screen, and how. It makes sense to ask, as cartoonist Alison Bechdel does in her eponymous Bechdel Test, whether a movie features (1) at least two named female characters who (2) talk to each other about (3) something besides a man. And it bears taking a hard look at whether we’re doing more subtle damage to our psyches and society by so drastically limiting our collective imagination. As Rodger himself made so grievously clear, we’re only as strong as the stories we tell ourselves.

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  • Al Robinson

    Let me first say, that just in case I said anything you took offense to on Twitter, I apologize. I still don’t know a whole lot on this instance, with Elliot Rodger.

    I actually agree with you Sasha in that it makes sense not to immediately get upset at Ann Hornaday. We have the right to free speech, and she not only used that right, but it was well researched, and thought provoking. I know from experience how Elliot felt. I too felt out of place many times when I was younger. I still have a problem meeting women. I won’t pretend I’m some Don Juan, just to impress whoever might read this. But I had a strong upbringing from my parents. They taught me right from wrong. They said “no” to me a lot. I even remember being spanked as a child. It made me the good, wholesome person I am today. Sure, I have an occasional outburst of anger, but all I do is yell. Then I calm down, and I think about whatever it is I’m upset about.

    I don’t know what this Elliot Rodger’s life was like. I can’t pretent to know I know him. He is a monster for what he did, and the whole thing is fucked up. Earlier today I saw the father of Christopher Martinez breakdown with emotion on CNN today, and it was utterly heartbreaking. I feel his pain and sadness.

    I wish we could find a solution to this problem. I really do. 🙁

  • Al Robinson

    BTW, thank you for taking a public stand on this, and thank you for your opinion. You are one of the good ones, and I’m glad to know you. 🙂

  • phantom

    I don’t think calling out these films was the right thing to do but I do agree about the ‘unrealistic depictions of unattractive males getting hot women’ part because that tendency has been getting on my nerves for years. Is it realistic that Seth Rogen (or Adam Sandler or a bunch of others) the MOVIE STAR, could get hot women ? Of course. Is it realistic to see film after film that the average Joe he usually plays is married to Rose Byrne or starting a family with Katherine Heigl ? Of course…not. Same with Adam Sandler whose casting director apparently thinks that without his star power he could actually get beauties like Winona Ryder, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Salma Hayek, Jennifer Aniston OR even a swimsuit topmodel like Brooklyn Decker…who also happens to be two decades younger than him.

    I know, we don’t watch films because they are “so realistic” and it isn’t a requirement for sure, and of course looks aren’t everything, still, I find this trend annoying and sexist…sexist because I can only imagine the Apatow crew’s reaction to a romcom in which a Lena Dunham or Rebel Wilson would get a Zac Efron to fall in love with them…and trust me, it would be just as realistic than a Rogen/Heigl or Sandler/Decker pairing. Only in those cases apparently it could happen because average Joes CAN be lovable goofs who score someone infinitely hotter and based on the lack of rebelwilsonesque love interests in Apatow films, apparently average Janes can NOT be.

    P.S. Yes, I know. Apatow produces Girls. Then again doesn’t he produce everything ?

  • SallyinChicago

    Back in the day the male fantasy was trying to get sex with Marilyn Monroe or Bette Davis. Or a cowboy fantasy, riding on the range, rounding up cowboys, fighting bad men.
    I do theater checks for a company. Last week I had to sit through 5 theaters with movie trailers. And I swear it almost wore my brains out watching over and over again the shoot-em-up, gigantic robotic monster vs. the superhero (Tom Cruise — what happened to him? or Scarjo grab gun and act Annie Oakley). Has anyone really seen the summer trailers. They’re all the same. The same CGI robots (Transformer like), the same superhero, the same female lead who eventually packs a gun. Then I looked at the audience — 90% male. There were a couple of moms and girlfriends here & there, but mainly (white) men.
    Let me name you the trailers: Edge of Tomorrow, Planet of the Apes, Transformers, Lucy, Guadians of the Galaxy. And everybody had a BIG gun, guns we don’t have in real life except on the battlefield. Don’t let me get started with the video games.

    And we wonder why there is so much violence. Well — you put a gun in everybody’s hand and that’s what you get. People/men who emulate their on-screen heroes.

    We live in a paranoia world and I’m predicting that our overseas visitors are going to stay away the more our citizens kill their citizens with a gun, on the street. First it was the Australian then it was the German who was killed with a gun.

    I read somewhere that John Kerry was meeting with some Asian politicians and they worried about sending their children to school in America. Yep, it’s going to start effecting our universities. As soon as China gets its Harvard-class universities going, their kids will not come here to study. Canada is seeing an increase in American and foreign enrollments. The world will start shunning America.

    I always surmised that we would have less and fewer murders if the movies emphasized “love” between adults and feelings. Movies don’t make us cry anymore. I love to cry on a good movie, but I don’t. (the last one I cried on was 12 Yrs & Gravity). You know a good movie when it touches your heart and makes you think and love. This sh**t Hollywood is making now, who cares?

  • SallyinChicago

    One last comment: Kudos to our President who is keeping us from war! (Now wait and see when the Republicans get in, they will find a reason to go to war)

  • Steve50

    “We can’t solve this problem by blaming any one thing but we certainly can’t solve it by NOT looking at everything.”

    Great article, Sasha.

    By continually pointing the blame finger and not accepting responsibility collectively as a society, nothing gets solved.

    Americans are no more violent or crazy than other nationalities. Mental health issues and the stimuli that trigger these anti-social actions are universal. The difference is personal accessibility to tools that cause the damage – guns.

    The logical thing to do would be to limit the availability of firearms while, at the same time, have a closer look at the causes and triggers of such behaviour, then doing something about it. Unfortunately, legislators are controlled by business lobbies unwilling to accept any responsibility in the name of “freedom” (read: to make money). The power brokers won’t relinquish any control required in an effort to seriously examine and solve the problem simply because there’s no immediate profit to be had. It’s the same mentality that is preventing much-needed action to preserve our environment, bridge the gender gap, and ensure the rights of all without exploitation – there’s much to give up and little to be made, so the status quo is just fine, thanks.

    Globally, I think everyone accepts the fact that the whole world is crazy. The difference in the US is that all the crazies are armed.

    Short-sightedness makes change impossible and simply greases the chute that heads straight down the shitter.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Yeah, no. Though there is some stuff to agree with, like, very general sentiments that aren’t even the focus of her tirade, most of the article is bollocks. Maybe write it a week ago if you can, Hordnaday? Judd Apatow makes films about his male fantasies? Fine with me. Women don’t get to make enough films about whatever they want to make them? Agreed. But are they even interested in making films about Rebel Wilson getting Henry Cavill? Somehow doubt it. Different folks different strokes. What are their fantasies? Go ahead and make them. Hey, it’s cheaper now than ever to make a film, and getting cheaper by the minute! You just need technique and a vision (You really do though). Go on and make them.

    Like Tarantino said, the world *will* notice if you make dynamite.


    Hasn’t it already been made clear that movies about “what women want to see” make a lot money? So just make them. Aren’t we getting that FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY movie?

    I don’t even care to discuss her linking the tragedy to whatever — that’s just an inopportune (though opportune for her) attention grab.

  • Steve50

    “I don’t even care to discuss her linking the tragedy to whatever — that’s just an inopportune (though opportune for her) attention grab.”

    This. (and not to single out my pal, Bryce, by any means)

    We all see the problem, but when it comes to examining the causes, the triggers, and the solutions, leave me and my interests out of the discussion. Although they are not equally guilty for the violence, the same argument is used by lawmakers, filmmakers, politicians looking at the next election, and business lobbyists.

    Selfishness and self-entitlement rules, just as Sasha states.

  • Jack Porter

    Excellent article. Especially as a man, I need to hear this more often.
    A few quick points.
    First, many of us still live under the old stereotype that men are physically attracted to women but women are emotionally attracted to men. Naturally, this leads to the belief that a schlubby but nice guy can end up with a beautiful woman as long as he meets her emotional needs.
    Second, and I don’t mean this to be incendiary, I’m just genuinely curious, would we prefer films where the beautiful woman rejects the schlubby guy? Schlubby male viewers could identify with that, but how would they respond to it? Again, I’m not trying to make anyone angry. Just asking a question.
    And finally, I wonder whether it would be better to produce films that hold men up to the same impossible physical standards to which we have subjected women for decades, or whether we should produce films starring women that look, well, normal.

  • Clint

    A couple points to foreground my comments:

    1. Ann Hornaday is a good film critic and a fine writer. I would love to read an article on what she has to say about Apatow’s/Rogen’s oeuvre, one that delves into the works and themes that they’ve brought to the forefront of the genre and its cultural impact, whether positive or negative. It’s an important movement in American cinema and any piece that a solid film critic, like Ann Hornaday, writes discussing the state of American comedy would be a great read.

    2. An incident like this should promote a discussion, and has already prompted a good one, about the relationship that young men have to women and the role that entertainment geared towards young men has in fostering that relationship. It’s clear from Rodger’s manifesto that movies and video games were a large part of his life, though the extent to which they specifically influenced him as opposed to other factors such as his parents’ divorce, his relationship with his stepmother, his festering psychopathy, his experience at school, etc is very much up for debate.

    3. Most of what Ann Hornaday writes in her piece is a legitimate criticism about the way Hollywood has ingrained certain views about male-female relationships and what effect such views may have on young men as they develop their own opinions about women.

    However, to foreground the piece the way she did by talking about “Neighbors” and Judd Apatow is really an unnecessary and frustrating move. Hornaday is really stretching to put Apatow and his brand of comedy into this situation. This was a kid who name-checked Star Wars and World of Warcraft as his cultural touchstones, who very deliberately tried to make himself look like he stepped off of the pages of GQ because that’s what he thought would get him girls. Everything that that kid said in his video and his manifesto made it clear he didn’t buy into the fantasy that Apatow’s movies promoted, i.e. that women will adjust, live with the flaws of, and eventually understand that they’re really in love with the sloppy, goofy guys because they’re so much fun. This kid talked very explicitly about changing himself to look and act a very particular way, a way that can’t legitimately be argued is advocated for by anything Judd Apatow has put his name on.

    It’s one thing to say that Apatow and the Apatow acolytes are promoting an unhealthy fantasy and mindset for young men, but that point should be made in a piece independent of a shooting where the perpetrator makes his motivations and cultural touchstones very, very clear to make that point. To make that point in response to a tragic incident which has no real connection to Apatow and his company of actors is, as Seth Rogen put it, insulting to the guys behind those movies.

    If Ann Hornaday wants to discuss what Apatow and Co. are propagating, she has this really great forum called The Washington Post to have that discussion and doesn’t need to bait people by using the lure of mass-murder to get them to click on it. To shove it into a discussion about a psychotic-mass murderer who explicitly defined his motives and cultural influences in committing his crimes that have nothing to do with the films and filmmakers she name checks and uses as a jumping-off point is a really tacky, insulting and unnecessary move on her behalf.

    In short, the point she’s making is valid, the examples she’s using to make it are not.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Hey Steve,

    Should I take your new avatar as an unequivocal endorsement of LOCKE?

  • Steve50

    You bet.

  • Steve50

    Actually, Bryce – have to qualify the endorsement. I’ve only seen clips, synopsis and reviews (raves), so the endorsement is strictly assuming Locke is right up my alley. And god knows Tom Hardy’s time is finally here.

  • Great discussion here, guys. Better than the one I had on Twitter. All I got was a barrage of “she’s blaming movies,” etc. But you know, that isn’t what I thought her piece did at all. I think she’s just looking more broadly at our cultural stereotypes overall, our fantasies. I don’t hear any solution that makes any sense or is doing any good so far – so why not start looking a little deeper. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to say she is “blaming movies.” She’s talking about an overall mindset, specifically focused on that twat in Santa Barbara. As I said, it wouldn’t have been my choice to bring up this particular facet of our culture — remember when Charles Manson listened to the White Album? Or when John Hinkley, Jr. read Catcher in the Rye? or saw Taxi Driver? There are always going to be pieces of art that can be fed into the psychopath’s mind to give them faux motivation to do whatever hideous thing they already wanted to do in the first place. What I fought back against was the immediate blame put on her by calling opportunistic and idiotic. Those two key words is what set me off. I know Ann and she’s neither of those things. She’s thoughtful, honest and a good journalist.

  • Sasha Stone

    I was with you up until the part where you accuse her of baiting people. She’s not really doing that.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Sticking my neck out. You’re gonna love it.

    It should also prompt a re-evaluation about the misplaced adjectives on Steven Knight’s screenplay of EASTERN PROMISES. People characterized it as clichéd and pointed “plot holes” that were only salvaged by Cronenberg’s strong mise-en-scène. I disagree on both counts.

    Additionally has me stoked about this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taboo_(BBC_TV_series)

  • 7. The rise of social media where deranged mentally disturbed assholes with massive delusions of grandeur and hate/envy KNOW that they and their actions will become famous, regardless of they live or die after their heinous acts.

    Tell me, can we all name one of the victims as quickly as we know this asshole’s name?

    No, because the media/social media loves these type of events and they plaster the wacko’s images (courtesy of twitter, facebook, instagram, tumblr, etc), and their manifesto bullshit.

    Compared to the 80s and 90s, the wack jobs didn’t have the additional instant Fame by social media/internet incentive that the bastards receive immediately in today’s world. These girly looking fool was the director of his own ‘fuck you world’ mini-movie, and he posted it up on Youtube before his rampage because that’s the world we live in.

    More copy cats and inspired fuckers soon will follow.

  • Christophe

    But the thing is he was NOT an average joe! His family is loaded, he was completing a college education at a glamourous university, and though not much of an athlete he was far from repellent (neither a slob nor a total geek), he was kind of cute actually, judging by all the teenage girls swooning over him on Twitter. But of course, if he was truly expecting all the hottest girls to fawn over him, he was bound to be disappointed.

    My best guess is he had an enormous inferiority complex that dated back to his early childhood (he started seeing shrinks at the age of 8 and his parents had to pay “friends” to hang out with him) and grew worse with the advent of sexual feelings. Such a complex can be very handicapping, thus he had very poor social skills (“acted like a freak”) and this all led him to feel rejected, even though most of it took place in his own mind and was due to his own antisocial behavior.

    So in the end I’m not sure if this is really due to the “average guy gets the hot girl” fantasy. On the other hand, for every Judd Apatow movie, there are dozens of TV shows and films where the hot guy gets all the girls and the ugly duckling “cries himself to sleep” (quote from Two and a Half Men). This is just my personal opinion but I find the reinforcing of the “Jocks & Cheerleaders vs. Dorks & Fatties” high-school mentality even worse for our society than the positive idea that somehow looks are not THAT important.

    NB: let’s remember that here in France, most girls look pretty hot and they don’t care so much abt big muscles so it could also be a cultural difference.

  • Paul

    Just a minor note, Christophe: Elliot was not attending UC Santa Barbara. He was a former student at a nearby city college. He basically killed people who didn’t even go to his school.

    You bring up a good point about his expectations. He was not bad looking, so I’m sure there are some girls who would have been attracted to him, but he might have been unwilling to adjust his expectations. He probably thought he was too good for the women who would have said yes to him. This ties to what you said about his having an inferiority complex because, paradoxically, those who suffer from an inferiority complex usually exhibit feelings of superiority as a way to combat their feelings of inferiority.

  • Al Robinson

    OT: Is anyone else looking forward to the results of Empire Magazine’s latest top all-time movies poll? I know it’s not the end-all be all of top movies lists, but theirs is a pretty fun list.

  • Montemayor

    While I agree with many points here, um, just for the record, Travis Bickle DID get a faux ‘happy’ ending. Kinda the ironic point of the whole movie. But I’m glad someone finally brought up the landmark film, the greatest film of all on this subject, about which we can now truly say, Life imitates art. If someone had sat down that nutbag (who, I know in my heart, would have ended up being violent with or without the help of Hollywood, even if he was ‘born into it’) and said, Look kid, there’s this movie called “Taxi Driver” you really oughta watch and think about— would it have shamed him into changing his ways, or would he have thought, Oh yeah, I should rock a mowhawk and an Army jacket before I go out there? It’s impossible to say— and either way, it’s not the messenger’s (Paul Schrader’s or Martin Scorsese’s or etc.) fault

  • Al Robinson

    Okay, it turns out the poll has been revealed, and they have a new #1. Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

  • Mark

    Mental illness was a huge factor, combined with entitlement culture, a kid from a culture of extreme entitlement, and possibly poor therapeutic help.

    I must question your points against mental illness as a major if not primary factor.

    1: Treatment: Just because he was getting treated doesn’t mean it was working. Most therapeutic help is designed for short term bandaged care (CBT therapy for one) while throwing meds at the patient hoping it will stick (which I will get to next). The long term chronic therapy is usually overlooked, but it could be that this kid had a female therapist (90% are women), so through his misogynistic world view it wasn’t going anywhere.

    2: Meds: Your connection that some mass shooters weren’t medicated therefore it wasn’t meds is weak at best. All it implied was that those shooters were imbalanced without meds (duh!).

    3: Guns: No, you can’t. A gun isn’t deadly without a person behind it. You can’t blame an inert object for something it can’t do by itself.

    4: Blame men for being angry: Sure, teach women to fear the emotions of men, especially anger. You spout how misogynistic movies are, yet are doing the same in a feminine sense. Anger is not what drove this kid to shoot, I know that sounds odd. But the lack of feeling and recognizing anger causes these terrible crimes to occur, as it needs an outlet. Promoting men to feel anger is good, promoting them not to is bad. We feel too. He was not angry at all in that video, he was flat and even with barely any true emotion. Most of his emotes were forced and fabricated.

    5: Mass shooting numbers: Mass shootings went up as gun control became stricter.

    6: Change over last 30 years:

    1: True, by 50%.
    2: True, I can’t agree with you more. Although I’ll add that they may go into it thinking they will be famous but realize the consequence after the fact and kill themselves out of either regret or avoiding police apprehension.
    3: There are factors for video games causing violence that fall under the Biopsychosocial aspect of psychology, basically a synergy of influence biologically, socially, and psychologically cause behaviors to elicit when environmental factors stimulate them, this lends to my summary at the end.
    4: A little simplistic. The data supports your position, but may be comparing apples to oranges. One example I can give is that Japan is more communalistic and since a crime would reflect poorly on the family and not the individual, they may be less inclined to commit violent crimes.
    5: Agreed! I am studying to be a therapist, and my own therapist (not ashamed to admit I see one) has been giving me insights into his world. He generally doesn’t prescribe (like with me) unless he has to. And I personally will avoid authorizing medication unless it is for physical mental illnesses like Schizophrenia or Bi-Polar.
    6: Bad idea to ban guns. Why? Criminals don’t follow laws. Unless you can make a gun that will only work in a law abiding citizens hands, a ban will not work. You have to account for the guns already in criminal circulation. And having gun laws announces that citizens are unarmed or less likely to be. It didn’t work in Newtown, where they have strict gun control laws. In fact Adam Lanza tried buying a gun on his own, only to fail. He stole them from his mother.

    In the case of this most recent shooting:

    Societal influences such as video games, movies, tv shows, ect… are on a less influential tier than friends and family. What he thought he learned through his family, supported by video games and movies. I agree they can be misogynistic, but the blame is not primarily those things. They elicit, but don’t cause.

    That being said I believe that mental illness/instability played a primary role, aggravated by his upbringing which seemed very privileged. I grew up with a privileged kid, whom scarily mirrors Elliot. And from that experience I can guess that his parents gave him everything so that he was without need, which usually is instead of love. This creates a never ending loop of need of affection that his parents could never give. His motive wasn’t because of a misogynistic attitude primarily, it was merely adopted to cover something up. It was safer to blame the women for his failures of getting what he wanted rather than to admit his own insecurities steeped from a lack of guidance and love from his parents. He didn’t get what he wanted with women which reminded him (deep inside) of not getting what he needed from his parents. But (according to my therapist, since I had shitty parents) there is a real disconnect when it comes to realizing your parents were shitty. Most (like myself) are strong enough to face that. Elliot was not, and he was willing to kill to keep that denied to himself.

  • Al Robinson
  • Montemayor

    Long as we’re talking about this subject in terms of movie culture, comparing today to the ’70s— anybody out there remember the ’80s, when every other movie was either a mad slasher flick or a Porky’s/Animal House fratboy ripoff, and every female in every single one of those endless slogs was literally an object, a personality-free target of either machetes or man-juice? Compared to the men who made those movies, Judd Apatow is Shakespeare crossed with Alan Alda. It was the most dismal decade for American cinema (and popular culture) in the last three generations— AND YET, we didn’t see public shootings every other week (and, yeah, the NRA was a factor back then). I think we’re currently just living in a deeply nihilistic, DGAF era, and until it CHANGES from within (as a whole generation chose to change in the ’60s) looking to pop culture for answers or excuses or blame is pretty pointless.

  • joeyhegele

    Men are conditioned by Hollywood to think women are obligated to have sex with them. When women in real life are not as acquiescent as their cinematic counterparts, men get violent. Hollywood needs to stop depicting sex as the only thing women have to offer in life. This is what leads men to think they can kill any woman that does not want to have sex with them.

    Elliot Rodgers is responsible for his decision to become violent, but Hollywood is responsible for his delusion that women owed him sex. He is not the only man to believe this from what they see depicted on the screen. It is no different from how racist and homophobic depictions in film and television lead to real world consequences for the LGBT community and people of color. Until female characters are treated with respect and depicted as more than a reward for the male protagonists, men are going to see all women as a prize to be won…by force if necessary.

  • Jerry Grant

    There is plenty of misogyny in the movies, but the Apatow crew is not the appropriate target. They generally mock male fantasies rather than simplistically uphold them. Hornaday should have been more discerning in her article.

  • Are You Kidding?

    One factor that the MSM completely ignores, or in several cases outright hides, is the fact that Eliot Roger came from a broken home. He saw is father 1/3 of the time. He admits that in his manifesto, as well as that daddy was fairly distant and mommy basically gave him whatever he wanted on top of the fact that he was rarely disciplined. Damn near all of these killers come from broken homes. I believe these “journalists” covering this crime should at the very least bring this into the discussion.

    But let’s be honest; any journalist concerned with the truth would be dragged through the coals if he/she brought up the epidemic that does contribute to the plague of these killings: the support and outright promotion of unrestricted hypergamy and single motherhood.

  • Clint

    @Sasha You’re right, “bait” is the wrong word to use. Ann’s point is definitely germane to the response to the shooting and is, overall, a fair point that deserves consideration. I don’t quite agree with Apatow that she’s being opportunistic, either, but it does appear she’s using the films she’s using more for their popularity and recentness than for their actual applicability to this situation. It’s their use in this way that I find frustrating and a bit unfair.

    Now, granted, I’m a fan of most of Judd Apatow’s films, I’m a fan of Nicholas Stoller, I’m a fan of Rogen as an actor and a director; basically, I’m a fan of all of those guys. But there’s definitely a discussion to be had about the way that they portray women (as scolds, as shrews, as individuals who should just suck it up and be more fun like their cool, laid back, awesome male counterparts) and its broader impact on comedy and ergo the audience those comedies are marketed towards. However, I don’t think its one that this shooting prompts, and I don’t think it’s the one that Ann’s trying to have either.

    This guy was very clearly a misogynist, he very clearly viewed women as objects, and thought that human relationships ought to boil down to a checklist whereby if he does x, y, and z, he should get what he wants from whomever he wants. He most definitely (or, at the least, very likely), given his father’s profession, the attachment that he had to things like movie premieres and video games, and the fact that he grew up in this day and age, developed and established this worldview from the movies, games, books and magazines he consumed (add into the equation his now-obvious psychopathic personality). Ann’s right: film and tv promote an unhealthy perception of women as objects, as a reward for succeeding or being a certain type of people and the lack of female directors, writers, execs, etc. makes it difficult to shift this to a more balanced perception. But it’s films like “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder,” “Project X,” and “21 & Over,” not “Neighbors,” “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” or “Knocked Up” that’s creating the kind of perception that Elliot Rodger had. Say what you will about how flatteringly Apatow’s and Rogen’s films portray women compared to how they deal with childish men, but they aren’t made out to be the silent, docile trophies that Elliot Rodger thought they should be.

    Their movies may have more cultural relevance than the ones I mentioned above, but it’s sloppy of Ann as a film critic to not look at them more thoughtfully. For better or worse, Rogen and Apatow are probably the two leading voices in American comedy and have made films that thoughtfully and with nuance looked at the relationship between men and women. As such, they, too, deserve to be looked at with the same thought and nuance by film critics. I understand that I’m going on and on about one paragraph from an essay, but the evidence we use to make a point is important, and we can’t just overlook the weakness of it because we agree with what’s being said at the end. I think Ann’s a good film writer, but I think she can find better support for her argument.

    But the integrity of film writing aside, it’s unfair to Apatow and Rogen to have their names attached to this shooting. These kind of attachments carry weight, stigma and implications of blame. Just ask Marilyn Manson. But with Manson, the Columbine shooters at least listened to him, and the images that he used were mirrored in the actions and worldview of the shooters. Here, the connection between the shooter and the films Ann uses to support her position are tenuous at best. Yes, both the shooter and the characters in those films wanted to be with beautiful women. But Elliot Rodger thought he deserved them because of who he was and how he acted. Apatow’s and Rogen’s characters are astonished that a woman would even look at them, let alone spend more than a fleeting second talking to them with aims other than to make fun of them. They’re not baffled and angry about it. For them, that’s the way the world works. For that, I understand Apatow and Rogen’s anger and find myself frustrated with the piece instead of complete agreement.

    Again, I agree with the overall point Ann is making, I just think she could have been more precise and fostered a more substantive discussion on the conclusion instead of getting us hung up on how she got there.

  • Agnes Marsala

    While I agree with some of your points, Travis Bickle did get a relatively happy ending. He lived and was seen as a hero.

  • Anonymous

    You delivered a well written article while Hornaday handed in a “C” paper hoping for the “A”. Hornaday stops her critique at movies and the simple reason Hornaday deserves some of the attacks pointed at her is simple: she is a writer who writes terribly. She didnt even skim the surface of “gun culture” or “Hollywood culture” and instead attacks both Rogen and Apatow. Your hope of “but she has a point!” is like screaming “but he’s funny” at a Michael Richard’s stand up, sure he may have a joke or two but its after the racist rant. Dont defend Hornaday, she should have known her piece was crap (or at least her editor should have told her so) All of them are “famous”(differing degrees aside) and while it may seem unfair, at first glance, it is unfair of her to basically say Neighbors will cause men to shoot people (even you agree).
    As for the article, I guess it comes down to this: violence in movies and video games has always been prevelant and the “solution” would be censorship, akin to the Comics Code Authority in the 1950s. You hint at bad parenting but mainly keep it to television instead of actually saying “the tv is now the parent(s) in the family”. And telling kids they can be anything they want to be is not a bad message if followed by good parenting.
    You did nail one thing though, no new gun laws will take effect.

  • Baakus

    You are right on the money.

    The problem is not these movies in and of themselves, but rather, that they reflect and amplify the dominant message in our culture: men, especially White middle class (and above) men, should always be first in line to get what they want, and all others are either supporting cast or a means to that end.

    We see it repeated time and time again in our narratives: White guy is the shining hero, hot girl is draped on his arm as testament to his manliness, and people of color are either sidekicks, comic relief, cannon fodder, plot devices, etc.

    Judd Apatow isn’t exactly the problem because if he didn’t exist, somebody else would’ve filled in for him. But his movies do contribute in the feedback loop that distorts the expectations of many young men, especially young White men. The fact that Apatow and Seth Rogen were so over-the-top in their denial probably is a sign that they themselves are aware of the unintended side effects of their stories.

  • Craig

    While we’re looking at all aspects of entertainment and society to ascertain a cause for these shootings, is it not worth taking a look at the family unit as well? The imperativeness of unconditional love and the teaching of values and morals from parents to their children cannot be underestimated. Shouldn’t a child learn love, respect, honour, security, self-worth from their parents? If a child does not learn/receive these foundational —essential components to the development of a child—from their parents, they must learn them outside of the family unit. From friends, media, society, etc. And therein lies the breakdown. Food for thought.

  • steve50

    “And telling kids they can be anything they want to be is not a bad message if followed by good parenting.”

    This is tricky because a) it creates a sense of entitlement and b) ends up being untrue for the vast majority. You can attempt to be whatever you want to be, but kids have to know that there are no guarantees in this world, that hard work can often lead to dead ends, and that the real indication of a successful life is how you deal with these things, not whether or not you achieve them.

    Encouragement is vital, but so is preparing to deal with (perceived) failure, which can have a devastating effect on someone whose body chemistry is off.

    Plus – what Craig says above 🙂

  • Alboone

    The larger issue I feel that as a society as a whole we have devolved into an idiocracy. We just don’t know how to solve problems on an optimal level and that is putting the rest of us, the public at risk. As far as Apatow and Rogen are concerned, it’s a logical reaction, no one wants to be blamed for something as horrorific as a mass shooting, I just wish they didn’t take to twitter to air their grievances, I’m sure they could’ve gotten a hold of Ann and had a conversation. But we just don’t do that anymore in the USA.

  • Nic V

    You know playing with statistics to make a point sometimes lessens credibility.

    According to one source 13603 people have died since January at the hands of drunk drivers. 10061 people have died as a result of drug abuse. So far this year 6759 have died as a result of homicide. 587 have died as a result of domestic violence. Mass shooting still shocks us and sadly I think as time goes on and these type events continue to grab headlines we will become as numb to them as we have become numb to someone who dies as a victim of a drunk driver. But if someone is going to use statistics to illustrate a point then they really should be using all the statistics and not the ones that lend themselves to their personal belief or persuasion. More people have died this year from being hitten by a falling tree then by mass murder.

    Bet it was all those unhappy mentally disturbed white middle class men up in those trees sawing off those branches.

  • John

    NEIGHBORS? Really? That’s the reason Elliott Rodger went on a killing spree? Um, no. That’s ridiculous. If I had a silly, trashy comedy movie in the top 10 (ah, wouldn’t that be nice) and a major film critic started tying it to a mass murderer, I would publicly chastise that critic as well. as would probably anyone with self-respect or self-interest.
    Do some movies play to male entitlement? Sure. I’m not sure NEIGHBORS is anywhere near the top 10, though. But if you want to put some of the blame at the door of wish-fulfillment entertainment, go ahead. First-person shooter video games, extreme violent revenge vigilantism movies. Quentin Tarantino, Jason Statham… Absolutely. Jim Carrey was probably right to distance himself from KICKASS 2. But Judd Apatow movies? In his movie, the 40-year-old virgin would never go on a killing rampage. Fat slobby Seth Rogen has to grow up and become a father. And this is the guy you’re blaming for the latest homicidal killing spree.
    White, high-IQ, introvert loners are always gonna produce a few who snap. Certain entertainment formats may exacerbate that, but censorship rarely works. Easy access to guns would certainly be an aggravator that our country would do well to look at (I’m not anti-2nd Amendment, but no other Constitutional Amendment produces such rabid paranoia in its defenders). MEntal health, sure, see what we can do there.
    Why has the number increased? Well, because the path has been trod before. Lonely, emasculated males now know exactly what to do. They’ve seen others do it and they follow their example.
    The real problem… you saw CARRIE. Clique-ish youth culture favors certain personality types over others. If the unfavored have access to telekinesis (or guns), they may well hit a breaking point and snap. If you can find a way to make the clique-ism that’s been part of youth for the past 100 years go away, great. In the mean time, it’s got nothing to do with Seth Rogen.

  • …if you want to put some of the blame at the door of wish-fulfillment entertainment, go ahead. First-person shooter video games, extreme violent revenge vigilantism movies. Quentin Tarantino…

    You’re right, John.

    “AK-47. … When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room.”
    — Samuel L Jackson as Ordell Robbie in Jackie Brown

    But Tarantino’s blood-splattered revelries get a pass because he’s too cool for school.

  • Sasha,

    Good article, although I find it surprising that your list of things that have changed over the last 30 years fails to mention the greater availability of pornography. I wouldn’t be surprised if pornography played some role in Elliott Rodger’s frustration.

  • Al Robinson

    Brooks, you know, I was just thinking that exact same thought tonight. Everything in pornography is BIG. Body parts, especially the fake boobs, and huge di….

    So many ugly dudes get to get it on with these women. Just look at Ron Jeremy.

  • Al Robinson

    Sorry, I lost track of what I meant to say. It’s all about the fact that porn is fake, but to a young person, they may not know that. So they see all of the guys as “lucky”, and they might think, “how come that doesn’t happen to me.”. I can see how that would piss off some unlucky young men.

  • Al Robinson

    Jesus Christ! I sound like a perv. YUCK!!

  • Dad

    I don’t agree that mass shootings would decrease if movies and TV did not give frustrated young men false hope that they will eventually recognized as worthwhile people by their bosses, parents and attractive women.

    I’d like to see more tragic movies, where the sympathetic characters (misfits or otherwise) fail, but only because I’m tired of happy endings. I don’t think more tragic fare would reduce the number of killings.

  • Scott (the other one)

    Do raunchy frat boy comedies hold a mirror up to a particularly disturbing cross section of the male psyche? Yes. Do they reflect the psyche of a particularly disturbed and mentally ill man, though? It’s unfortunate that this important conversation seems to be neglecting this enormous detail.

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