Oliver Stone is a director who has never shied away from politics and controversy. He has shown this with movies like JFK, Nixon and Snowden. His most political and controversial movie to date is arguably Natural Born Killers, released in 1994, starring Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis. The movie was controversial for a number of reasons, including its extreme scenes of violence and because of accusations it of inspiring real life crimes, including the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. However many critics and movie-goers don't discuss the most important part of any story: the message. Oliver Stone has looked at our past with movies like JFK, but at the time of Natural Born Killers release, he was looking into our future, and where we seem to be now. The movie wasn't about the gore, violence, sex or death. Natural Born Killers was looking at our society and the one of the most important aspects of our society, the media. The way Oliver Stone portrayed the media and the sensationalism our society gives it was real and beyond chilling.
The movie is about Mickey and Mallory Knox, a couple who both come from homes of abuse and extreme dysfunction. They end up meeting and run off together after they kill Mallory's parents. They then go on a killing spree, while the media makes them out to be anti-heroes the entire time. The media sensationalizes them, their crimes, and puts them on a pedestal. Meanwhile, their victims are not given anywhere the same amount of attention or sensationalized, and they are disrespected by the media. The medias focuses on their acts and not on their reasons for committing their crimes or their victims. We might find this attitude towards crime shocking or appalling, but we ourselves tend to do this better than they did in the movie. We all know the names of the Columbine shooters, but can we name a single victim? We are turning killers into celebrities, just as the media did in Natural Born Killers. Historically, we've taken a killer like John Wayne Gacy, give him hoardes of media attention, we interview him, make movies about him, write books about him, put him all over magazines and newspapers and yet we don't give any of this attention to his victims, or their families. We are giving these killers the same attention as we would give a celebrity, like Elvis or The Weeknd.
I'm not condemning research or having an interest in true crime. I myself am a Criminology student, with a love for True Crime, but I am terrified at how we are treating these criminals in the public eye. The problem isn't girls romanticizing killers, or people researching and having an interest in true crime, the issue is the media. The media also tends to not talk about mental illness or abuse that both perpetrators and their victims can experience. The media is a constant stream of violence and crime, just flip to any news channel. We live in a moral panic of violent crime, and we as a society are lead to believe those among us are violent. We therefore, become more paranoid and violent. We have a constant string of information being fed to us, and how much of it is violent? There are violent video games, movies, TV shows, music and news broadcasts. The violent media that surrounds our society isn't the only issue at hand, but it is something we have become terrifyingly conditioned to, as it is something we expect, without question. We sensationalize these criminals, their trials, and their ends. We, however, tend to lack asking the questions: why did this happen, how can this be prevented in the future, how can we help the victims and what is causing these numerous events of mass violence?
Natural Born Killers is a movie filled with violence, sex, and swearing, but it paints perfectly how we as a society treat violent crimes. We make violent criminals out to be these anti-heroes. I will say I think criminals and their victims are both people. Both ends of a crime have a story, a life, dreams, wants, fears and everything else that makes us human. I am not saying that we should dehumanize criminals, I am arguing that giving them a celebrity status is an unhealthy and dangerous way to portray someone who has taken another person's life. We should stop giving all the focus to the killer, and start talking to the killer's family, the victims, and the victims' families. We should focus on not what someone did, but why and how they were able to do it. Why are we sensationalizing more and more killers, but not working towards preventing more violent acts? It seems that more and more violent acts are happening, but we aren't really doing anything about it. Why aren't we making stricter gun laws? Why aren't we preventing the mentally ill from getting guns? Why aren't we putting more mental health resources in schools and communities? Most of all, why aren't we questioning and switching our media focuses?
In these mass acts of mass violence there are three main contributors: mental illness, gun laws, and the media. It is sick and unacceptable that our governments and media are not doing more in effort to prevent these tragedies. There were almost as many mass shootings as days of the year in 2017. As of now, in 2018, there have been thirty mass shootings, including the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. We are at a point where parents fear sending their children to school, where students fear going to school and where we are sitting back, just hoping it isn't us or our child next time. It has been almost nineteen years since the Columbine massacre took place, and it seems that things have only gotten worse with each year. Look at how our media has dealt with each shooting, how they have dealt with the perpetrators and victims. Oliver Stone's warning of our future has come true and I wish I was saying it hasn't. The media is making these acts of violence into a trend and a way to get attention. It's 2018 and its time to address mental illness, create stricter gun laws, and to be an active part in our media. What terrifies me about all of this is somewhere in America there is another Eric Harris, another James Holmes, and another Nikolas Cruz. They are watching our media and seeing how we deal with violence, yet we are sitting here, doing nothing about it. I think everyone should watch Natural Born Killers, not for the violence, sex, or swearing. Everyone should watch Natural Born Killers to have reality check on the world we live in and the media that is shaping it.