A Night at the Gun Opera – Introduction

The world is a dark place.

So says any given trailer for an upcoming film or television show. There is darkness out there and everywhere, but perhaps our fear of it is disproportionate to a level where reevaluation is wise. But in this world, there are monsters and psychos and bad men. Suddenly, you know who’s vulnerable. And you’ve known all along the tools you’ll need to defend them.

It’s as if the American Dream was swallowed up by a suburban nightmare. Aren’t our minds so fancy free? They go places. Degrees of connection notwithstanding, we find our real world tendencies are often supported and then reinforced by a vague sense of the way of things.

We might say… by narratives. Of course, they’re coming to get us. Of course, we can’t rely on others for help. Of course, I can be the hero.

In utopic conversations, where we criticize the present toward a better future, we talk about gun control and gender politics, both of which speak to tragedies inherently affected by the cultures of violence and masculinity. Solution-wise, we could talk this and that. If we could somehow limit the influence of the NRA on the US government, or have companies withdraw AR-15s from consumer shelves, or destigmatize psychiatric disorders.

Those things sound challenging, and are – are currently being so. Especially in a relative sense, given that the most obvious solution has been staring us down, over barrels, this whole damn time: simply quell our throbbing girth for violence in media. Simply quell violent media. These films and video-games do not exist in a vacuum. They are us, and always have been; they’re modern mythology, they’re experiments and exorcisms, a conversation we’re having with ourselves, through time.

Doesn’t the NRA influence point back to an American bloodlust, to a tremendous gun fetishization? When Republican politicians lament that there weren’t more guns at the sites of mass shootings, aren’t visions of standoffs and showdowns and other heroic spectacles dancing through their heads?

This fucking gun thing – it must come from somewhere. But before we get our hackles raised, let’s put it out there that this solution would have an effect. Taking away our action heroes and all their cool toys would significantly desexualize crime and mayhem, and we’d see killers for killers, as opposed to drifters and loners and all manner of Hollywood archetype. Citizens would leave dragonslaying to the police, and the police would see less dragons. Life would become less of a movie, and so other people and other kinds of people are no longer extras, or worse, NPCs.

Cue nerds crying ‘censorship,’ spoken loudly as it is erroneously in almost every case. In this one, the terms of the potential censorship were not concretely laid out, and frankly – I’m not interested in a world without violent media.

So it’s worth it, then? Because after all… none of them were me.

If mine’s a heart worth saving, could be there’s another way. Is it possible to reconcile a violent mediascape with a peaceful world? If we want to hold onto our action films and horror slashers, what will they have to do to adapt? On closer inspection, what have they been doing? We might be surprised. Even in moments where our shock and horror plays again.

The world is a dark place.

When we express that world in our media, there’s room for darkness. But I’d like to believe that’s only half the tale…

Table of Contents

The World as Desert: Where Violence is the Answer (coming soon)
The Action Scene (coming soon)

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