En movimiento: La caméra-stylo vs. la caméra-fusil

A column for Caimán Cuadernos de Cine‘s September 2022 issue. — J.R.

For me, the most horrible implication of the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and in Uvalde, Texas is the suggestion that guns functioned for two alienated and tongue-tied eighteen-year-old boys as vehicles for their alleged “self-expression”, even though what was actually being “expressed” by them were only mindless replications of other nihilistic slaughters. In a country that habitually disparages or dismisses art in favor of its “entertainment” -– which is clearly why entertainers with zero interest in art such as Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump wind up as treasured ideologues — the potential entertainment value of guns can function as a handy substitute for art as a self-assertive kind of performance. This already tends to be the dramaturgical and discursive function of guns in the various forms of cinema that these teenagers accessed, which makes it only logical that it should become their own dramaturgical and discursive form of “self-expression”.

In other words, what la caméra-stylo represents for France as a form of art, la caméra-fusil represents for the United States as a form of entertainment — a form that basically mandates that the entertainer “shoot first and ask questions later” (whether this is done with a camera or in terms of military combat), if, indeed, questions are ever asked at all. So the most obvious questions raised by the random massacres in Buffalo and Uvalde, such as, “Why is it so easy and sometimes even legal for teenagers to purchase the weapons of war for ‘recreational’ (i.e., entertainment) purposes as well as for self-defense?” and “Why is the freedom to own guns associated or sometimes even equated in American minds with freedom of speech?”, are always raised after the mass shootings, and not before the next massacres except inadvertently.

I hasten to add that what typically makes the U.S. most attractive to the rest of the world is its talent for spinning fantasies, not its fumbling efforts to live and function inside those fantasies. If it were as easy to purchase assault weapons in Spain or France as it now is in the U.S., we’d surely be asking ourselves why the same sort of mass murders keep occurring on the other side of the Atlantic. Furthermore, the fantasies that tend to celebrate mass murders — such as those promulgated by the Star Wars films and their superhero and video-game successors, which often specialize in the sort of genocidal chic derived from keeping their mass annihilations photogenically bloodless — are universal in spite of their all-American styling. In short, one could perhaps argue that it’s more the American imagination than American blood-lust per se that keeps the mass-murder entertainments popular and profitable.

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