Because You’re Worth It — Apatow, Hornaday and Santa Barbara

This is in the Washington Post.  It asserts that a glut of lady-negative films led to the murder of four men and two women in California last Friday.  It tells us that “no one should be surprised” when the “pathetic” impulses manufactured by “male executives” play out as they apparently did in per person of Eliot Rodger.

For the sake of sober thought.  This was in the Post.  Get a grip, diabetes and pregnancy Bezos. And the rest of you looking for the trigger for the crime committed and the silver bullet that will prevent its gory replay might stop a minute, patient too.

This is by no means the only work online making a direct link between cultural goods and murder. There are so many and a day ago, Australian news site Crikey published my thoughts on the culture-blaming victim-claiming thing.  It goes like this: when US citizens who are held to be culturally valuable are slain for no apparent reason, someone finds a cultural reason.  After Sandy Hook, for example, persons of all political hues decided that they should really do something about those pernicious video games Lanza was reportedly playing before he did the unspeakable.  Finally, here is a reason.

Now, I have argued on this occasion as much as I am going to that a society may be inimical to the femininity it constructs without this leading inevitably to a Rodger.  I can’t be arsed talking about that anymore.  I have no patience with the so-called “rape culture” view of western patriarchy.  I think that it is a really naff account.  So I don’t want to talk about that. And I don’t want to go into an account of the diffuse and convoluted rhythms of power because it’s rather late and and I am very lazy and a bit thick.

Instead, I just want to remind you, by way of this Post insanity, that we have got to stop blaming cultural goods for the bad things that happen.

The writer describes the marginality of women film directors.  A greater number of women directors might allay the “rape culture”, she proposes. Although presumably not women directors like Kathryn Bigelow.  You know.  We need more nice women directors who are not dangerously male identified.  Because good entertainment should also be good propaganda, Josef.   More women in the fields in film on collective farms with glorious scythes advancing the cause with ruddy cheeks!

Then, the writer goes on to blame Judd Apatow for creating a yearning so unfulfillable that (male) society’s only recourse is vengeance.  You see, men are promised things by Judd Apatow that society cannot deliver and so when men fail to get a fake ID in the name McLovin, they are wont to kill and maim.

Let’s overlook the ills of Noted Misogynist Judd Apatow whose crimes against women include financing Bridesmaids, the first legitimately multiplex girl buddy movie, and HBO’s Girls.  Gee whiz, what a total rapist.  I especially hate how he tied Lena Dunham to a chair and forced her from behind with his hate-penis to take production assistance that would lead to a deftly made and profoundly cinematic series with a woman auteur at its centre whose work and person defies easy gender moralising.  I honestly don’t know why he didn’t just cut to the chase and jizz the words “bitch whore die” on her chest in fluid evil instead of giving life to a protagonist who would go on to challenge and not define femininity in a way that had not been previously attempted on screen.



The perfect choice of Apatow as ruling class elite media enemy-to-woman aside, the article goes on to “describe” the mechanism of media effects.

Here we go now.  “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.”  In other words: movies are powerful because I say so.  Movies are “the dominant medium of our age”. Again, because I say so and not because my views tally with actual hours spent with film relative to television, games or online video.  Movies are powerful because I say so.  And, the form is particularly malignant because “it is in the hands of one gender”.  Therefore, movies which are both poisonously masculinist and obviously important “become distortions and dangerous” and end in just the sort of thing we saw last Friday.

On we go.  Movies are particularly influential not only because (a) just cos and (b) a male elite has control of their production but because “spectators become their own auteurs and stars on YouTube, Instagram and Vine.”  So: movies are effective (in creating moments of massacre if they’re bad, Powerful Women, presumably, if they’re good) because they are controlled by an elite and they are not controlled by an elite.  Are you following? Movies influence us because everyone can make them and only a few people can make them.

Let’s allow that the author was very upset when throwing angry turds at her keyboard and was unable to crap out that necessary sentence to describe how ruling class interests are buoyed by everyday people and that DIY media is just a deluded powerless copy of its professional original.  Still. This third-person effect nonsense will fail to bloom into any kind of sense. Because BAM the delusions of Rodger were inflated by cinema; you can tell because he knew how to frame and light himself (I would argue more in the style of Todd Solondz than Judd Apatow) and is therefore deeply influenced by movies.  Therefore: movies killed seven people and golly gee who knows how many more.

Perhaps there is a reason the author can’t make an argument for the sway of cinema.  Or why no author can make a convincing case for media effects.  And it might be this: entertainment merely reproduces ruling class interests and cannot hope to manufacture them whole because the extreme yearning felt by many violent human subjects is not created by the 40 Year Old Virgin.  It is a myth necessary to the way in which we have organised ourselves for three hundred years.

Entitlement is hardly the fixation of violent men alone.  The possibility and/or the expectation of upward mobility is present in political and advertising campaigns, our emotional transactions and in conversations with 90 per cent of the people you know who believe in their entitlement or their “rights”.  You’re Worth It is hardly a lie told only to and believed by men.

And it is hardly a lie that was begun or finessed in the cinema.

While it is true this broad doctrine of entitlement may have been the thing to which Rodger affixed a sickness (that may well have been as socially as it was chemically produced) it makes no more sense to say that this, in its purely feminist context, was the only reason any more than it does to scream JUDD APATOW IS A RAPER.

The ideas of entitlement and of our “rights” to the lives of others are worth examining.  And if we truly are worried how our desire for more, more, more might impact the lives of others, we don’t need to look to Santa Barbara for an example.  We might want to look, for example, at the things that we buy which can and often do lead to the devastation of lives because we feel We’re Worth It.

Ladies.  You are not exempt.



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