Violence in the Media
Gina Marchetti, in her essay "Action-Adventure as Ideology," argues that action- adventure films implicitly convey complex cultural messages regarding American values and the "white American status quo." She continues to say that all action-adventure movies have the same basic structure, including plot, theme, characterization, and iconography. As ideology, this film genre tacitly expresses social norms, values, and morals of its time. Marchetti's essay, written in 1989, applies to films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Rambo: First Blood II. However, action-adventure films today seem to be straying farther away from her generalizations about structure, reflecting new and different cultural norms in America. This changing ideology is depicted best in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers (1994), which defies nearly every concept Marchetti proposes about action-adventure films; and it sets the stage for a whole new viewpoint of action in the '90's.
Until recently, most action-adventure films, to some extent, fit Marchetti's general guidelines. In the case of iconography, she states that all action-adventure films are set in exotic locations, for example decaying temples or rainforests. Most modern American films, though, are set in American cities and towns in which much violence occurs. Natural Born Killers is filmed entirely in New Mexico, Arizona, and Illinois, with dry desert land forming most of the visual scenery. Why is America no longer as interested in exotic and foreign places? Perhaps the modern movies are more realistic, and therefore can solve real American social problems in the realm of fantasy.
In the case of characterization, Marchetti claims that the most straightforward part of any tale is the antagonist, the villain, who is in most cases a foreigner. But who is the villain in Natural Born Killers? Strangely enough, the villains of this particular film are also its heroes. Mickey and Malory Knox are two lovers who murder their parents, steal their car, and procede to kill 52 others in 3 weeks. They represent everything immoral in American society, and yet quotes by their screaming fans from the film such as "Mickey and Malory are the best thing to happen to mass murder since Manson," promote their actions as heroic. This movie is a perfect example of "evil" dominating "good," or what society perceives as good. The detective folowing Mickey and Malory would presumeably be the "good" hero, but he is depicted as totally corrupt, and in one scene rapes a woman. On the contrary, the two murderers are the heroes, the products of disfunctional families and society. They are outsiders, drifters, and lovers with no worries, all the freedom in the world, and a "natural" appetite for blood. In this sense they fit Marchetti's description of a hero as a loner; but rather than saving the society that molded them, they are destroying it. Their actions are justified by all elements of the...