Violent Media in Slacker

While the tone of slacker was pretty mild, there was a recurring theme of violence throughout the film, and this violence was almost always either experienced through the media, or some form of media was used to spread violent messages. And while there may not be much happening in the film, there is a lot happening in the peripheral of what is being shown, most of it is violent, and at least one person in each scene is fascinated by this violence, although there is also usually at least one person who is completely passive in the face of this violence, and it’s unclear which reaction should be most concerning, as there is danger in both.

For me, the scene where this dynamic is most prevalent is the one with the Madonna pap smear girl, who runs up to the two people who were talking to each other and starts telling this story that she heard on the news about a man shooting up a freeway. She intros the story by saying it’s “beautiful,” demonstrating a concerning amount of reverence for the event she proceeds to describe. The two people she’s talking to, however, have zero reaction, and no response once she’s done talking, they immediately move  on to the next subject. Going back to our discussion on Adorno and his take on language as commodity, this girl is offering this couple something beautiful, something she sees as having value, and they are not taking it. Of course this scene is immediately followed by an attempt at an actual exchange of commodity, which is also denied, thus completely barring the capitalist system from this scene.

Another scene of violence worth noting is the one with the tv backpack guy and his visitor. First off, it is worth noting that he says that we need to capitalize on the televised image and “make it work for us instead of us working for it” and feels that a video image is more powerful and more useful than an actual event. He then goes on to narrate a story about how he saw a guy with a knife in his back come out of a bar, and laments the fact that he can’t go back and explore every detail the way that he could with a video. He also notes that, despite the fact that he was seeing this event in real life something about the hue was “off” and that the blood he was seeing didn’t look real. This man clearly prefers the sensationalized violence that he surrounds himself with over the real life equivalent, and sees the spectacle as more real than the event. He has completely devoted himself to this system of dramatized reality in such a way that real reality is no longer real to him. Despite his assertions at the beginning of this scene, he is fully working for the televised image, rather than having it work for him.

The second to last scene in this film shows a man driving around in a truck blasting a message of purge-like violence to anyone who can hear him. He is using his own form of media to advertise violence, and encourage others to participate in it. What fascinates me most about this scene is the transition into the next one, as his message is suddenly being captured on a camera pointed at him like a gun by group of laughing teens. The film then switches to a greenish hue, and there’s very happy music in the background, and the movie suddenly turns into a happy go lucky summer film that ends with a camera being thrown off a cliff.  This has the effect of sensationalizing the previously violent message, and adding a sense of joy to it. For there to be such a quick turn around at the very end of the film demonstrates just how much the movie is interweaving violence and media, and exposing the strange and unnatural reactions the media has built into this community in the face of violence.

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