Joe Hill has recently tweeted on truth and guns. Some of his tweets got me thinking, and I'm not sure twitter is a long enough forum to actually have a discussion.
And some things he says I whole heartily agree with. "@joe_hill: If your heroes never ever miss, if bystanders never suffer injury, if no one is scared, if wounds are shrugged off, you're being dishonest." Oh hell yes. And this brings me to some troubling things within our media myths. The best example of what I'm thinking about can be demonstrated with Star Wars in the scene in the Death Star hanger just after Darth strikes down Alec Guinness who then goes back to respectable theater. Something close to 20 Storm Troopers start firing at our group of heroes. These are trained soldiers that you may remember Obi-Wan commenting, "These blast points are too accurate for Sand People. Only Storm Troopers are so precise." So, you know, these aren't shabby shots. But somehow, by grace of George Lucas, obviously the Death Star is manned by the Storm Trooper Academy dropouts or something. So, Luke, so fresh off the farm Leia was happy to go down the chute into the garbage just to wipe the smell of dung from Luke's shoes, is now able to hit the door closing mechanism, less than a 1 foot square, from about 100 yards away (okay, sure, this is obviously his trick shot as he did it before, although that was point-blank range), but trained Storm Troopers are unable to hit any of our heroes as they scramble up the Millenium Falcon's landing ramp. Oh, and Luke offs a few of the Storm Troopers in their ablative armor just for good measure. Sure, I'm not expecting head shots, but Jeez guys, don't they teach center mass shots at the academy? Also note how many bolts the Storm Troopers fire versus how many the good guys get off.
You want to see wounds being shrugged off? Okay, watch Serenity. My wife actually asked me if anyone would be able to suffer that much punishment and still walk. The answer is, "No. Not really." But then there was the whole body paralysis/rigidity because of nerve cluster/pressure point thing so I guess both sides were playing a little loose.
Then there was "@joe_hill Fiction is not an excuse to lie. Fiction is make-believe in service of true truths." And here I'll agree again… as far as it goes. We've never held content creators' feet to the fire regarding "truthfulness" about anything; guns, science, relationships, gravity, money, religion, deduction, politics, police procedure, Superman reversing the spin of the Earth to turn back time or the more recent infamous "Red Matter." Fiction should have truth in it, and I do believe a content creators should do service to the truth as much as they can. And truth is extremely powerful way to get the reader/consumer to suspend disbelief and trust the creator as that creator starts spinning out the more fantastical parts of the story.
Do I think guns hold this "Holy" place in modern fiction (especially the visual media of TV and movies)? Yes. Guns are often used to instill tension, increase stakes, equal conflict, and in service to "conflict" in general as an easy crutch. Guns have a magic power that can be demonstrated by Bob Hoskin's gun in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The bullets go around corners when they need to, but then lose the scent and go off in the wrong direction because, as he explains, they're "Dum dums." Guns often behave this way even in more sincere movies and shows. For the good guys, the bullets go where they're needed and the bad guys seem to be very competent when the sidekick needs to buy it, but suddenly can't hit the broadside of the barn when it comes to the protagonist. Or if the protag is hit, somehow they're "lucky" and the bullet doesn't hit anything vital.
We won't even discuss the magic nature of the bullets that knock people off their feet, through windows, over cliffs, whatever.
But then why should we stop at guns? I mean, personal problems never really resolve in 25 minutes (or even 47 minutes). But having them do so on TV leads to an unrealistic expectation which can only cause heartburn and heartache in the general population when their own problems don't resolve in the same way or in the same time frame.
I mean were people really disappointed that we didn't elect President Bartlett? Do people involved in a murder mystery sue because they didn't have a great dinner party at the end of the investigation? Are visitors to the Jersey Shore upset that most residents of the shore aren't fucking insane goombahs? And why oh why won't just one of these writers come up with an effective and reasonable FTL technology, or fusion, or (gosh darn it) jet packs.
I don't know, I think I was 6 or 7 when my Mom looked me in the eye and said, "It's TV, it's not real." And the same with movies. And music. And porn. Are pizza delivery boys upset that they never deliver to the house of scantily clad women who are so glad to finally get a slice that they just want to have sex with their deliverer?
Do we have a culture of violence? Yes. Does our media feed it back to us? Yes, in multiples. Should our stories treat guns in a realistic manner? Personally I'd like to see some more reality. I'd like a lot of our tv/music/movies be a little less like gun porn.
But then I don't consume these things because I want a double dose of reality. I do want to see/read something that takes me out of reality. Do I want an extra hour tacked on to The Dark Knight Rises that explains the full ramifications of detonating a 4 mega ton weapon about 6 miles (which that copter/bat thingies would have to travel 360 mph to accomplish, BTW) off the shore of a population center? You know, it's a long enough movie as it is and I don't think Hans Zimmerman could keep the emotional tension building for that much longer, that musical movement was long enough (and so was the movie).
So I agree, in the main, of being a little more realistic in our portrayal of how guns actually function and more of the physical and psychological effects of that violence (you know, more than the obligatory "the rookie tosses their cookies in the background after seeing their first bloody dead victim). But there is also story, and to be realistic, fully realistic, the story will go off the rails. And even the small nods that are made towards how people realistically deal with tragedy/trama/loss whatever are not reality.
I'm not sure I'm making any point here. I guess what I really want to say is that what is really needed is for all of us to get a grip and for us to tell our children early on that media is not the truth. Entertainment is not truth. It's what we do to often get away from reality. And I think as a culture we've forgotten that basic lesson. TV and movies lie. Realistic games aren't reality.