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18 December 2012

Guns and Knives in the Movies

Have you ever noticed that horror movies rarely involve gunman? The weapons of choice are typically cutting implements like knives, chainsaws, and axes. In fact, we call this subgenre of movies "slasher" films. Movies that feature gun violence, however, are typically classified as "action," not horror, movies. Action movies generally are supposed to generate a sense of empowerment and exhilaration. Slasher films, conversely, generate a sense of helplessness and dread (even if cathartic). For example, compare the holiday action movie Die Hard (Christmas-themed violence! Yea!) to the classic slasher film Halloween. Among actual murders in the U.S., though, firearms are used more than five times as often as knives or cutting instruments (PDF). Given that gun violence is so disproportionately common in the United States, we ironically don't really seem to be all that scared by it. Popular media frame these forms of violence in the popular imagination, thus perpetuating our culturally problematic (mis)understandings of violence and our oddly high levels of violence in general.

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