John Grisham's Essay About Violence

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Grisham s Gripe, Stone s Reply

In a suburb of Muskogee, Oklahoma, this morning started out just as any other morning should. School children woke up at the same time as always, got ready to go to school, and left their homes. While preparing for school, a thirteen-year-old takes his father s nine millimeter handgun from his home. The boy walks into a school, and unloads the gun on his classmates for no reason, but fortunately no one was killed. Although this news is devastating and hard to imagine, it is not the first time this has happened.

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School shootings have kept the media busy for the last few years. Why did they do this? What were their reasons? How could they kill somebody without any cause or purpose? People have asked these questions for many years. In recent years it has been very common to place the blame, for people s stupid actions on other things, rather than their own incompetence. Television, movies, and the music industry have been the primary recipients of much of this blame.

In John Grisham s essay, Unnatural Killers, he reports two stories of random acts of violence, which he relates to Oliver Stone s film, Natural Born Killers. In the first of these stories, Grisham tells of the murder and robbery of one of his acquaintances, Mr. Bill Savage. Mr. Savage was a well-known and well-respected citizen of Hernando, Mississippi, where at the time Grisham was practicing law in a nearby courthouse. One evening, while Bill Savage was in his office, two kids from Oklahoma, Ben Darras and Sarah Edmundson who had gone on a road trip, found their way into his office, fired two shots into his head at point-blank range, and took his wallet. The next day in Pancharoula, Louisiana, Patsy Byers was working at a convenience store. Around midnight a woman, Sarah, entered the store, walked towards the counter, and shot Patsy in the neck. Sarah ran out of the store, and then she re-entered to empty the cash register. Although Patsy Byers was not killed in this incident, she will spend the rest of her life in a wheel chair.

Grisham believes there are two ways to get rid of the violence in films today. He thinks that if people were to boycott the violent movies and cause the film industry and filmmakers to lose money, and if they began losing money Hollywood would get the hint. His other idea is that people should think of movies as products. If something goes wrong with a product, or if it causes some injury, then the makers are held responsible, therefore if a movie harms someone then its makers should be responsible.

After Grisham s article was published it got the attention of many people, including Oliver Stone. Stone replied to Grisham s essay in his memo, A Movie Made Me Do It. He responds to Grisham s accusations by relating them to a witch-hunt. Although Stone s memo is not written as well as Grisham s essay, he still makes very good points. He admits that Natural Born Killers had an impact on his audience, but he also describes Ben and Sarah s childhood. He argues that eventhough the movie does contain violence and had an effect on its viewers, it wasn t reason that Ben and Sarah killed two innocent people.

While I was first thinking about this assignment, I thought that Grisham s argument was the better of the two, but upon further review I believe that Stone makes the better argument. Although Grisham s argument was well written and included good examples, I don t think I can agree that it is necessarily true. Eventhough the evidence of the two young people from Oklahoma, who killed Mr. Savage and Mrs. Byers, points directly to his argument, it would still be hard to place the blame for their actions on the filmmakers in Hollywood. Grisham s ideas of boycotting violent movies and filing lawsuits on filmmakers could bring on good results. Boycotting movies and suing filmmakers could definitely decrease the amount of violence depicted onscreen, but I do not believe that it could prevent weirdoes, who watch these movies, from doing stupid things. I believe as Stone does. It is a combination of events that would cause somebody to perform an act as outrageous as murder, not a movie.

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