We have discussed the “culture of death” numerous times before on this blog. This description of Western Culture was used by Pope John Paul II. Fundamentally it refers to the fact that in the modern, western world, especially America death is increasingly seen as a “solution” to problems. Has a child come along at an inconvenient time? Perhaps the baby has been diagnosed with defects perhaps there is some other wrenching problem regarding the pregnancy such as the poverty of the mother. The solution? Abort the baby. Has a criminal committed heinous acts? Kill him through capital punishment. Is an elderly or sick person suffering from a reduced quality of life? Perhaps they are bedridden or experiencing the pains of the dying process. Solution? Euthanize them. Does raising children and dealing with a larger family cause hardships: economic and emotional? Do children cause stress? Simple, contracept so that they don’t exist in the first place. So you see, the death or non-existence of human beings is increasingly the “solution” to problems and this is what is meant by the “culture of death.”
This whole mindset has even reached our entertainment industry which portrays the culture of death in an almost cartoonish way. Notice the basic scenario of most every action or adventure movie:
As the movie begins a villainous individual or group commits some heinous act of injustice. But soon enough “our hero” steps on the scene and commits to resolve this terrible threat and correct the injustice. After about 90 minutes of killing people, breaking things, blowing up buildings and engaging in hair-raising car chases that usually end in fiery crashes our hero triumphs overwhelmingly, restores justice and walks off the set with “the girl” on his arm, burning buildings in the background….fade to credits.
And we love this sort of stuff. At one level it is very entertaining. But it IS a cartoon. In real life villains and heroes are not as easily distinguished (though I do NOT mean to say that there is no such thing as right and wrong). Likewise, in real life blowing up buildings, car chases etc. endanger lives and take serious tolls. Real people do not walk away from high speed car crashes like they do in the movies. If they survive at all it takes months to recuperate from the damage inflicted on a real human body. In real life people who get killed, even if they are villains have people who mourn their loss. The true toll of all this violence is far greater in real life.
Ultimately it is the culture of death on display in cartoonish fashion. It is a parody of real attitudes in western culture. But the message is clear enough, cartoonish though it be: the solution to injustice is violence, mayhem and death. I do not deny that sometimes lethal force must be used to protect society from evil but it is always a last recourse and a moment for deep concern and moral reflection.
“Oh come on Father lighten up!….” OK I admit it is usually “good fun” and most don’t take it seriously. But my central point is that we should be careful as to the messages we send and receive even in diversionary entertainment. It says something about us that we are entertained by this sort of stuff. We ought at least to do a reality check as to this. Every now and then we do well to examine our culture and its premises. Is this movie teaching what Christ did? Just a thought.
Here is a funny video that well illustrates the cartoonish nature of adventure/action movies. It’s really quite funny. It’s entitled “Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions, They Blow Things Up and Then Walk Away.” Just a word of warning there are two slightly vulgar expressions (nothing horrible) used at the very beginning of the video but it’s part of the caricature intended. Otherwise, enjoy this rather silly video that parodies one aspect of the “Culture of Death.”