Natural Born Killers Essay, Research Paper
Oliver Stone s Portrayal of the Effects of Violent Media
When I was young the only time I willingly woke up early was on Sunday mornings. I would throw on a robe over my pajamas and run down stairs with my brother to the living room and sit myself in the middle of the couch, which was directly in front of our television. To me the best part of the week was watching the morning cartoons with the family while eating breakfast. We always enjoyed good laughs watching the Coyote try to catch the Roadrunner, and I was jealous of the special powers and military devices in cartoons like X-Men and GI.Joe . The habitual watching of cartoons eventually transformed as I reached my teen years. Instead of cartoons I watched music videos and movies. All of my life I have been growing up with the television, watching and learning from the characters and images on the screen. I realize now that the media greatly effects our lives and the lives of today s youth, often in ways that we do not realize. In Natural Born Killers, a film written and directed by Oliver Stone he portrays what he believes are the negative effects from the media on America s youth.
On April 20, 1999 during school two students wearing commando attire opened gunfire on the students and teachers at their high school in Columbine High School, Colorado, fatally killing 12 students, 1 teacher, and severely wounding 23 others. This massacre caused uproar across the country. What caused these students to do these horrible atrocities? Many blame the negative media, music groups such as Marilyn Manson also known as the antichrist super star, movies that glorify militant and violent behavior such as The Rock and Saving Private Ryan, and lack of positive role models in today s society.
In Natural Born Killers Oliver Stone backs up the assumptions that violence in the media such as music videos, movies, cartoons, and newspapers are cause the violence in society today. To portray his beliefs he uses cinematic techniques such as camera angles, shadows, lighting, and sound. And maybe most importantly characters the audience can identify with. The story line follows two serial killers in love named Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis), who go on a shooting spree throughout the country. The couple is a product of all bad influences of society. Mallory was a child that watched too much television when she was young and grew up in an abusive family, she sees her life via a television sitcom as an excape from her disturbed life. Her family life is shown to the audience as a satire of the timeless sitcom I Love Lucy , this classic black and white sitcom portrayed what was seen as the ideal American family. Stone uses this sitcom as a template for what he portrays as daily life in a corrupt 90 s family, using black and white film but instead of the ideal family life, this family is corrupt with verbal and sexual abuse from the man of the household. The satire of I Love Lucy portrayed a dysfunctional family that is not uncommon to some real life families.
Stone also uses the parody of the I Love Lucy shows to demonstrate how television shows desensitize children. In all sitcoms, a fake audience laugh track is used to highlight humorous comments or actions. During the I Love Mallory , show when her father made disrespectful remarks to his wife and when he sexually abused Mallory a live audience would most likely voice disgust, but in Stones version he adds laughter. Stone uses laughter in these areas to ease the tension cause by the fathers unacceptable actions. Stone s underlying messages in the parody states that audiences have been desensitized by television shows with violence and abuse, so much that it is a laughing matter.
When presented with particular images constantly, one is prone to make popular what is seen. This popularity can be bad when violence is involved. Mallory and Mickey s serial killing rampage throughout the country constantly made front-page news, Oliver Stone criticizes the newspapers for glorifying their violent killings into a commodity, making celebrities out of killers. After hearing and reading about the events constantly in the media copycats follow these violent actions, wanted to acquire the same such popularity.
Stone is the use of cartooned violence in much of his film. While on one of Mallory s and Mickey s shooting sprees there is a scene where Mickey shoots a bullet at a woman, and just like a cartoon the bullet nearly stops in front of the her head right before blowing her brains away. This use of cartooning these violent actions helps convince the audience that the violence is not real. This type of violence reminds me of cartoons that I used to watch on Sunday mornings, but they were no longer line drawings but real flesh and blood people.
Today cartoons have become entertainment for children and even adults; a good example is the mature animation called South Park . The cartoons main characters are four grade school boys, but the subject matter and language they use are anything but juvenile. Every episode includes fowl language and a cruel killing of one of the boys. This show appeals to children because of it s a cartoon, and popular with an older crowd, many times an older sibling. Psychological research has shown that children do not fully develop moral reasoning until their late teens. But in show like South Park the children do not understand the adult humor but they laugh along with it anyway, another example of the desensitization of children.
Oliver Stone s movie also incorporates the popularity of music and music videos with teens. Many believe that a teen s choice of music will influence how they act in society. Music with fowl language and/or satanic verses are deemed by many as one of the causes for destructive teens. In Stone s movie the distinct use of up beat music combined with image jump-cuts, and awkward camera angles in the movie seem to be the same style as music videos often seen on MTV, a popular television station geared towards teens and young adults.
It is proven that the television has psychological effects on it watchers. Today companies spend millions of dollars on advertising their products. The infamous Malboro Man has changed from a simple advertisement into an icon known both by children and adults. The screen becomes nearly hypnotic. Today nearly all television shows contain some form of violence because violence is seen as entertainment. It is apparent to me now that the innocent cartoons that used to entertain me when I was young have negative effects, laughing along with the fake audio laugh track when Willey Coyote fell off cliffs or ran into walls seemed like the right thing to do, while psychologically it was the beginning of desensitizing violence.
In Natural Born Killers Oliver Stone uses an array of cinematic techniques to portray how negative media influence children, which may lead to a destructive role in society. Stones movie Natural Born Killers is made for adults, to show how different media s in today s society are corrupting the youth. The use of cartooned killings, using music video cinematography and violence as entertainment all parallel to experiences a typical youth will have while growing up. Stone believes it is not the responsibility of the media to raise today s youth, as an entertainer he is simple the messenger . Oliver Stone uses the characters of Mickey and Mallory, both whom did not receive any love during their childhood years, parents are the pivotal part of a family needed to let a crack of light to come through , to show them a little love. The responsibility is ultimately held with the parents for control, guidance, and love.