The Myth of Redemptive Violence is something I’ve written about before, and even made a short film about, entitled A Tale of Two Potato Heads. However, I realized that while I am normally quick to criticize films that use violence as the only means of good overcoming evil, I am perhaps slower to recommend films and television shows which offer an alternative view. So here are five offerings (among many) which are willing to purport an alternative philosophy:
1. The Wire
Looking back over the five seasons of the show it is clear that the consequences of gang warfare of rarely positive for those sucked into that world. For every rival that is ‘taken care of’, another one quickly springs up apparently even more dangerous than the last. Even entirely reasonable and sensible truces across Balitmore can only last so long. Like City of God and Lord of the Flies, The Wire shows the consequences in making enemies in a place where the rest of the world is mostly ambivalent to your fate.
2. Gran Torino
It’s perhaps ironic that one of Hollywood’s few card-carrying Republicans is willing to challenge the NRA’s philosophy that “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Yet Gran Torino works as a nice juxtaposition to Eastwood’s maverick cop who always gets results in Dirty Harry.
3. Romeo and Juliet (any version, including West Side Story)
Shakespeare’s play is one of “if only’s”. The ones that stick in the audience’s mind mainly involve dagger and poison. Yet traced back, we can think of the violence committed by and to the Capulet’s and Montague’s and wonder what would have happened if someone chose not to take offense at the “biting of thumbs”. Regardless, the play’s ending serves as a powerful reminder that revenge is a dangerous and volatile thing
4. Doctor Who
This show rightly gains praise for its imagination and creativity. However, one aspect that is easily forgotten is that The Doctor is one of the few superheroes who makes a point of never carrying a weapon, despite almost always being surrounded by terrifying, violent villains. Instead, like Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes he relies on his intelligence and ability to read other people to get out of situations. As a side note it is perhaps entirely appropriate that Hollywood chose to make Downey’s Sherlock into an ass-kicking detective. One can only shudder at what they might do if they got their hands on The Doctor.
5. District 9
In many ways this film could only be set in South Africa, serving as very powerful allegory of life under apartheid. Yet one could easily imagine the prawns in Nazi Germany or The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Blomkamp’s sci-fi film serves as a powerful reminder of the consequences of de-humanising another race or ethnicity. The film shows us how easy it is to pin our troubles on those we view as most different to us. However, perhaps we are far more similar to them than we realize.