Hot Fuzz (2007)

hot_fuzz_movie_poster

In the grand tradition of send-ups like Naked Gun, Tropic Thunder and Tucker and Dale Versus Evil, this goofy UK film tears apart movie stereotypes and cliches while providing relatively harmless laughs. It bears no relation to reality and exists solely as distraction but serves an important role in revealing movie tropes for the empty and implausible scenarios they are.

As in most good films, it begins with hyperbole and descends into satire. A super-cop from the city moves to a small town where he finds that mysterious deaths are going unreported. He investigates and finds a dark secret to this idyllic and seemingly useless place. Because of his inner conviction that law and order is important, he takes on the bad guys with impossible odds against him. Since this is a family film, there are no major surprises in the plot, and the filmmakers focused on texture instead. Like most films of this genre, internal plot features are repeated in different contexts to achieve both continuity and contrast. Characters, while one-dimensional, also exist as people with relatively complex motivations formed from a balance of self-interest and goodwill. What initially seem like simply stereotypes expand to show the reasons behind the behavior, reducing the implied mindlessness of lifestyle choices. This allows the filmmakers to mutilate, spindle and destroy those roles and bring out the absurdity of our time.

Comedy cannot be bloodless. In this film, the prime targets are the vast hypocrisy of a society that, like the idyllic town in this film, has given up on finding reason for its actions. It operates on rote, driven by money and obedient to mindless rules, and these two behaviors get the most ire. Throughout the movie, classic movie moments are revisited and destroyed with mockery. Characters twist and erode their own character types of the type one might expect in a Hollywood blockbuster. Through it all, the film manages to make its characters likeable by showing them as relatively simple people working on simple rules that they have found generally guide them to the right places in a world that is chaotic and beyond control. While no surprises or great profundity come from Hot Fuzz, what makes it powerful is that in the process of satirizing a situation, and then movies themselves, it also mocks the absurdity of our current era and the uselessness of people within it. Like all good comedy, this approach results in well-needed laughs and increasing cynicism toward “the way things are always done around here.”

Does metal cause violence, or violence cause metal?

the_heavy_moments_in_lifeWe recently had a mass stabbing here in Texas. Whenever we have a mass shooting anywhere in the world, I brace for the inevitable: they’re going to blame heavy metal.

They did it with Columbine. They tried it with a dozen others, blaming metal and/or industrial, even if the music wasn’t really “metal” at all. Since the 1980s, when Judas Priest got sued over supposedly backward-masked lyrics exhorting fans to kill themselves, it has been a common media trope to blame heavy metal for suicide, violence and self-harm.

A writer over at ScienceAlert asks the vital question of whether metal causes violence, or is caused by violence, in the context of an article on metal and self-harm.

First, the article points out that most people grasp the right meaning of song lyrics only 28% of the time on a four-song test, which puts us 3% ahead of guessing randomly. Even backward masking doesn’t seem to make a discernible impression.

The article dissipates a bit after that, attacking opera as likely to inspire suicide, and sort of missing the point there. Opera is about the heavy topics in life, lost lovers and regaining honor and other intense life-decisional topics, much like metal is.

In fact, if metal has a relationship to violence, it’s as neither cause of or caused by, but “aware of,” because metal is for realists who don’t deny the dark side of life as well as the light. If that was spurred on by early exposure to violence, horror, sadness or a lack of parental love, so be it — we all have to “wake up” sometime and face reality.

Fortunately, psychological research shows that they needn’t have bothered. Teenage metal fans are also more likely than most to suffer neglectful parents. That’s a much more credible explanation of why they’re drawn to both self-harming and a musical subculture that expresses their disaffection with mainstream society that has failed them.

From the article, it sounds like metalheads are just those who awaken a bit earlier. Opera fans tend to be in their 40s-80s and are aware of all that life entails, including those “heavy” decisions and heavy moments like saying goodbye to others or choosing aggression over passively accepting fate. But somehow, we never hear the media reasonably discussing this idea after a school shooting.