As the class officially tips over the halfway mark, we move into darker subject matter. Last week we screened Battle Royale
, the Japanese dystopian near-future film about school kids forced by adults to kill each other and tonight we're watching Elephant
, part 2 of Gus Van Sant's 'Death' trilogy (the others are Gerry
and Last Days
). No students signed up to provide context for the film, which prompted me to conduct my own research on the film.
For those who have seen it, the film is Van Sant's 'take' on the 1999 Columbine Massacre, in which two students killed 13 classmates and a teacher before committing suicide. The Massacre is the fourth largest school shooting in history, but received unprecedented media coverage on news sites such as Fox News and CNN, including graphic footage from security tapes as well as images such as bloodied students trying to escape the library. The film itself is interesting for its position on the cause of the shootings; that is, it doesn't pretend to understand the factors that drove the two boys to kill, although they do play videogames and watch violent movies (both were factors blamed in real life). Researching school shootings was surprisingly inconclusive: academics seem generally divided between the effects of media and videogame violence. Some suggest that these media, paired with violent or satanic music, prompt responses in the brain associated with emotional responses (anger, loss of control). Others suggest that these studies are inconclusive or suggest that the correlations discovered should not imply causation. It's an interesting debate, one that I think I'll put to the students.
We'll turn our attention to censorship and the role of the bard in these kinds of violent tales on Thursday when we screen Tim Blake Nelson's long delayed adaptation, O.
Here are what I consider the best blogs to date (don't tell the students!):