Sunday, March 06, 2005

Shadows

Sunday we spent lazing about, enjoying the sun warming the house and no obligation to be anywhere. We played video games. I spent some hours aiming a well-ammo'd weapon at authority figures, making sure they'd never live to see another sunrise. My children played, too. We always got an aha!-lift when we earned a new weapon to use. The more killings we amassed, the more territory we claimed, the bigger our cache of weapons. No, I'm not talking about Grand Theft Auto, I'm talking about Spyro the Dragon, a game rated "E" for everyone. And for all the cartoons, for all the cutesy gems we had to collect, we were still playing a shooter-type game. We still had to resort to violence to "kill" the bad guys. But even so, would it be fair to sue Spyro if a Dragon fan went haywire somewhere? Because it's just a cartoon.

One thing about modern society is that we love violence. Our video games are reflections of ourselves - they are another medium in which to tell our stories. I came across this sad article in which a young man killed three police officers allegedly mimicking Grand Theft Auto.

The article leaves me with that ever-present question. What is the responsibility of folks who express their art by mirroring the darker aspects of our society without the moral spanking at the end of the tale? I remember the Oklahoma bombing, tragedy lined with the paper of a book. A story about overthrowing the government ended up being the supposed blueprints of murder. There have been many instances of suicide where music was the culprit, or they were assisted by the book, Final Exit. I find the urge to blame the creator of such art a fascinating one because I've written "bad" stories before and I've written them with no moral punch at the end. They just...were.

What does that say about me? What would I feel if something untoward happened and my tale was blamed?

The brother in the article is suing the video game manufacturer. Problem is, there's no precedent for success. The brother, the family, will not win in this country. To win would mean opening the flood gates for every victim to sue corporate America for every creative work of art that could possibly be connected to "bad acts." From video games to books to music to paintings. It's not just an uphill battle for the family, it's an impossibility.

But...but...the lawsuit presents an interesting dilemna for writers in the horror genre or mainstream fiction who might enjoy your every day in-depth study of a killer's mind. Like Stephen King, or Camus or Dostoyevski. I find the question of artists' responsibility to greater society fascinating. I find it so because of the irony. Art is a mirror - to condemn the artist as being an irresponsible parent, so to speak, is to condemn ourselves as a whole. It will never happen. We like what we see in the mirror far too much.

****

Which brings me to a daunting task I undertook on the weekend: that of making a self-portrait, a challenge I took on when learning photography. I found the job immensely difficult - I have far too much character to show up "pretty" - I saw that my pictures showed too much, or not enough. I found myself asking what I wanted to show, what I wanted to tell. At the end of the day, I was staring at shots of myself appearing shadowed, full of doubt, self-conscious, worry lines on my face stronger and deeper than any laugh lines. Too much was revealed. I threw the pictures into paint shop, softened it up, used some painterly effects...and voila! I was well hidden again. Comfortable.

Which made me wonder about a murderer who was caught recently. The one who had a wife and children, who was a leader in his church and a civil servant. How well he hid himself from everyone. Made me think how well everyone hides.


9 comments:

newspell said...

adriana, there are a few things i like about this post, and a few things i love about this post.

as a father of three, i find myself asking is it my responsibility to protect my kids from everything that's out there, or do i let them experience with coaching later. honestly, i don't know which way to go. parenting is an art form that i'm learning. the only part i have down is unconditional love. everything else requires late nite conference calls with my parents.

it is hard to show yourself. in my old blogging days, i would take these very personal experiences of my life and mold them into half page posts. after a while though, the mirror image that i created in my blog was too personal, too me. above all, this is why newspell was created. i needed distance from the realness of my old blog. somethings are better left unblogged.

i don't think i've ever given you a proper thank you. what for? giving me the courage to break away from my old form that was too close to the bone.

dayna said...

I always think that I have no pride left. That everything I have ever done is common knowledge so I have nothing left to hide. But then something else will reveal itself to me and I discover just one more little thing that I find myself trying to downplay or hide. I geuss its a lifelong process of coming to accept who you are made easier by people who accept and love you as is.

Adriana Bliss said...

Rick, I'm with you on the art of parenting. Unfortunately, I have no "role model" to turn to. My husband and I are like adventurers with machetes in the jungle.

As far as showing yourself - journaling, writing, takes a lot of courage. But yeah, some things should be left unrevealed. One of the most powerful stories I've read or seen was from "Saving Private Ryan," where the leader (Tom Hanks) wouldn't tell a younger soldier about a memory of his wife. That was his memory all for himself to keep. To speak of it would lessen it perhaps. Very touching. I remember, too, the wife of John Ritter, not telling what she said to him before he left her. I found myself more touched by what was unsaid.

Dayna, you've written here the absolute truth about life's greatest challenge. I'm still working on it, too.

Kilroy Trout said...

Nice post Adriana

Some like to draw straight lines between computer games and “bad acts”. But what lines do we draw to “smart bombs” and “collateral damage”? Those, we’re told, are connected to our sense of justice and humanity.

Fromage de Merde said...

Ah, self portraits in the age of killing in pixels, hmmmm, do we or don’t we want the world to see our aura? Black and white with an unfocused vision in curls! Beautiful!

Adriana Bliss said...

Awww...thanks, sir. I'm glad to see you visiting!

narrator said...

I think people are always looking for excuses for their sloppy parenting (well, it's always sloppy isn't it? I mean if it isn't abusive), and we're always looking for the simple things to blame. "It's not that we're a society with a completely screwed up values system. It's not that you can buy a gun on any streetcorner. It's the video game, the book, the movie, the music that did it!"

Anyway, self-portraits are brave things. The last one I wrote turned so grim it totally scared me. I haven't drawn when in awhile. There's something about them that makes the process intense though.

Adriana Bliss said...

Very true, narrator, they look for excuses for sloppy parenting. I suggest, too, that perhaps Americans in particular constantly seek to others to blame, period. To wit, the recent killings of the judge's family in Chicago and the judge, court reporter and security guard in Atlanta. Both shooters seeking to put blame one for his misfortune and the other for his crime. I have a sensitive spot when it comes to the legal folks get gunned down for doing their job.

As to SP's...yes, it can be an intense bit of work, no matter the medium. You're writing is very self-reflective and the work it takes to get to those places of memory and reflection is very evident. But the result is always amazing.

nappy40 said...

About the ones who hide...the interesting part is what they choose to show. I've learned to assume the opposite.