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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

4 Responses

  1. James D. says:

    Dr. Fleming,

    You are absolutely correct about the difference between depicting some scenes of violence, as necessary for the plot and exultation of violence, as seen in modern movies. I haven’t seen a new movie in a decade, but from what I gather, most movies that aren’t comedies or romances are just bloodbaths of extreme violence. I see a parallel with old country music and the newer trash that Nashville is churning out these days. Most older country songs that dealt with drinking had a moral lesson or a warning to avoid excess, or they portrayed the dangers of extreme indulgence leading one down the lost highway. Now, there are no warnings or moral lessons. Just get high and drunk all the time and bed as many women as you can. Its all fun with no consequences.

  2. Steven Lakoff says:

    On the rise of sex and violence in film over the decades, I think it worth pointing out that there was a rise and fall and rise again of sex, violence and immorality in general. The interruption being the Code, which forced a higher level of art into Hollywood movies. Early movies were at times as violent, subversive, immoral and tasteless as they are today. Gold Diggers of ’34 being one example. The Public Enemy another. They were not as graphic simply because of the technical limitations, not for lack of effort. In later decades, the combination of weakening of the Code with technical innovations made for the double barreled bloody mess we see today. Things went a bit too far during the “fall” period, with husbands and wives sleeping in separate beds, but overall the restrictions forced writers and directors to work on a higher level.

    Hollywood types and the left in general will lie to you, saying that movies gave no effect on how we think and act until you start portraying the “wrong” people sympathetically. Nazis, Afrikanners, Confederates and working class Whites being among the despised who should never be treated sympathetically because it might influence the audience the wrong way…which of course is not possible because film can’t do that…except when it does.

    If you want to see Peckinpah at his worst, his last movie, the Osterman Weekend is a must. Besides the gratuitous sex and violence which will make you feel dumber than a rock for watching, the plot is incomprehensible. I recall people saying that the movie ruined his reputation. Perhaps it just cemented it. On the other hand, I didn’t find Ride the High Country to be so bad, though I don’t recall the details right now.

    On the characteristics of Greek drama, is there a source that specifically addresses this prohibition against depicting violence on stage or is it just inferred from the plays themselves? I do find it funny that the ancient Greeks, who lived much closer to death and violence thank we do, wouldn’t show a murder, while I know a young man or two who spends all day watching gory movies and playing bloody first person shooter video games, who would probably feint at the sight of a real life fist fight.

    The root problem of all this may be a lack of artistic taste on the part of the public, who seem to confuse art and reality, or at least the everyday visible reality. Art is supposed to reveal something of the underlying structure that is hidden from everyday reality. I do believe that so called realism has a place, but some disorder is at work here when a person craves watching the simple graphic depiction of an act of violence or sex over and over. I wouldn’t limit it to sex and violence either but to an insistence on “realism” in art, whether landscapes, human figures, or a cinematic bar fight. Abstractaphobia, maybe. But shouldn’t the gatekeepers of art be encouraging the development of artistic taste rather than feeding the masses junk food?

    Great podcast. There are many issues you only touched on, especially the depiction of “bad guys” as sympathetic characters. I think Andrei Navrozov referred to this in an article. Something like the Don Giovanni effect.

  3. Vince Cornell says:

    What a fun and thoughtful podcast! I grew up in the 80’s watching rated R movies as a kid, so I was desensitized to violence very early on. However, as I’ve gotten older and, one hopes, more mature, I’ve become increasingly sensitive to violence. I know many conservatives get up in arms at anything sexual being graphically portrayed in movies, but then turn a blind eye to the same level of violence on the screen. They’re both fundamentally objectifying the human form, made in God’s image, for unseemly pleasures. Some thoughts / points that occurred to me as I listened:
    – I think in some ways sound made a bigger difference than color when it came to violence, at least in war movies. After having watched several older WW2 movies, I was struck by the Audie Murphy story (To Hell and Back) – the sound engineering in that movie is COMPLETELY different from previous war movies, and I felt physically exhausted with nerves on edge after watching it.
    – While I agree about Gibson and Eastwood being sickos, I would say that Spielberg is the sickest guy lauded for making movies. He goes out of his way to drag visceral violence into so-called family-friendly movies. He’s an anti-authoritarian, small-town hating, ultra-violent creep that somehow earned a reputation as making the best “family classics” of our time.
    – I was surprised to see Shaun of the Dead praised here – a movie that I did enjoy back in my college days. I’ve watched some of the subsequent Simon Pegg / Nick Frost movies, but none of them came close to Shaun o the Dead.
    -I also thought First Blood / Rambo 1 was primarily concerned with denigrating small towns and their prejudices / bigotry (with a quasi-anti Southern riff in the mix). I also thought the Sheriff did the right thing at the beginning of the movie – if you see an up-to-no-good drifter like that, you help him get through your town as quickly as possible. And the fact that Rambo goes on to kill so many folks and shoot the town all to hell by the end more-or-less confirms the Sheriff was right, although the movie disagrees with me.
    -I was happy to see Peckinpah dressed down so thoroughly. I’ve never been able to stand his movies (which are always considered such “classics”). “Ride the High Country” is the only one I thought wasn’t terrible, but even it was bogged down in the middle with an unseemly and unrealistic scene of misogynistic miners manhandling the main female character.
    -Rex cleverly (I think) pointed out with the podcast sign off music that the Leone films would have been entirely forgotten if it hadn’t been for Morricone’s soundtrack.
    -My guilty pleasure regarding utterly superfluous violence in a movie that does nothing to further the narrative – I do enjoy watching classic Jackie Chan flicks. The movies are dreadful, with barely any plot, but I equivocate it to watching a Gene Kelly movie only Chan is hitting guys with the ladder rather than dancing on top of it. Plus he has a Chaplin/Buster Keaton type of charm in his physicality.

  4. Rex Scott says:

    The track on the end of the podcast is called The ecstasy of gold. They seek their fortune among the dead. Watch people coming out of an Imax theatre and experience the zombie horde.