Thursday Thoughts: Gangster Squad

Posted: January 10, 2013 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Action, Drama, True Story
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GangstersquadGangster Squad is the latest in a long line of mafia movies.  Based on historical accounts during the 1940’s and 1950’s, the film chronicles the LAPD’s fight to keep the East Coast mafia out of Los Angeles.  Two LA cops (Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin), take the law into their own hands, gathering a vigilante gang to solve the problem.  The rest of the all-star cast includes Sean Penn (as chief mobster Mickey Cohen) and Emma Stone.  It is said to rival stories like The Untouchables (one of my favorites) and L.A. Confidential.

Gangster Squad was slated to be released this past September (with Oscar aspirations)–that is, until the Dark Knight Rises theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado.  Unfortunately, the film featured a scene where a group of gunmen opened fire on a movie theater audience.  So, that section was pulled, and the movie was re-worked and pushed to January.  But now the snake-bitten Gangster Squad is being released about a month after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  And, yet again, conversations about gun control and our penchant for violence are swirling around, especially since so many young children were tragically murdered.

What isn’t being talked about as much is the role that violent movies and video games play in these sorts of tragedies.  Does watching ultra-violent movies like Gangster Squad play a part in these modern massacres?  I mean, just look at the movie poster!  Those are some pretty glamorous people using guns to solve problems.  Shouldn’t Christians be speaking out against these sorts of movies instead of sitting in the theaters enjoying them?

Let’s begin with the fact that Satan can and surely does use movies to influence people’s minds.  Coupled with hearts that are sinfully violent, people certainly can be tempted to imitate what they see–turning violent fantasy into horrific reality.  So there are people out there that probably shouldn’t watch violent movies at all, and many others who shouldn’t watch them in such large quantities.  Common sense says that children and those with mental and emotional issues may internalize what they see and then act it out in a dangerous way.  This won’t always mean school shootings; but, increased anger, depression, and violence of various other sorts may be a consequence.

With that in mind, I guess the easiest and safest  solution would be for every single human being to avoid violent movies and other entertainment.  This unrealistic goal is on par with the demand to rid the planet of guns and all other sorts of dangerous weaponry as well.  The reality is that we will always have violence on earth until the Lord returns.  And we will always have violence depicted in stories, film, music, sports, games–and all the future forms of entertainment.  We are a violent people living in a violent world.

But maybe Christians should be different.  Maybe followers of Jesus should avoid watching movies like Gangster Squad or The Godfather just on account of the gratuitous gun violence.  Certainly, our minds can be impacted in a negative way when watching these sorts of films.  Yet, let us remember that Christians have regenerate minds which are being renewed day by day by the work of the Spirit and the washing of the Word.  That truth should mean that a maturing Christian would watch violent movies with a much different thought process than a child, one who is mentally disturbed, or even a non-believer.  A Christian wouldn’t be seeking to emulate the violence he or she is watching.  A Christian would not be cheering for evil to ultimately triumph over good.  A Christian would not long for violence to grow unchecked in our world, or actively take part in advancing evil.  The bottom line is that a Christian mind would not spend its energy plotting and planning violence upon others.

You may be reading these thoughts of mine and believe I’m much too biased to recognize the need for Christians to boycott violent movies.  Maybe so.  And, you may also believe that a growing Christian would have less and less interest in these types of entertainment.  That may be so as well.  The good news that we can agree upon is that Christians have hearts and minds that are truly changed by the Holy Spirit.  This gives us new eyes that can see this violent world as needing the peace that only comes in Jesus!

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