Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Kick-Ass and Brutally Honest

Tonight’s our big Debate at Lolita Bar on the question “Is Christianity for Wimps?” — and one question sure to arise is whether wimps are, in fact, bad. Take our level of tolerance for violence as an example.

Surely, violence manifests itself in all sorts of horrible ways (else we would have no police and indeed would never even have established the first known written law code, since Hammurabi was as keen to prevent random fights as we are — nothing could be more morally-traditional than the suppression of violence). At the same time, one would not want to so isolate people from the existence of violence that they are incapable of dealing with it when it arises — even dealing some of it out when, arguably, it is necessary.

One of the ex-Misfits at our last debate reminisced fondly about an errant fan who interfered with a concert and was given a necessary — and educational — beat-down, and I have just recently rewatched the impressive early Jackie Chan movie Drunken Master, in which his character is sent off to learn the art of “drunken boxing” because only that fighting form will teach him mental/moral discipline while at the same time producing chaotic physical movements too confusing for opponents to match (the sequel is better, though, as Nybakken would want me to acknowledge).

While I’d love a completely peaceful world as much as the next guy, I was always troubled as a child by the artificial removal of violence from depictions of the world. One of my earliest political thoughts was resentment of a ban in the 1980s on the depiction of realistic guns on kids’ cartoons (would they take my Star Wars action figures away next?). And it is annoying that drivers always pulled themselves intact out of the most spectacular car crashes on The A-Team (thanks of course to the impressive work of the Joey Chitwood stunt team, as we all seemed to know back then). Congressmen on the lookout for violence tend to be pleased that no one gets their limbs ripped off on such shows, but wouldn’t that be more honest and perhaps even a greater deterrent to “trying this at home”?

All of this explains why I’m starting to think that despite Clash of the Titans coming out next month, the April movie I’m really looking forward to is: Kick-Ass, a comic-based movie with the simple but effective premise that no one who puts on a costume and fights crime can do so any more effectively than people would be able to in the real world — and as a result, a lot of bones get broken, bruises get formed, nutcases take to the streets, and much swearing occurs (as is apparent even in the trailer, unless you wuss out and choose to watch the edited version).


Since tonight’s debate is also about religion, let me just put in a plug for skepticism, which — almost like drunken boxing — is not just some nihilistic subtraction of magical, wonderful things from the world but is, of course, mental discipline. There are a lot of loose and woolly ideas out there in the world and, unless you’re Alice in Alice in Wonderland, you may find that believing impossible things undermines your alertness, effectiveness, and intellectual rigor. Indeed, faith can literally get you blown up by landmines, if you’re stupid enough, as elements of militaries around the world apparently are, to consider using dowsing rods as mine-detection systems, a real (worthless, unproven) practice now being urgently criticized by professional skeptic (and inspiration to teenage Todd) James Randi (and pointed out to ACSH by Dr. Chic Shissel).

Of course, rationality, too, can be taken to extremes, and that’s where A.J. Jacobs and his one-man experiment in becoming a living “Rationality Project” comes in.


Gerard said...

Blarrgh…wushu films.

Gerard said...

If you want to watch an extremely realistic and graphically violent series of films, might I suggest the Pusher trilogy? Captivating movies directed by a brilliant Danish film director, which chronicle the travails of a lovable, homicidal mafia chieftain from the former Yugoslavia.