I recently saw on Twitter the retweeted tweets of someone I would clearly never follow, lamenting how terrible the movie Deadpool is. How it glorifies gore and violence and how the rest of the unenlightened audience brayed and laughed like donkeys at these disturbing images while our bold and progressive tweeter looked away in dismay. For them there is no real humor in Deadpool, only crass, baseless violence and the crude approximation of humor. It's clear they felt this is a movie better fit for beasts than humans. Fuck people who think like that. They're self-deceiving mental masturbators.
#6. Violence Is Art
20th Century Fox
Long ago, conflict was described as the central contest in tragedy. Aristotle felt any good hero must have a single conflict, an antagonist. This could literally be a villain, or even an aspect of the hero him- or herself. The classics of conflict are man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. self, and man vs. society. You have a central figure at odds with something. Like Curious George and a stick of dynamite, or Waldo and his inability to remember where the fuck he is.
Skip ahead to modern times, and I invite you to look at the last 20 years of entertainment in its various forms. The rise of MMA as a legitimate sport. The primacy of the superhero film genre. Hilarious fail videos on the Internet. Grand Theft Everything. Fuckin' Shark Week. I defy anyone to suggest, with a straight face, that we are beyond or above or even adjacent to violence as a species. We're staring it in the face, one hand balled into a fist, the other digging into our popcorn.
Even our snacks are created by violent food mini-explosions.
If conflict is essential to good storytelling, then violence, devoid of context, is entertainment, I would argue. How often do people stop to watch a fight? Kids in a schoolyard congregate like ants on a Twizzler when classmates throw down. Internet videos of fights are hugely popular. We don't need to know what instigated the fight, but we'll watch it play out if we can. It doesn't even need to be humans. How many nature shows are based on the circle of life, stoically narrating friendly meerkats being eaten by ravenous meerdogs? It's engaging to watch two things struggle, violently, against one another. There's a reason Floyd Mayweather can afford to be so obnoxious; people like watching him kick other people's asses.
#5. Humans Are Violent ...
What makes a human aggressive? You may be surprised to learn there isn't a thing -- a switch, a gland, or a little rager spot in your brain -- that controls it all. Aggression is a nuanced, contextual response that cannot be pinpointed and explained away. People want science to work that way; they want a gay gene and a fat gene and an aggression gene, but at best what happens is neuroscience may discover a section of some people's brains that in certain instances seems to promote certain reactions that make it more likely for you to be obese, or an alcoholic, or violent. But it's never 100 percent. It's just some people. Sometimes.
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"He didn't tell me they charged extra for guac. I regret nothing."
Chimpanzees are pretty closely related to humans, and they can be extremely violent as well. But why? Studies of violent behavior in chimps come up as empty-handed as studies of violent behavior in humans. Violent chimps don't have an advantage in mating, or food gathering, or anything. Just like humans. Do violent dudes get their pick of the ladies for mating? Quite the opposite, sometimes.
And yet we do violence. We cheer action heroes. Hell, we call them heroes. Being heroic involves overcoming a great adversity that often in fiction literally means killing something. The hero slays a dragon or some terrible beast. Iron Man dukes it out with The Hulk and gets his ass handed to him, but triumphs in the end. The hero has violence done unto him and then doles out even more to balance the scales for the side of justice. Justice is being killed the right way, in this instance. Maaaaaybe being imprisoned, but only after the bad guy was beaten so badly he couldn't run away if he tried.
"Half of my leg bones are currently leaking out of my asshole."
The Mawe people of Brazil famously weave bullet ants into gloves that are worn on the hands of young men as part of an initiation to become warriors. This is an isolated tribe of about 10,000 people with no modern technology, no cares for the world the rest of us live in. This is what they feel is part of becoming a valuable member of society, a ritual of pain. Endure, and you prove yourself. You become the hero. The warrior. The man.
Humans, as I understand it, were not particularly violent in their earliest iterations. It was only when we started forming agrarian societies and living in groups that violence became a prominent part of life.
#4. ... But Not By Nature
So are we dumb monkeys, is that what I'm saying? You're a big, dumb ape; you should love Deadpool because he gets shot in his ass in one scene? Laugh and throw your poo? Fuck no. Bonobos are as closely related to humans as chimps, but, unlike chimps, bonobos are extremely nonviolent in their societies. In fact, bonobos tend to engage in a lot of weird, pervy monkey sex rather than go ape-rage on each other. How did that happen?
I mean, other than the obvious.
Like the mighty, sexy bonobo and the mighty, bitey chimpanzee, humans are not violent by nature. We simply possess the ability. We have a violent acumen, if you will. It's in our skillset. So when the circumstances are such that we feel the need to be violent, we are. And this can be both right and wrong. Because there's more than one kind of violence.