Natural Born Killers & The Violence of Media

Shashank Reddy

Natural Born Killers has definitely got to be one of the most messed up (in a good way) movies I have seen in a long long time (I think the last one was Guy Ritchie’s Revolver). The movie is written by Quentin Tarantino, so obviously there is a lot of stylized violence. It is directed by Oliver Stone, which is the first mindfuck of the movie, because this is universes apart from any other film that Oliver Stone has ever directed, and by universes, I mean parallel universes so far across time that not even the TARDIS can cross between them (though some Stone touches such as combining different camera and film formats are very heavily used here too). The movie is a character in and of itself. A story about two love struck psychotic mass murderers hyped up and glorified by the media is itself portrayed in such a fuck-all psychotic manner that it quite literally saps the energy out of you while you are watching it. But once you manage to wade through all the seemingly random nonsense that is every second scene in the movie, you realize that the movie has a point to make, and if you do realize this, you will also automatically come to the conclusion that it makes this point quite brilliantly. The movie is essentially a one-sided conversation on the brutal, inhuman and insensitive media that is ready to hype up anything and everything for the sake of ratings, and how such a pursuit of ratings leads to an inhuman glorification of violence and the perpetrators of such violence. The violence in the movie is attributed to a number of things, childhood abuse, a past tragedy but most importantly, TV. It has been said in a lot of circles that the movie itself glorifies violence, but in my view it does nothing of the sort. It merely asks a question, who is the demon (a recurring motif throughout the movie)? Though both M&M (Mickey and Mallory) accept that they are demons too, the real question is whether the over eager ‘Respected Journalist’ (Robert Downey Jr.) is a demon too? And the Warden (Tommy Lee Jones) and Detective Scagnetti (Sizemore)? Through visual imagery, it is quite explicitly hinted at that they are demons too. But these are characters who we tend to identify as ‘sane’ or ‘good’ (though in the movie they are shown as anything but). So what does that make of us? The audience here being shown as families from old 1950s ads sitting watching and flipping channels or being so enamored by glorification of it all that it does not give a shit how many people have been killed by these two. The end especially begs an even more important question, M&M can and have left their killing ways, but the audience continues flipping channels and the news broadcasts continued in the same vein, so who really are the ‘Natural Born Killers’?

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