From Oliver Stone to Quentin Tarantino to Clint Eastwood, many of our best-known filmmakers have trafficked in extreme, sometimes even gratuitous, violence. It has long been their contention, and those of others, that violence in film does not beget violence in life.
As the mass murder in Colorado has shown, they were wrong. Yes, normal people are able to separate illusion from reality, but for the criminally insane like James Holmes, it is quite clear that ultra-violent films can act as an inspiration for unspeakable acts.
Given the horrifying death toll, rare as the likes of Holmes may be, we have to account for the similarly deranged and aberrant. We owe that to the dead of Colorado and elsewhere. Moreover, we should not encourage these events, wittingly or unwittingly. And by we I mean the people who make films (which includes me).
I am not calling for censorship here, nor for gun control laws, but for a modicum of self-censorship on the part of the filmmakers and the film and television industries. They should ask themselves to what end is the violence they are portraying and whether it need be so explicit. Can they make their points as effectively, perhaps more effectively, without the endless splatter and gore?