That tiny, perplexing, navel-gazing demographic of television viewers who still fret about ‘bad language’ must have dashed straight to their computers last Sunday morning. Danish-born film director Nicolas Winding Refn was being interviewed by Bill Turnbull on BBC1’s Breakfast about his new film Drive, along with the film’s British co-star, Carey Mulligan. Drive is about a Hollywood stunt man, played by Ryan Gosling, who falls foul of the mob he moonlights for as a getaway driver.
Referring to the movie’s sudden moments of explosive violence, the director explained, matter-of-factly, violence was ‘a bit like fucking’. Naturally, Turnbull was quick to request he moderate his language. A BBC spokesman issued a heartfelt apology at the programme’s conclusion.
But after the dust had settled, one question remained unanswered. What (the fuck) had Refn been getting at? There is an argument he should most certainly have chosen his words more wisely. But not for any profanity. More because of the lazy, emotive comparison. Violence = fucking. Unless we’re referring to bondage straps, whips and chains, how exactly does that equation balance?
Of course consensual sex can be violent. However, to glibly state ‘violence is like fucking’ is preposterous. If the type of fucking referred to is date rape, or rape being used as a torture weapon, or hard core pornography, then that’s when the two forces can meld. But Refn, lounging in his spectacles and Adidas Gazelles, didn’t go on to contextualize his profound statement. So it came out more like something blurted by the bore who corners you at a party, the one who views the world by constantly looking down his nose at it.
Fucking in the generally accepted sense of the expression (i.e. not when used to describe overtly violent sexual acts that constitute abuse) is about consensual adults having a good time. Violence is demeaning, dehumanising and always creates victims. At the end of the day, Refn is the director of a major Hollywood release. Hollywood excels in fetishizing violence. At one end of the scale that’s the US Military allowing production companies unlimited access to military equipment for gung-ho Stars and Stripes waving propaganda pieces such as Top Gun. But it’s even more blatant than that. Next time you’re at your local multiplex, check out the foyer posters. When was the last time you clocked an adult drama that didn’t feature the lead characters brandishing guns? And the sole purpose of any gun is to punch a hole in another human being, with the optimum method straight through the skull to liquidise the brain.
A British gangster flick was on one of the movie channels the other night, Bonded by Blood. Before deciding to watch I googled to uncover more about its subject – the so-called Essex Boy, or Triple Rettendon murders. I stumbled across a site containing actual forensic photographs of the victims, three drug dealers, who were blasted at point-blank range with shotguns. Compared to the relatively sanitised slayings in Hollywood films – a bullet, a spurt of blood, the camera swiftly dismissing the body, even in the classics such as Goodfellas or The Godfather – the reality of violence is infinitely more horrific. In the real version of this Essex bloodbath there was certainly evidence of explosive violence, with human faces pulped beyond recognition. Like fucking? As if.