Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Musings Part 2: Not So A-Musing

Yesterday when I was at work, we got a call to shut the doors and lock down the premises - there was an armed gunman on campus.

My coworker, Nancy, and I gathered the two people from the patio and closed the shop, turning off the radio and staying away from the door and windows. I dug around in the cupboards to find some potential weapons, should things take a turn for the worse. I pocketed a screwdriver and kept my phone out, switching between attempting to call my friend Shannon, who was at an RA orientation event on campus, and checking the CSULB emergency site for information.

Sitting on the floor next to the soda cooler, we could hear helicopters buzzing overhead.

We spotted glimpses of police cars in the distance past the quad.

I was shaking. Getting a call like that can sweep the whole world out from under your feet, and the only solid ground I could find were the two things that matter to me the most. Unironically, those two things were people and movies, in that order.

When one is put in a situation that threatens to be perilous, all that stupid BS that we worry about day to day stops mattering. I did not think about the new Lady Gaga single, the stress of moving into my new apartment, or the impact the lockdown would have on my work hours. I thought about my friends. I thought about my family. I thought about Sergio.

What it all boils down to is that personal relationships are to be valued above all else. Make sure the people that are important to you know that they are. If somebody you love is struggling with something, make them your priority. Don't blow off important moments with your friends or family for stuff like an essay or a Netflix binge, no matter how important your homework might seem or how lazy you might be feeling that day. Nothing else matters in the long run.

And since this is a movie blog, let me steer the topic to the impact of media violence on our culture. As a veteran watcher of splatter pictures, I am uniquely qualified to address the concern that some people might have over the proliferation of gore and violence on TV and in cinemas.

First off, let me open with a quote from Scream.
"Movies don't create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative."
Yes, sometimes there will be a copycat murder after, say, a new Hostel movie comes out. Perhaps if that movie had not come out, that person would not have died in that manner. But barring the film from release would not have saved their life. The viewer's psychopathic tendencies were inspired by it, not born from it.

Media violence usually serves one of two purposes for the mentally sane viewer:

1) Engaging the visceral part of the human brain that delights in mayhem in a safe and non-destructive way.

2) Presenting the audience with a situation that they may not have experienced, allowing them to understand the atrocities human beings inflict upon one another from as close to a firsthand perspective as possible and using the horror of the predicament to highlight the depravity of such an act.

Yes, there is that caveman part of us that delights in a young co-ed being ripped in half, and that is why the Friday the 13th movies still enjoy a massive following. Slasher and splatter movies allow us to indulge in that carnal release without actually having to hurt anybody. Think of it as a less morally reprehensible version of The Purge.

Some argue that such films (including the ones I enjoy the most) desensitize the viewers to graphic violence and even encourage it, but that is absolutely not the case. It's true that these films can act as a buffer to help us cope with the brutality of the real world, but for the most part, especially in more thematically intact horror films, the torture is meant to be exactly that - torture.

Films show scenes of torture as a means of denouncing it. By using it to horrify the audience, the implied warrant is simple - torture is bad. This should never be inflicted upon anybody. The screams from the theater seats behind you prove my point.

So please please do not take this recent proliferation of campus violence to be a result of entertainment. In fact that very same "threat" is what propelled me through my waking nightmare.

Yesterday, the first thing I thought of when we closed those doors was What did Mr. Schue do in that school shooting episode of Glee? No joke. Like it or not, pop culture provides a lot of our background knowledge on events and experiences outside of our range. Taking cues from Glee allowed me to keep calm and avoid panicking.

The rules about slasher films that I wrote only a week ago were likewise careening about my head. I gathered weapons because I hate when Final Girls don't fight back. I stayed quiet because I hate when Final Girls give away their positions. I maintained focus because I've seen what can happen when a Final Girl loses her head.

And therein lies the tentpole of my argument. Without having watched the "wicked violent media," I would have felt a whole lot less sure of myself and might very well have dissolved into a weeping wreck on the floor.

That certainly describes my personality, I think. I drew my strength from my loved ones and Freddy Krueger.

Anyway, I would be honored to have somebody learn from my experience if that means they wouldn't have to go through it themselves. The two things to take away from this are to take strength from whatever you can, even if you think it's ridiculous and stupid (I make a good point with that media violence thing too, but my pontificating won't help in this regard) and to cherish the people that love you.

Now, as it turns out, the lockdown was a false alarm. A few students were spooked by a drill we'd had earlier in the morning and mistook another student's phone for a gun (which, to tell the truth, is pretty much how that Glee episode ended). Despite the threat level of the situation being, in actuality, zero, that does not make my reactions and emotions any less significant.

I consider myself very lucky to have gotten the life lesson without the life endangerment and despite the fact that the most dangerous thing that could have happened to me yesterday was burning myself on the coffee machine, we really did think we were in that predicament, and that's what really matters, doesn't it?

Love each other.

Word Count: 1131

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