But how do you distinguish between a depiction of evil that exists for purposes of truth-telling and troubling the conscience... and depictions that are merely lurid, or, in the language of Philippians 4, "dwelling on" what is evil?
I have fled the theater twice in the last year when it seemed to me that a movie was no longer studying evil, or seeking to expose the reality of sin... when it crossed over into a sort of revelry, when it seemed to continue in a way that seemed to cultivate enjoyment in demeaning portrayals of human beings.
I was experiencing what others have seemed to experience watching Coen Brothers movies... a revelry in mockery and humiliation of "those stupid people." (I still argue that the Coens are much better than that, but still... I would argue that other artists are guilty of this.)
One of the films I abandoned proclaims that it is "based on true events." Does that give the filmmakers a pardon for whatever they put on the screen? The scenes I watched were certainly "realistic" depictions of horrific, heartless behavior. But it reached a point where I had to leave... not out of fear, not in the manner of Hamlet's uncle who felt convicted, but because it felt wrong to stay there. In "real life," people had taken criminal advantage of a young woman and abused her. As the camera soaked up the sight of her humiliation, I felt that I was being forced to witness what nobody should have to see, what, indeed, it is immoral to merely observe. It felt like I was being dragged down into a state of mere contempt, and pleasure in contempt, at what I was seeing.
I am sure that this is one of those questions that demands an answer of "It depends" and "Each person's conscience" ... etc. etc.
But I also have a sense that there are better ways to describe this tension, better words that will help me understand and speak about the difference, as I am seeking to do in an essay this week.
Can you think of scenes when you felt that you were no longer invited into a contemplation of evil, but that you were being drawn into a kind of wallowing, a participation in mere contempt, or even a celebration of the impropriety on display?
And how is this different from, say, a Flannery O'Connor short story in which the characters' ugliness is garishly displayed or purposes of "shouting" to a "deaf culture"?
Edited by Overstreet, 03 September 2012 - 03:20 PM.