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.