Rethinking American Violence, May 21 1999
By firstname.lastname@example.org (Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Werewolf Complex: America's Fascination with Violence (Paperback)
As an academic researching the implications and attractions of violence in global "Hollywood' culture, I have come across few works as original, provocative, and compelling as this. Duclos' harrowingly in-depth, quasi-Lacanian study of the lives and loves of American serial-killers and their place in the mythos of our time has many virtues, not the least of which is its determination to undercut the customary opposition between censorious conservatives and carefree libertarians. For, while refusing to buy into any simplistic, mechanistic account of 'media effects', Duclos shows how calls for untrammelled expression of the will to transgress and demands for renewed control of basic instincts endlessly reinforce one another, feeding into a cycle of universal complicity. And is it not clear, right now, that loudly voiced concerns about the possibility that videos produce teenage psycho-killers, concerns which amplify and ramify themselves through the global circuits of the media, constitute something like a DARE that young people fulfill our own desiring/fearful phantasies about the unleashing of repressed forces of violent transformation?
One of the book's few weaknesses is its evident unwillingness to face the difficulty of distinguishing between words and images that simply contribute to this feedback cycle, on the one hand, and those which reflect that culture without simply acquiescing to it (like Duclos's own book), on the other. How does one decide, for example, whether the cop-torture scene in Reservoir Dogs is a mere 'example' or a 'reflection' upon 'the werewolf complex'? Nonetheless, this book is indispensable for anyone interested in contemporary popular culture and violence.