I watched "Django Unchained" the other night. As with many Quentin Tarantino films, I really enjoyed certain aspects of this one--the dialogue, the characterization, the nod to other genres and eras of film. But there's one element of the movie that I can't get behind. It's this glorification-of-vengeance-and-violence theme that Tarentino seems to love. "Inglorious Basterds" was much the same way. In that movie, the protagonists are a band of Jewish-American soldiers who violently kill Nazis and try to kill Adolf Hitler. In "Django," Jamie Foxx plays a liberated slave in pre-Civil War America who joins a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) in killing fugitives from the law, who are conveniently all also white and racist.
And it feels good to watch these characters shoot and pulverize, maim and dismember the type of people that make our blood boil, the type of people that mostly got away with horrible things. It is fake, after all, so no harm done.
I hesitate to dismiss so easily this indulgence of anger and blood lust. And really, that's what's going on--indulgence. It sounds silly in our culture to suggest we not indulge, especially because this is fictitious anger and vengeance. I have to pause, though.
Because anger's a really sneaky creature.
It dwells underneath the surface, usually undetectable by anyone on the outside, and then it suddenly comes out and erupts in ways for all of us to see. I've heard people use the biblical saying, "In your anger, do not sin," to justify being angry as long as you physically and externally don't lash out. I have a bit of a problem with that. I do think anger to an extent is unavoidable, and there are times for righteous anger. But if we give ourselves excuses to continue to dwell with our anger, entertain it, and feed it, that's when it becomes this growing creature that is more and more in control of itself than we are in control of it.
I recently found out another female I know has been physically abused by a significant male in her life. I've always wondered how a person could come to a place like that, where they would lose control and physically assault the person they hold most dear. I suspect it's because he let his anger lie around. He fed his anger and indulged it and never suspected it could grow beyond his control. That's when you get a guy who can say emphatically, "I would never her!" to actually hit his girlfriend. Or fiancée. Or wife. He, like many of us, underestimated how stealthily anger grows under our noses.
I think about the times I wrestle with anger. It's funny. Each and every time I give in to or indulge my anger, i don't feel vindicated, or empowered, or whatever Hollywood would like me to feel. More than often, I feel embarrassment and regret. Every time I turn on the TV or put on a movie, though, the message is loud and clear: Get angry, blow up, go nuts--it's great fun for everybody.
And it's funny when I watch a guy go to town on a p.o.s. printer à la Michael Bolton in "Office Space." It's significantly less entertaining when I find out that people close to me are being assaulted by people they trusted.
Anger too often rips apart. It tears at seams instead of mending them. It seeks to burn down bridges instead of building them. It grows like cancer under our skin and takes over before we're able to stop it.
That's why I'm not okay with fully embracing the intoxication of violent, angry revenge. It feels too good, and it's so far from what anger actually produces. I respect the power of anger too much, and I've seen it sink its teeth into so many people I know. Including me.