True Violence

I’ll never trust movie violence again. From the first chapter of Collin’s book Violence:

One reason that real violence looks so ugly is because we have been exposed to so much mythical violence. … Contemporary film style … may give many people the sense that entertainment violence is, if anything, too realistic. Nothing could be farther from the truth. … [They] miss the most important dynamics of violence: that it starts from confrontational tension and fear, that most of the time it is bluster, and that the circumstances that allow this tension to be over­ come lead to violence that is more ugly than entertaining. …

A particularly silly myth is that fights are contagious. This is a staple of old film comedies and melodramas. One person punches another in a crowded bar … and in the next frames everyone is hitting everyone around them. This fighting of all against all, I am quite certain, has never occurred as a serious matter in real life. …

A second myth is that fights are long. In Hollywood films … fist fights as well as gunfights go on for many minutes. Fighters are resilient, taking many blows and coming back to dish them out; crashing over tables, knocking down shelves of bottles, bouncing off walls, falling over balconies and down stairs and hillsides, in and out of cars and other speeding vehicles. Shooting involves much resolute stalking, running from cover to cover, sometimes daringly outflanking the opponent, but never retreating; on the other side, the evil-doers keep coming back, sneakily and warily if not by sheer pugnacity and ferociousness. …

Whereas most film and stage dramas compress real time to gloss over the dull and routine moments of ordinary life, they expand fighting time by many times over. … In reality, most serious fights on the individual or small-group level are extremely short. If we cut out the preliminaries and the aftermath, with their insults, noise, and gesturing, and look only at the violence, it is often remarkably brief. The actual gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1881 took less than thirty seconds; the 1957 movie version took seven minutes. Crimes involving the use of guns almost never take the form of gunfights between sides both armed and firing at each other. The vast majority of murders and assaults with deadly weapons consist of one or more armed persons briefly attacking an unarmed person. Since the latter half of the twentieth century, gang fights, drug turf battles, or reputational confrontations, … are usually not gun-battles, but very brief episodes, usually with only one side firing. Fist fights are also generally brief. Many bar-room brawls and street fights are one-punch affairs. The lore of such fighting is that whoever gets in the first punch generally wins. …

Children pick their occasions for such scuffles, generally when parents or caretakers are nearby, so that if the fight escalates, they can call for help and end the fight … Similarly, fights that break out in schools commonly occur in the presence of a teacher, or where a teacher will likely come quickly to break it up; in prisons, most fights occur in the presence of guards. …  It is extremely rare that killers, robbers, or fighters are in a laughing good humor, or even display sardonic wit. …

In tribal societies, battles are short, mostly skirmishes among a few hundred men or less, intermittently for a few hours, usually ending when a single victim is killed or seriously wounded. Without social organization to keep soldiers together in ranks, they dart back and forth across a skirmish line, a few men at a time, running away if they are in enemy terrain for more than a few seconds. …

More complex social organization in ancient Greece, Rome, and China brought larger numbers (sometimes on the order of tens of thousands) and more disciplined troops into battle and could keep them in combat as long as a day. One day was also the normal length of battles in medieval Europe. By the time of the Napoleonic wars, armies were sometimes on the order of hundreds of thousands of men, and battles lasted as long as three days. In the world wars of the twentieth century, battles were sustained as long as six months or more.

How long will it take before many movies present violence realistically?  Will that be before or after they present sex realistically?

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