Or, as my Australian friend Catherine says, "Horses for courses."
So what are your strokes?
I can tell you what is not a stroke of mine: violence.
I really don't like it.
And I don't consider it entertainment.
So if your stroke includes violence that leads too often to a reckless result — like, say, permanent brain injury — I'm out.
My friends who are sports fans will counter, "People get injured walking across the street."
Sure enough. But who cheers when that happens? I'm not standing in the way of people taking risks for their passions. I'm simply disappointed and somewhat depressed when everyone stands and cheers for violence.
Call me "old fashioned." If disdain for violence is a crime, let me be guilty.
The Big Question
To be fully human, we need to ask ourselves throughout the day, "What does this experience mean to me? How am I expressing myself? Does this experience lift me, making me my best potential self, or does it lower me, degrading my potential?"
It might seem like a ponderous question for most people. However, with frequent asking, it becomes a light and enjoyable question.
So ask yourself: "When I see two people punching each other, what is the feeling that is stirred within me? Is it sporting? Or just thirsty for violence?"
Perhaps the answer is: o.k., watching violence stirs the primitive within. That leads to this question: is that what you want?
Will hockey truly attempt to reform? Probably not. Because the "cost to the sport," is really a cost to the wallets of those who own the gladiatorial contest.
When people speak of "the sport" as an ancient ideal, I think, "Give me a break. Your ideal is worth cheering for people who defend the game by inflicting damage on one another? If so, do tell: what are your other ideals? Are any of them in conflict with this one?"
I love the strength and grace of college hockey. But, so long as the major league behaves like the bush league, I'll stick to baseball. Unless and until the players brawl with regularity on the diamond. Then I'll leave the ballpark and crawl back under my self-righteous rock.
But this isn't about sports.
It's about the Arts.
I don't consider violence against women to be entertainment. It nauseates me.
And when violence against women is presented as "art," I am ever more disgusted.
The arts has a way of saying, "We don't like this. We abhor it. So let's get some popcorn and watch a lot of it."
So I walked Out.
This was about a year ago, when the movie was new. I was in our beloved Drexel Theatre. I bought my ticket. I bought my popcorn. I sat through the coming attractions before the feature presentation.
Up came The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. This movie — claimed to be a "film" because it has subtitles, was introduced in independent cinemas, and is based on a best-selling series of novels by the late Stieg Larsson — didn't last 30 minutes. For me, it didn't. I walked out.
Walked out? Well, what else is the appropriate reaction to watching a woman being beaten and sodomized?
I'm not able to keep thinking, "This is art. I am a patron of the arts." Call me a philistine, but when I'm watching a young woman harassed, battered, restrained, and penetrated, I have very few choices:
- watch — and have the primitive within me fueled. (Really, now, honestly: what is the feeling within you when you watch Noomi Rapace raped? She's a fine actress, so it looks real enough. What are you feeling? Artistically inspired? Doubtful. Aroused? Hmmm. Nice.)
- leave — and sit outside the theatre on a nice summer evening.
Of course, if this weren't art, the third and most appropriate choice would be to call the police. (The Onion's coverage of the recent assault scandal in sports was brilliant. Here it is: "Nation's 10-Year-Old Boys: 'If You See Someone Raping Us, Please Call The Police'.")
This is awkward. I'm on the board of trustees for Friends of The Drexel, Inc., the new not-for-profit organization founded to secure and sustain the future of the historic Drexel Theatre as a distinctive cultural asset to Bexley and the greater Columbus community.
Showing violence against women isn't part of the mission, but the Dragon Tattoo movie was great at the box office. And more articulate, more cultured people than I defend the movie with passion.
I can say only this: "I know what I'm seeing. It's a woman being beaten and raped. Watching that is not — anytime, anywhere, under any Cloak of Sophisticated Culture — a form of entertainment or enlightenment for me. Never."
Independent arts cinemas turn their noses up at showing what they consider low-brow, like Terminator. And, so, we are showing this?
What's The Big Deal?
The big deal is that we are what we eat. And we are who we know. And we are where we go.
Let me add: We are what we cheer for. And we are what arouses us.
Can we make a case for not being who we are when we are cheering for — or aroused by — something violent? (I've tried. It's a weak case.)
Where can we turn for wisdom?
Not to me. I'm not the arbiter of taste.
Now that you are an adult, you have to decide what is beneath you. I'm just asking you to draw the line — rather than letting popular culture draw the line for you. Because we all know where popular culture will draw that line.
Columbus's native son, James Thurber once said (I'm paraphrasing here, because I cannot find the original quotation): "I'm glad to be going blind, so I can't see where popular culture is headed."
Want something more helpful?
The actor Bill Murray: “When you become an adult, you get to choose your diversions. You should choose them carefully.”