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[Opinion] “Why Even Movies Are Threatening“

Posted November. 26, 2001 09:22,   


This morning`s weather forecast predicted that the below zero temperature will continue, signaling the real beginning of winter. Yet compared to past years, it seems like winter has come rather late this year. Whether it was due to the change in climate, autumn was longer.

I remember thinking of autumn as a season for reading and diving into literature and the arts. This autumn, however, felt nothing like what autumn should be. It wasn`t because there weren`t those local art and cultural festivals – it just felt that way.

When I open up the paper in the morning, there are the unseemly reports of fights in the National Assembly. I try to turn my attention elsewhere and read the international news, but that makes me feel worse. The single superpower nation in the world is acting as if it is determined to carry out a collective vengeance and pursuing an unrestricted war against one fundamentalist terrorist. To talk of literature and the arts in such times just doesn`t feel appropriate.

Since it is the professional politicians who are waging their wars in the National Assembly and the war is happening in some obscure, poverty-ridden country, I feel like I can just forget about them. But I don`t feel at peace. Whether the arts and literature belong to the collective or the individual, first and foremost it assumes a stable environment. Hence, without a stable setting, it is hard to appreciate the arts.

Recent Korean films that are introspective and have some depth did poorly in the theatres and were dropped early on. Instead, hyper-violent films drew the crowds and became blockbuster hits. Of course, you don`t want to spend more time concentrating and thinking when you don`t feel so good physically or emotionally. The audience for the most part simply wants to forget everything and just enjoy the show. Since the whole society is feeling rotten, the only films that get attention are action flicks where people beat and kill each other.

When the logic of power shows its face unveiled, art and culture also become violent or become morally insensitive. How cynical an act is it for people to revel in music concerts and art exhibits in one part of the world while countless people are being killed, dying of starvation, caught in the cycle of vengeance and violence in another part?

Yet, the massive suffering of one country does not mean that that artistic life in another country should stop or will stop. There is no need for that. Human beings are cold and violent. They are more so when they come together in a group.

On this point, art and culture have no real relation to morality. In fact, they are often on opposite sides of the fence. The Nazis were passionate about Wagner`s operas while they waged their wars. It is the same with modern art, modern entertainment, modern sports. This is all the more true as capital gets invested and these spheres of activity become commercialized. The entertainment industry with its planning and schedules must go on. Similar to other spheres of activity in modern collective society, the industry must be faithful to the principle of performance and achievement. Despite whatever happens in another place, arts and literature must not stop their work, but continue to go on. There cannot be any holes in the various sectors of society. Modern society does not allow it.

Although I dared to talk about moral insensitivity, I myself do not know what morality is. Somehow I just feel that way. I don`t feel any sense of guilt, responsibility, sting of conscience, or some feeling of universal brotherhood. At most, I feel sorry, a little bit uncomfortable. If I don`t think about it too much, I can easily forget about the whole thing. These are my feelings this season.