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September 15, 1994 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-09-15

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, September 15, 1994 -

Smile prettyfor
the camera
The first order of business is to
*welcome you all to my column,
MelRose Place. I hope we have a fun
and exciting time together.
Next, thanks to all those who con-

Stone and Zemeckis provide violence, targets

MelRose Place
*ributed to this column, including
Molly Stevens and Mark Friedman
for taking my photo.
Speaking ofphotos, by now you've
noticed the stunning photo gracing
thiscolumn. Whatdoyoumean, "what
stunning photo"? Anyway, someone
had the bright idea to put pictures on
top of the page 3 columns. So I had to
get my picture taken. To comfort
myself, I surveyed the public. And 95
Opercent of them shared my sentiment:
Every picture-taking experience is a
bad experience.
Now, it all starts with the photog-
rapher. Fortunately, Molly and Mark
werebundles ofpersonality. (Butnext
time, Mark, tell me if my eyes are
crossed.) But even assuming you have
a good photographer, or your best
friend can keep his/her fingers off the
lens, it doesn't matter: either you take
good pictures or you don't. I don't (if
you haven't guessed by now).
Now, embarrassing pictures were
fine when you were young enough
and adorable enough to get away with
it. You know which ones I mean:
sitting on the toilet with a football
helmet, showing off your Underroos,
dressed in your older sister's clothes
and makeup (if you're a guy) - all
*e photos Mom loves to show to your
significant other(s). But now, those
pictures of you
necking with your a «.
seventh grade boy-
frend or hugging°
the toilet on Satur-
day morning
aren't quite so
amusing, arethey?
And then there
are the computer-
generated photos,
which no one is
proud of. Have your engineering
friends show you the "face" program
on CAEN. I saw some very attractive
people whose pictures could have
frightened even Beowulf. (You know,
if Beowulf had been carrying one of
those pictures, he
so much trouble
with Grendel's
In the Business
school, I am told
that you get your
picture taken and
it is printed onto
cards, which you
give to your pro-
fessors; it is also published in a direc-
tory, which is distributed to all stu-
dents. (I considered applying to B-
school, but this practice quickly
changed my mind.) Even one of our
esteemed News editors, himself a fine-
looking fellow, admits that his B-
school picture makes him look like a
Woodstock refugee.
And then there are ID pictures. If
'nyone reading this has a good ID
picture, send it in and I will publish it
in my next column.
Why do we even bother taking
pictures? I mean, we never look like
that. You think you're posing for the
cutest shot, but as one Alice Lloyd
staffer discovered, what you thought
was the most casual pose can turn out

.ooking like an L.L. Bean ad.
Now, I don't look like any of these
pictures. In reality, I'm much more
radiant. But still, I don't want to be
represented by these pictures after I
die. I don't want my life to be docu-
mented like an L.L. Bean catalogue.
(Maybe a Victoria's Secret catalogue

This summer, two motion pictures
established themselves as true cul-
tural phenomena: "ForrestGump" and
"Natural Born Killers." Each film tran-
scends its medium, their impressions
refusing to fade after the house lights
go up.
"ForrestGump" succeeds as afilm
when it examines the relationship
between the title character and the
important people in his life: his
mother, Bubba, Lt. Dan, Jenny. Had its
script been limited
to such, "Gump"
would have been a _
charming and he Cer
touching film.
However, Forrest, u naysa
in both thenoveland ave plaC
is regarded as a le- themseIv
gitimate and dis- pUlpit of 11
cerning observer of t
recent American silenCeth
history. Instead, the they feel I
film's "examina-
tion" of history is dangeroU0
merely an exercise to proteCi
in recognition.
Gump races themselVE
through history COnfliCts i
with the insight and
merit ofBilly Joel's
Fire." He is never an observer, regard-
lessof where George Lucas' Industrial
Light and Magic crew decides to place
him. He is a manipulator of history, as
historical as the events in which he is
awkwardly placed. His quintessential
encounters with the famous do not breed
poignant commentary on the past four
decades, but a string of events that
compound to elevate Forrest above
the era in which he lives. He does not
experience these decades, he masters
them, even to the point that the film-
makers create a historical event, cen-
tral to the plot,
that never oc-
The intendedk
lesson ofhispar-
ticipation in
these events is,
of course, that
the simpleton v
with the low IQ
has the capacity
to view his sur
roundings with-
out judgment
he is oblivious toF
racial barriers.
and other cul-
tural obstacles-
amidst adver-
sity,teaching the"
audience ales-
son or two in the. "
process. Be-
cause he is not
conscious of the
events around
him, he cannot deal with the problems
of the world. Inadvertently, Gump be-
comes the disillusioned, detached and
lazy population we have today, yet is
regarded as a triumph of the human
His naivete to the world makes him
a loyal friend and achiever, yet it also
makes him an easily programmable
(and therefore successful) soldier, a
comic foil at such hilarious events as
George Wallace's blocking of the
school yard door and the Watergate

break-in. Ironically, his stunted social
skills, past Vietnam service and an
unwavering obsession with the females
in his life makes him a kinder, gentler
Travis Bickle.
"Natural Born Killers" can polarize
an audience aesthetically as either a
mass exercise in overkill orabrilliantly
conceived social satire, but either way
it promotes discourse.
The film does assault the viewer
with an outrageous number of images,
notall of which are definitively neces-
sary. Yet Stone has an agenda. His


ground-breakingfilmmaking technique
mirrors the means in which our pop
culture is presented to us. Following
childhood's in which our lack ofatten-
tion was stroked by Sesame Street, our
generation has been raised as a televi-
sion culture that needs it now, quick
and simple before moving on to the
next image. A blizzard of rapid cuts
and montages rather than a cohesive,
structuredproductis in ouradvertising
and our music videos, and when it is
not, we create it artificially by remote
"Natural Born
Killers" is a rel-
sors and evant portrait of
an American so-
ers WhO ciety satisfied
:d with the lowest of
all denominators
S Ofl the andobsessed with
iorallty to the violent and the
extreme. Regard-
at whiCh lessofone'sopin-
ion of this or of
any other Stone
only seek picture, he has
forced us to ex-
s from amine and con-
1 society. sider the darkest
side or alternate
view of our soci-
ety when turning
the other way would be the simplest
option. His films have fed the market-
place of ideas in amanner in which the
makers of "Gump" clearly decided not
to do.
The typical argument from the
likes of Rush Limbaugh or Michael
Medved, bashing artistic expressions
that fail to compromise themselves
by playing it safe, have been voiced in
regards to the Stone film. It is too
violent and wholly unnecessary, crit-
ics might argue. Yet it is works such
as "NBK" that force people to address
the unappealing
problems in soci-
ety. The censors
and naysayers
who have placed
themselves on the
pulpitof morality
to silence that
I:which they feel is
dangerous only
a x seek to protect
*tthemselves from
N conflicts in soci-
ety. Typically it
appears to be the
.xsuccessful who
desire the status
f .z quo. If a film,
book, songortele-
vision program
attempts to iden-
challenge, their
answer is to at-
tempt to quiet the
source ratherthan
address the prob-
lem. Removing violence or the ques-
tioning of the authority from the media
does not make them disappear, it only
shelters those who can afford to hide.
Ironically, "Forrest Gump" deals
extensively with the prevalence of
violence in our country. The number
of assassination attempts deemed
noteworthy is astounding (even
Gerald Ford's gets a mention). While
Forrest addresses each fatal gunshot
with confusion as to why someone
would do such a thing, "Natural Born

Killers" deals with violence in the
completely opposite manner. Forrest's
vacant looks are not, in fact, the way
we view violence. Instead, it is closer
to the insatiable hunger for it of Rob-
ert Downey Jr.'s faux newsman.
Media does not cause violence.
Nations such as England, Canada and
Australia- which have almost iden-
tical popular culture as ours- have
an exponentially lowerhomicide rate.
Yet as "NBK" points out, the media
does not fail to exploit violence and spit
it out as product. In the end, we, over



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