The violence in Bonnie and Clyde and No Country for Old Men
The violence depicted in Bonnie and Clyde as well as No Country for Old Men is mostly gratuitous, and does not really have a moral purpose, although in both films, it can be argued there is a moral context. In No Country for Old Men, the violence is precipitated by a drug deal gone sour, leading to the loss of money, which in an attempt to recover, sees Anton Chigurh a hit man, hired to recover the money. In the case of Bonnie and Clyde, the violence is depicted as a means to an end, in the sense that the couple and their gang engage in violence as a route towards obtaining what they want. The violence does not however play an integral role in the plot of either film. Basically, the films simply show inadvertently that violence can be used as a means to an end the films actually glorify and encourage violence. The real intention for the inclusion of violence within both films is mainly for entertainment purposes, with the violence in the case of No Country for Old Men, being incessant and pointless in some cases. Children should, therefore, not be allowed to watch these two films, as the pointless violence within them does have undesirable negative effects on child development.
True to Sobchaks assertion, the violence in these two films did fail to show me anything real or new that I did not already know. In line with the current culture in the film industry, violence is simply included for its entertainment value, as well as undoubted ability to keep viewers glued to the television screens. Although similar to Sobchaks experience, initial viewing can be done with a real compulsive need to know, in most cases this need is insatiable, especially by the violent content within contemporary films.
The movie Bonnie and Clyde does delve into the realms of reality a bit, as it is based on a true story about Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker and their gang. This aspect as well as the manner with which the film is acted and its context, give it a feeling of reality, perhaps a highlight of the fact that it was produce in the year 1967. Its setting in reality is aptly captured when the chief characters actually die in a fateful bloody scene at the end of the film. In the case No Country for Old Men, a majority of the scenes are based on reality, a few other scenes fall within the realms of fantasy. Not only does the hit man seem invincible in some contexts, but he also accomplishes some tasks that seem super human and unimaginable or impossible, for instance when he kills the Mexicans waiting to ambush Moss on his own.
Furthermore, Chigurh is seen cleaning and stitching his wounds after a gun fight with Moss, without any form of anesthesia, a fete that one cannot consider normal. Both films however, provide a dose of reality with their endings, as we see the heroes or heroines actually suffer injuries, which are at times fatal, as is the case with the two main characters in Bonnie and Clyde, as well as with Moss, in No Country for Old Men. If pushed to choose between the two films, it is plausible to argue that delving into too much fantasy does indeed harm the credibility of a film, as the latter delves into a bit more fantasy than Bonnie and Clyde. In a way, this could be attributed to the fact that the films are produced 40 years apart, within totally different contexts as to what levels of violence and fantasy are acceptable in film production.
The violence depicted in No Country for Old Men, is certainly more graphic, a difference that can be attributed to the changing morality within the country over the last 40 years. Further, the main focus within the film industry has actually shifted from instilling important morals, to simply entertaining. If one focuses on the moral of the film, Bonnie and Clyde, could be argued to attempts to highlight the need to live right, as those who live through unscrupulous ways die under similar circumstances. On the other hand, No Country for Old Men, seems to be advocating for the direct opposite, Chigurh seems to be having it all his own way, if anything even the hero in the film is a thief to start with. Not only does it seem as if evil prevails, but it also seems as if evil deeds are rewarded.
This is the exact opposite of the morals in the 1967 film, which seems to advocate for the need to uphold higher moral standards. Even though the level of violence in Bonnie and Clyde, is nowhere comparable to the levels in No Country for Old Men, the degree of uproar witnessed in 1967 was significant, much less than what could be said about the level of objections currently being witnessed over what can only be termed as excessive violence in media. The level of tolerance for sex and violence in the television and film industry has not only risen, but it seems tolerance for immoral acts has also become common place, thus the lack of protestations at the appalling use of violence. The standards upon which morality is judged therefore, seem to have changed over the last forty years, with the phrase the end justifies the means, becoming more and more applicable.
Due to this increased proliferation of violent programming, widespread debate has arisen over the years, with opponents arguing that excessive violence would have an adverse effect on child development. Research studies show that exposure to violent programming predisposes children to violent behavior. This, therefore, means that there is cause for concern over the number of programs with violent content. Opponents of the status quo further argue that violent content not only predisposes children to violence, but it also interferes with their moral compass, as in most cases, the picture painted is that violence is an option for solving any problems they might encounter, more so whenever violence is rewarded, as is the case in the two films.
For children who are still developing, seeing violence rewarded may actually make it seem acceptable, which would make adopting such behavior so much easier. Through mimicking behavior they see rewarded on television, these children may actually develop a life of violent behavior. Depicting a world in which violence is rewarded sets a dangerous precedent as it encourages violence as an option. Players within the entertainment industry however argue that these claims are baseless more so considering the entertainment value of violence and its ability to sell.
There are however others who believe that exposure to violent media may not be that bad. Gerrad Jones in his article Violent Media is Good for Kids argues that exposure to hulk comics actually changed him for the better. This is clearly deductible when the author says I followed him to the arrogant, self-exposing, self-assertive, superheroic decision to become a writer. Further after turning into a writer himself, the author claims that his writing of violent stories were helpful to other people as well, a situation aptly captured when she says Across generations, genders, and ethnicities I kept seeing the same story: people pulling themselves out of emotional traps by immersing themselves in violent stories. Gregg Easterbrook however disagrees, as he argues that violent media makes people more violent.
Bonnie and Clyde. Dir. Arthur Penn. Perf. Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackman. Warner Bros, 1967. DVD.
Easterbrook, Gregg. Watch and Learn. The Saturday Evening Post.
Jones, Gerrard. Violent Media is Good for Kids.
No Country for Old Men. Dir. Coen Joel and Coen Ethan. Perf. Tommy Lee Jones, Brolin Josh, and Bardem Javier. Miramax, 2007. DVD
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