September 10, 2005

In the French Quarter, Addie Hall and Zackery Bowen found a unusual way to make sure that police officers regularly patrolled their house. Ms. Hall, 28, a bartender, flashed her breasts at the police vehicles that passed by, ensuring a regular flow of traffic.
- New York Times, 09-09-05

As almost always, I am very nearly the last among those parts of the blogosphere/active forumists (among those who pay attention, anyway) to touch upon a topic which has already swept its twice around the virtual terraverse and been abandoned to bits and pieces of the Wayback Machine. (Always assuming, that is, that copyright issues do not end up destroying even this resource. The Internet sometimes seems violently opposed to any sense of preserving its own history.) Two elections, two major storms and other one threatening, an ex-revolution which seems to be surprising everyone in its inevitable unfolding, miscellaneous political manoeuvring, shattering of the human cloning barrier, the future of the Hubble project: how can I ever find myself blocked with too little to write about? Perhaps this is why the most successful blogs out there outline only, chosen subject's bare bones, link-link-link (half of which have died by the time I get around to reading them) -- and on to the next 15-minute wonder.

Good thing I aim for examination and hopefully an approximation of understanding, rather than the headlined scoop or the always popular "First!" Don't know that either approach has any greater relevance or necessarily success than the other. Do know that for all the torrent of information out there, I find myself less informed, more isolated, than ever. A dozen dozen dozen voices shrieking talk TALK TALK at each other, victory apparently defined by whoever manages to shout the loudest, to drown out the others and enforce their own image, staying on message despite any and all unwelcome datums, impose their own virtual reality upon whatever other realities may have inconveniently inconvenienced the continual functioning of other people's lives: and the single most popular verbal mechanic of the day is control of the mute button or ignore function and the ability and desire -- by all sides -- to tell the other to just shut up!

Though our preferred way of life utterly depends on violence, in creating our own realities and carefully cocooning them from the rest of the world we have amputated familiarity -- and thus adaptation to -- violence. We no longer understand violence as a real part of ourselves, the reality of lives suddenly overturned and sudden death: at least in part because a major marker of affluence is that neither violence nor empathy ought to be any longer be a living part of our family-ar world, but allowed to invade the domicile through the pixellated screen only: just another form of entertainment. In the abstract, even in the camera'ed picture, the newscast may as well be another made-for-television film ... and why not? We have moved the newsreels out of the cinemas, and the big screen films into our homes. "If it bleeds, it leads". The most violent programming out there has never been subject to ratings.

What point in ratings, in any case? in screening a child from access to what the child knows full well the parent seeks out? It is a natural part of growing up that children should learn to model their wants upon those of their parents. Where the parent smokes or drinks, the child learns very quickly to add cigarettes or alcohol to the grocery list; choices which are actively reinforced by popular mass media branding. Where the parent seeks out images of violence, the child will follow: if not in the home, then elsewhere as they learn to manoeuvre around the restrictions placed upon their being allowed to act "like" adults. Yet the knowledge -- or, perhaps, more accurately the suspicion, does not seem in any way to keep adults generally from gaining their "fix" of daily abstracted violence. Where the parents are addicted to the image of violence, why be surprised that the children will follow? Why this instinct to firmly believe -- even to actively shun evidence to the contrary -- that one's own children will somehow be different from others?

Which brings me to Grand Theft Auto, among the most notorious videogame for violence in the business: and yet it was not the violence that undid its success. Fight, shoot, carjack all you like: but do not, repeat, do NOT allow a single image of active and direct application of sexuality to accidentally drift within reach of a teen's or preteen's eyes ... even where the sexual message might actually be a positive one, a rude, crude, but somehow sincere focus on seeking out and working actively toward the woman's pleasure at least co-equally with the man's [player's] gaining "his" own satisfaction: "Failure to satisfy a woman is a crime!"

Even in our "enlightened" times, war and anarchy -- call them expressions of naked power -- continue to be strongly linked with rape and other forms of sexual degradation. That this link exists, in among us "civilised" types, has not only been documented in history and current events media and studies again and again, but is, I think, obvious to anyone with eyes willing to see. Why it exists is an examination too broad to begin to attempt here.

With all its unabashed violence, Grand Theft Auto manages to find an alternate path.

And therefore it must be re-rated into a de facto banning.

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