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The Finger of Blame

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The massacre at Newtown last week - there's no other acceptable word for it - has caused a wave of shock and disbelief to wash across the globe. But as that shock fades the cynics flex their fingers of blame once more, and prepare to unload their bile and hatred in the direction of the undeserving. For myself I feel I know where the blame lies, but rather than spend time belabouring an already obvious point, I'd like Instead to take a moment to defend another innocent caught in the crossfire of this repugnant incident, the film industry.

If this was a diatribe on gun law and my inalienable right to carry a gun - minutemen of the world unite! - I'd feel obliged to come out as a gun owner. To that end I'd like to make it known here and now that films are my world. There is nothing in my life that isn't touched by film; the wedding ring on my finger, the ring tone on my phone, the name of my unborn child, all are influenced and inspired by film. Films are a positive influence on my life, they're something that keeps me going, something I can share with other people or something I can retreat into when I feel most vulnerable. So you can understand that when I hear films being blamed for death and violence the world over, I get a little upset.

It's not the first time this has happened of course, over the years movies have been blamed for many outrages. The trouble is it's a flawed argument, specious at best, defamatory and malicious at worst, and completely unfounded. You see the problem isn't that film inspires life, it's that life inspires film.

Wolf Creek, Helter Skelter, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, Bully, The Mothman Prophecies, The Killing Fields, Snowtown, Silent House. What does this disparate list of movies all have in common? That simple little sobriquet 'based on a true story'. All these films - and many more besides - take their gruesome plot details from real life incidents, albeit some rather more loosely than others. Ed Gein, Ivan Milat, John Bunting, Pol Pot, Charles Manson all people whose lives of violence inspired films, not the other way around.

Of course then the argument becomes that these films - or glorifications of violence as they become known - are in turn responsible for inspiring a new generation of violent sociopaths; little fleas have lesser fleas and so ad infinitum. Life imitating art, art imitating life, where does this endless cycle of violence begin? Humans are a violent species, history is full of indisputable evidence. We certainly don't need inspiration in order to murder, we've been getting along quite well without film for thousands of years thank you very much!

Film is an outlet for the appetites we're unable to express in real life, a feeding ground for our passions where we can glut ourselves in the safe knowledge that it harms no-one. Isn't it better to experience our violence and horror vicariously through film, than practise it in reality? I'd even go as far as to argue that film is our saviour and that without it the world would be a much darker and more violent place. Unfortunately, for many, film is just another scapegoat, another convenient hook - alongside video games, rock and roll and every other new fearful fancy - on which to hang the blame.

I'm not a political lobbyist or campaigner, but even I can see that there's an answer to gun violence, and it isn't the current trend of hand-wringing and finger pointing. The answer is to put recrimination behind us and be courageous enough to actually take action. The answer is for us to collectively stand up and say that we're as mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!