April 19, 2007

Movies and murder.

Two weeks ago, I photographed this mural, on a video store's wall, next to the Spider House Café in Austin, Texas:

mural

At the time, I asked Chris, "Who's the guy with the hammer?"

I've got the answer now:
The inspiration for perhaps the most inexplicable image in the set that Cho Seung-Hui mailed to NBC news on Monday may be a movie from South Korea that won the Gran Prix prize at Cannes Film Festival in 2004.



The poses in the two images are similar, and the plot of the movie, “Oldboy,” seems dark enough to merit at least some further study...

In a Times review, Manohla Dargis wrote that the film’s “body count and sadistic violence” mostly appealed to “cult-film aficionados for whom distinctions between high art and low are unknown, unrecognized and certainly unwelcome.”
Will the Virginia Tech murderer change anyone's opinion about violence in the movies? Do the people who already avoid extremely violent movies have new power to shame those who like them... or perhaps to get major studios to shun them and prestigious organizations to refrain from giving them the "Gran Prix prize"?

(In case you don't know French: "Gran Prix prize" means "Grand Prize prize.")

ADDED: More images from the murderer and the movie.

MORE: Are you worried about copycats getting inspired by the murderer's promotional materials? But the murderer looks like a complete dork with these movie fantasies! Maybe these videos will inspire some kids to get a real life and give up on their angsty nonsense.

37 comments:

AllenS said...

I've never cared for murals on the sides of buildings. Where was the artist's head, at the time of the paintings? Who painted that, dave?

Eric said...

Wouldn't the translation be "big prize prize?"

Roger Sweeny said...

Taco Bell used to advertise that some its products had "grilled carne asada steak." But carne asada means grilled steak, so they were advertising "grilled grilled steak steak.

Sloanasaurus said...

This killer is not copying the movies. He is copying the columbine killers. They became famous for their killing. Their grievences were aired, their pictures published, their names known. This guy wants to be famous like them. He killed for fame. It's so obvious. Why else would he make a video tape. Why can't anyone see it?

NBC news and the rest of the media parasites are giving him his wish. Right now the media is trying to blame everyone else. The cops. The University. Our culture. But this is all the media's fault. If this guy did not have it in his mind that he would become famous for these killings, he would have never done mass murder. Now the media has the duty not to make this guy famous for the next crazed killer to see. They could have done it. Just like they kept the identity of the Duke Rape accuser secret.

They have already failed.

MadisonMan said...

The cash for the Grand Prix prize came from an ATM machine.

MadisonMan said...

This guy wants to be famous like them. He killed for fame. It's so obvious....
If this guy did not have it in his mind that he would become famous for these killings, he would have never done mass murder.


You seem to know the innermost thoughts of an insane killer. How does that happen?

Ron said...

Do the people who already avoid extremely violent movies have new power to shame those who like them...
They'd like to think that, but...no.


or perhaps to get major studios to shun them
Even more emphatically...no.

and prestigious organizations to refrain from giving them the "Gran Prix prize"?

Even here...no.

reader_iam said...

You seem to be viewing "our culture" and "media" as two separate things, Sloan. How does that work?

Especially given our culture.

reader_iam said...

You seem to know the innermost thoughts of an insane killer. How does that happen?

Sloanosaurus knows because it was reported in the media!

Doesn't anyone else see the irony?

(By the way, I do think the media plays a role in this and does affect people and culture. I also think people and culture affect the media. I'm not too big on ANY analysis and blame-placing which does also take a good hard look at the consumers who drive the marketplace of media. That's MY beef with the blanket-media blamers, not just in this case or context, but in general.)

reader_iam said...

"doesn't also"

Karl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lohwoman said...

"from an ATM machine." Using a PIN number.

Invisible Man said...

Oldboy was a wonderful film if pretty violent, mostly centering on the terrible consequences of people's need for revenge, which is pretty unfortunate considering this young man's actions.

This will always be the problem with art, which can attempt to teach a positive lesson, but in its execution gets lost on typically younger minds. I think of the movie Scarface as well which unfortunately young men seem to think is about how cool it is to be a gangster without really contemplating the last half of the movie that's about the exact opposite.

Karl said...

**Spoilers***

Oldboy wasn't particularly gruesome, though it is rather disturbing. The main character, a young man, is held captive in a windowless room for 15 years. When he's released he attempts to track down the people responsible. He's given fancy new clothes and a cell phone and somehow finds his way to a sushi restaurant where he meets and falls in love with the young chef.

He gradually puts the pieces together and realizes that the person who kept him hostage was a boy he wronged in grade school, and that the woman he's in love with is the 5 year old daughter he didn't get to see grow up...this was the real revenge that his captor was plotting.

***End Spoilers***

I don't recall much graphic violence at all, but I haven't seen the movie in several years. I seem to recall the supposed injustice that the main character committed being rather slight, and that the person who was attempting revenge greatly overcompensated.

Perhaps that is the corollary to the VT killings...an unstable child perceives a slight and harbors ill-will for decades, seeking revenge for his grief compounded by time and mental instability.

-kd

vet66 said...

Madison Man;

Your obtuse observations indicate not a reluctance but an absolute refusal to put yourself in the mind of a psycho. You refuse to consider the pathology of a psycho mass murderer whether it be a radical muslim terrorist or someone ID'd by non 'professionals' as suicidal, worthy of being referred to so-called professionals.

Your refusal to recognize, or even consider the obvious symptoms of derangement, render you incapable of passing the necessary judgement to take remedial action. What is it about you that you can't responsibly pass judgment on another person who is beyond the pale of normalcy?

This outrageous tragedy was aided and abetted by professionals up and down the chain of command in our society who didn't take the time to check a box that would have prevented Cho from being elegible to purchase the Glock in the first place.

Further, Canne glamorizes and rewards a movie that color coordinates a killing weapon in the form of a hammer attached to a yellow handle with the CLAW end poised in the attack position.

Madison Man; I will tell you again that if you tweak the nose of the dragon (read evil) enough times it will eventually rise up and do great harm. The signs of insanity are usually obvious but often ignored.

Schools are soft targets because that is where the people are. Beslan comes to mind, as does the Amish school house, Columbine, etc. How many more will it take before we wise up and start bestowing rights to the living instead of the perp after the living become dead?

Ruth Anne Adams said...

And in this scenario, who are the Statler and Waldorf [the muppet critics in the balcony]?

vet66 said...

Ruth anne adams;

Cho himself!

SteveR said...

College environments are one os the easiest places for sick, worthless, lazy, unmotivated, socially outcast persons to hang out. Add in a sprinkle of culture that they can attach to and plenty of reminders of how there are "losers" and "wah lah" its a pyscho. Most often not a killer.

MadisonMan said...

vet66 -- I've clearly stated I think he was an insane nut-job killer. Why do you think that's not passing judgement on this killer? What I don't think is possible, and therefore don't spend much time pondering, is to attribute a reason behind his actions. How is such unproveable speculation helpful?

Recent news items state that the killer displayed certain behaviors as he started down his path. Should we somehow restrict the rights of all who show similar behavior?

Tibore said...

I realize the image of the guy with the hammer in the mural is taken from movie "Oldboy" that you mention... but it oddly looks like a blankly-staring Steve Buschemi. My question about the mural is: What the heck are Statler and Waldorf doing there?

"I think of the movie Scarface as well which unfortunately young men seem to think is about how cool it is to be a gangster without really contemplating the last half of the movie that's about the exact opposite."

Agreed, and well said (BTW, I'll be talking about the latest DePalma version, with Al Pacino in the lead role, since I never saw the Howard Hughes version). People forget that Scarface was a morality play, and very focused on Tony Montana's hubris. They also forget that the studio's and DePalma's clear intent was not to glorify, but to clearly condemn gangster behavior. Montana destroyed everything around him and died raving. That's hardly a positive characterization. But, there's a tiny portion of society that sees the beauty in cinematic self-destruction (note: I said "cinematic", so as to emphasize the fact that it is fiction, and therefore not truly reflective of the real world) and attributes positive characteristics to the heavy stylization of that. That tiny portion doesn't seem to get the fact that this was a man who destroyed everything he touched, a sort of reverse-Midas, turning gold into something base. All they see is the huge brashness and the towering self-confidence, and either ignore or seperate that out from the fact it was brought on by addiction and greed.

I don't mean to sound like some moralistic old scold, because I did honestly enjoy the movie. But I believe I and most others are smart enough to realize enjoying fictional characterizations is not the same as believing them to be positive things in real life. The problem is that a small segment of society believes exactly that, that the cinematic destruction is an accurate description of how it happens in real life. That's not so.

vet66 said...

Madison Man;

Yes! Better to err on the side of caution than to be subjected to yet another gruesome display of avoidable carnage.

I've seen job interviews that were more intrusive than what this psycho went through and the interviewee didn't get the job. Do you suppose we could have the same type of requirement before allowing "nutjobs" into our cloistered educational system? Or are school administrators more interested in meeting ADA goals and and/or collecting extortion level tuition fees from rich families or PEW recipients?

Many had the opportunity to state for the record that this individual was a threat to himself and others. They did nothing to protect an innocent public. They failed in their job requirement to enforce safety in the public sphere under their purview.

The truth of this assertion will be proven as they appeal to such pithy phrases as "We are Virginia Tech, We are Virginia Tech, We are Virginia Tech." They wring their hands at the "Oh The Humanity" cry of despair bury the dead innocents, raise a bogeyman which doesn't include them, then move on. Then, in a singular act of magnificent arrogance, they absolve themselves of blame by bestowing degrees on the dearly departed thus annointing the deceased in the holy water of victimhood.

Incidentally, this act of contrition also has the salutory effect of cleansing the conscience of the school adminstrators.

Lady McBeth, dealing with her own demons speaks from history with "Out damned spot..." to no avail.

Internet Ronin said...

Maybe these videos will inspire some kids to get a real life and give up on their angsty nonsense.

I doubt it.

MadisonMan said...

Yes! Better to err on the side of caution than to be subjected to yet another gruesome display of avoidable carnage.

And which government agency are you proposing to decide who is a danger?

Tibore said...

Oh... Ruth Anne beat me to pointing out the muppet duo.


"W: I used to have a comb-over.
S: Ah, yes. To be 65 again.
W: Oh, the memories.
S: 2 kidneys.
W: Good times."

Internet Ronin said...

Many had the opportunity to state for the record that this individual was a threat to himself and others. They did nothing to protect an innocent public. They failed in their job requirement to enforce safety in the public sphere under their purview.

Perhaps you ought to re-read some of the reports on this subject, or maybe peruse the commentary on legal blogs like Volokh. It appears that the school did about as much as it was legally allowed to do. (I'm not arguing that is necessarily a great thing.)

Further, Canne glamorizes and rewards a movie that color coordinates a killing weapon in the form of a hammer attached to a yellow handle with the CLAW end poised in the attack position.

That's probably true. What do you propose be done about that given that it is an event held in France?

This outrageous tragedy was aided and abetted by professionals up and down the chain of command in our society who didn't take the time to check a box that would have prevented Cho from being elegible to purchase the Glock in the first place.

Only one professional, a judge, had the ability to check that box. One assumes, based on the information he/she had available to him/her at the time, he/she thought it unnecessary. Obviously, he/she was wrong. Or do you think they thought it likely but didn't want to inconvenience the patient?

Yes! Better to err on the side of caution than to be subjected to yet another gruesome display of avoidable carnage.

You appear to be arguing that things like this happen so often that we should "err on the side of caution" and incarcerate thousands without much more than a fear they might possibly one day do what this deranged man did. How do you propose to pay for these life-long incarcerations? Where do you propose to house them? Pretty slippery slope you seem prepared to embark on because of one horrendous tragedy.

I do believe that the administrators and police involved on that day will ultimately pay a heavy price for their failure to promptly inform the campus community that a murder had been committed on campus and the killer was at-large.

sonicfrog said...

Sloan.... said:

But this is all the media's fault. If this guy did not have it in his mind that he would become famous for these killings, he would have never done mass murder.

When I was a telecom major (video / film production) we studied the hypodermic theory of media influence, which asserts that watching a behavior portrayed on film (or video) instills or embeds those behavior drives or impulses into the watcher. Though there is an immediate increase in adrenaline, and kids are more likely to punch a blow-up clown punching bag if one is available right after viewing violent content (the punching clown bit was a famous part of one of the studies trying to prove the hypothesis), no long term study has supported the theory, though all bets are off with crazy / deranged people.

vet66 said...

Madison Man;

You make my point. No Government agency can or should be tasked with that burden. The burden is on you, the individual citizen.

The precedent is already set in the form of neighborhood watch organizations. I don't know if you have them where you live but we have them in Arizona.

The police are on record as saying they need help in identifying potential problems. We are their eyes and ears. The entire program is based on the belief in the common sense of a majority of our population.

The danger is that our society is slipping into the dark frame of mind that resulted in the death of Kitty Genovese, March 1964, Queens, New York. She was attacked three times as she crawled for help. The third time killed her. Help never came until she was dead.

You have no right to complain or grieve, unless it is for yourself, if you choose not to get involved! Edmund Burke, "Reflections on the Revolution in France" stated:

"What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils."

Heed the call!

Daryl said...

Oldboy is a very good movie.

The protagonist fights almost solely out of self-defense.

I don't think he ever even kills anyone.

The movie is about tragedy, revenge, and more tragedy.

It's not a love letter to mass murder, but of course a stupid psychopath is going to see it that way.

Maxine Weiss said...

Wikipedia has some interesting stuff on Honor Killings and the self-righteousness of the shooter in honor killings, killing for a variety of percieved wrongs.

As for movies, I think "Outlaw Josey Wales" has many parallels.

You know, I had forgotten what a great year 1976 was for movies, you had both "Network" and "Josey Wales" that year.

Here's some great Josey Wales lines:

http://www.garnersclassics.com/qjosey.htm

Christopher Drew said...

It's odd for me to see how close you were, Ann, to where I live.

blake said...

Speaking of inter-language redundancies, here in L.A. we have "The La Brea Tar Pits," literally, "The The Tar Tar Pits".

As for Korean fare, couldn't we have someone imitating Kim Ki Duk instead?

Besides the spiritual/Buddhist overtones of his movies, none of his movies contain much dialogue.

Craig Ranapia said...

Are you worried about copycats getting inspired by the murderer's promotional materials?

Professor Althouse, this isn't intended as snark but are you concerned that college graduates who kill or abuse their wives might just have been 'inspired' to 'copycat' William Shakespeare? Sorry, but I think you've got to operate on the assumption that the overwhelming majority of people who go to the movies, attend plays, crack open books, attend operas aren't bloody psychotic.

Revenant said...

According to Wikipedia, "Oldboy" is the film that Quentin Tarantino (president of the Cannes jury that year) wanted to give the Palm to instead of "Fahrenheit 9/11". So the film earns a brownie point (as does my main man Quentin) for that alone, in my book.

The movie sounds kind of interesting.

Revenant said...

The danger is that our society is slipping into the dark frame of mind that resulted in the death of Kitty Genovese, March 1964, Queens, New York. She was attacked three times as she crawled for help. The third time killed her. Help never came until she was dead.

Minor point: New Yorkers caught a lot of shit over the Genovese case, but it wasn't necessarily an example of a "dark frame of mind". Groups of human beings have a lot of inertia. If we see everyone doing something, we tend to join in, and if we see that nobody is doing anything we tend not to act.

If you put one person in a room and show signs of a fire (e.g., smoke under a door) the person will react immediately. If you put fifty people in a room and do the same thing nobody will do anything for a while -- they'll look at each other, wonder if they should do something, nobody else seems to be doing anything, maybe this is normal, hey, do you guys see that, maybe we should do something... etc, etc.

The likely cause of the Genovese incident is that the people were not only watching, but saw everyone ELSE watching. It isn't that they didn't care that the woman was being killed -- its that they thought that surely one of the OTHER people watching would be doing something, if something really needed to be done. If the attack on Kitty Genovese had been witnessed only by a single person who saw no other witnesses he'd have called the cops right away.

blake said...

Revenant,

More than that, the popular version of the story isn't anywhere near the truth. The NY Times strikes again.

From Wikipedia:

A few minutes after the final attack, a witness, Karl Ross, called the police. Police and medical personnel arrived within minutes of Ross' call; Genovese was taken away by ambulance and died en route to the hospital. Later investigation by police and prosecutors revealed that approximately a dozen (but almost certainly not the 38 cited in the Times article) individuals nearby had heard or observed portions of the attack, though none could have seen or been aware of the entire incident. [5] Only one witness (Joseph Fink) was aware she was stabbed in the first attack, and only Karl Ross was aware of it in the second attack. Many were entirely unaware that an assault or homicide was in progress; some thought that what they saw or heard was a lover's quarrel or a drunken brawl or a group of friends leaving the bar outside when Moseley first approached Genovese.

Revenant said...

I hadn't realized the New York Times originated that story... although I guess that should have been pretty obvious. Thanks for the info. :)

Code Red said...

Sick man, sick world, sick media, sick society. Still considering the killer's motives? Most people need only look in the mirror.

See Media exploits Cho, Virginia Tech tragedy for profit.