December 9, 2016 Disclaimer: Please read.
Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.
Schlubs, Pick-Up Artists and Nerds: Hollywood Gets Its Close-Up in the Isla Vista Debate
Posted on May 28, 2014
Aside from gun control, the social issue that’s drawn the most discussion since Friday’s Isla Vista killings is the pervasive and destructive function of sexism—or misogyny, as some prefer to frame it—in American culture.
Several commentators, such as the Los Angeles Times’ Robin Abcarian and Slate’s Amanda Hess, have traced troubling connections between Elliot Rodger’s lethal animosity toward women (and the men who “get lucky” with them) and other, less overt forms of gendered violence that women encounter in their professional and social lives and in fleeting interactions with strangers. Social media platforms have registered women’s everyday experiences of the impact of misogyny, in its concealed and blatant varieties, in the #YesAllWomen Twitter feed and the “When Women Refuse” Tumblr page.
As is always the case when catastrophic outbursts can be in any way linked to entertainment and mass culture, some critics have zoomed in on Hollywood as a fomenting agent for grandiose and antisocial delusions that wind their way into volatile minds like Rodger’s—and everyone else’s, for that matter. The result? We just might all be susceptible to, in this case, absorbing and acting out the stories about sex, gender and relationships we pick up from the screens, songs, ads and news bytes that we couldn’t avoid if we tried. Or so goes the argument.
These charged ingredients combined to make flashpoint material in the media over the weekend, when The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday made some leaps from Isla Vista to Hollywood and the works of the prolific comedy multi-hyphenate Judd Apatow:
Apatow and actor Seth Rogen, star of “Neighbors” and “Knocked Up,” among other schlubby-hero flights of fancy, didn’t appreciate the association with the Isla Vista tragedy, and they let that be known via Twitter. Other culture-watchers, such as Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein and Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir, took their positions on the topic.
The problem with this line of critique is that, no matter how obvious the link between media exposure and extreme acts of violence may seem—especially when, as in the 2012 Aurora, Colo., theater massacre, a perpetrator explicitly borrows from Hollywood plotlines and chooses “the movies” as the setting for the crime—actually proving that connection beyond the anecdotal level is notoriously difficult, even for the keenest researchers who spend their careers analyzing media effects. So these arguments can’t ultimately be settled, and momentary flare-ups in public discourse fizzle into predictable burble about market-driven entertainment consumption, the undesirability and futility of censorship, how the overwhelming majority of movie/TV/video game consumers don’t go off the deep end, and so on.
Regardless, this latest awful episode has sparked a conversation, and while Rogen doesn’t deserve a pundit pile-on (and O’Hehir, for one, contends that’s not what happened anyway), there’s a reason why a collective nerve was touched at this moment in this way.
Out of the pop-culture mix comes Arthur Chu, “Jeopardy!” champ and self-proclaimed nerd at large, who somewhat randomly took the opportunity to articulate his read of the situation, calling out men like him—and himself at times, along with Ayn Rand, John Hughes, “The Big Bang Theory” and Super Mario Bros., no less—for promoting certain problematic behaviors and shared attitudes about women and sex. We’ll let him have the last word here (via The Daily Beast):
Square, Site wide
New and Improved Comments