May 02, 2006

Violence On Every Page

The Week, the magazine that has a really hard time putting as woman's image on its front cover, other than beautiful entertainers, has a section in the magazine called "People." These kinds of sections in newspapers and magazines used to be reserved, for the most part, for fluff, for titillation, for good news about famous people. The front page, the commentary section, and all the news sections was where all the bad news went. Today, stories about violence can pervade any section, any story.

In its recent issue, May 5, 2006, there are seven short stories that all, in some way, reflect a form of violence in American life, as a common undercurrent we face today. The seven stories are all about famous "people," of course, and are accompanied by the ubiquitous stock Hollywood photos with the come hither looks and toothy smiles.

Tom Cruise's abusive father beat him, which resulted in his mother working three jobs and taking care of him while they moved so frequently that Tom went to 15 schools in 12 years, and "was frequently bullied;" Robin Williams cocaine addiction, a form of self-violence, apparently brought on by his being famous; Evangeline Lilly, an actress in a TV show called Lost, came to terms with the "curse" of being beautiful. after she was made to feel guilty as a child and teen, made to feel like a slut, and wishing she was ugly; Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's bodyguard has essentially told any and all paparazzi that he will put them in the hospital if they try to take photos of Angelina while she is pregnant; Charlie Sheen has been served with abuse prevention order requiring him to stay at least 300 feet away from his wife, Denise Richardson, who filed a 17-page document alleging threats of violence by Sheen; David Lee Roth was fired from his spot to replace Howard Stern, and he will be replaced by shock jocks Opie and Anthony who were fired by CBS radio for broadcasting a sex act inside St. Patrick's cathedral in New York City; and Lewis Alsamari, one of the stars of the TV movie United 93 was not allowed a visa to attend the premiere because he is an Iraqi citizen who had served, under force, in the Iraqi army.

Whether it is the violence of muscle-bound bodyguards, or the violence in a child's home, or the violence of drugs or peer shame and bullying, or the violence of governmental abuses, American society seems to feed on these stories, or at the very least, publications like The Week seem to thrive on telling these stories. I am not suggesting that we ought not to be told these stories, or that magazines or newspapers should only feed us fluff.

What I am suggesting is that we need to take a close hard look at how much violence plays a role in our daily lives, in our common stories, and in our culture. We can't begin to do anything about it, until we recognize its prevalence and oppressive influence.

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