Violence, moral delimmas, and "The Watchmen"

Our local youth group leader suggested using "The Watchmen" as a "jumping off point" for the discussion of moral delimas. I was torn; thought about it a lot, and wrote the following:

As I continue to read reviews and hear from friends who have seen "The Watchmen", I become more and more concerned about the level of violence in the film. A number of people have been very concerned about the full frontal male nudity that appears repeatedly in the movie, but that doesn't really bother me too much; what does disturb me greatly are close-ups of someone's head repeatedly hacked with a hatchet, people exploding from the inside out, rape, etc... My coworker who loves horror flicks told me she was shocked by this movie.

I'm trying to find the time to go and browse a copy of the comic book version to see if it is any less disrespectful of human life, but my general understanding is that it is no better.

I've tried very hard to teach my children that violence is not acceptable. That any human who sees a violent act or a simulation of a violent act should be sickened by it. I am greatly concerned that our youth, through video games, movies, and "art" are becoming inured to the horror of violence. It continues to amaze me that parents, on the one hand allow their kids to play first person shooters, and on the other hand are shocked and horrified when a few of them follow the example and go "Columbine" on the world.

I've made exceptions in what movies I allow them to see, and those exceptions were meant to teach them that violence IS part of our REAL world. So I would not mind if they watched "Saving Private Ryan" or "Glory" or "Casualties of War" because they show what can and actually has happened at the hands of violent men. We watched "Master and Commander" together and didn't turn away when the cabin boy lost a limb and the decks were slick with blood. We watched "Georgia Rule" together and talked about rape and incest. I don't mind "CSI" or "Bones" because they show violent people being brought to justice, and the violence is presented in a shocking way that tends to make it even more unacceptable. "House" shows that blood and guts are a natural part of what is inside us.

The movies and video games I despise are those that make violence an accepted part of the story, or even go so far as to glorify it. "Saw #", ("Texas Chain" or otherwise), "Grand Theft Auto", etc... So many make violence the primary method of solving a problem, showing "heroic" men mowing down their opponents while glossing over the fact that those men helped to create the situation that made the violence necessary, or at the very least, were unable to find any better way to solve the problem. "Commando" was a perfect example: His daughter was kidnapped because of what he did for a living.

"First Blood" (the first Rambo movie) was an exception, because he did everything he could to avoid the violence while still protecting his freedom. Some of the old Chuck Norris films tried to present violence as the last resort. In "Burn Notice", the lead actively tries to solve problems with the lowest possible body count. "MacGyver" etc...

Having said all that, and I said it mostly to make sure you understand how I, as a veteran of foreign wars feel about violence in media, if you are sure that the benefit of pursuing "The Watchmen" as an example of morel dilemmas outweighs the damage of exposing Allie to that sort of unnecessary violence, then I will give my blessing to her seeing the movie and reading the comic. I have respect for your opinion, and a great appreciation of your efforts. As a man, I bow to the better record of your sex with regard to violence, although I think most of that is due to the men getting sent in to deal with the problem after everyone else has failed.

If you say it's worth doing, I will trust you with my daughter. I do not speak for my wife.

I wish you could find another "jumping off point." Perhaps something about the tradeoffs between dropping the nuke on Japan and letting the war play out conventionally? Or any of the many stories of ordering young men into a loosing battle to win a war? If it has to be violent, why not "Full Metal Jacket" or "Born on the 4th" or "Forrest Gump" or even a few episodes of "MASH" like the ones about Hawlkeye loosing his mind because the noisy chicken the woman smothered when the V.C. were passing the bus wasn't actually a chicken. There's a moral dilemma for you... All of us dead or just the one little... hatchling.

I hope you teach them well. I don't think I could take on that job.

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