Valentine’s Day: Cynic or Sop?

Samantha Carr tries to rework her views on Valentine's Day.For most of my life February has been a month containing my favourite and worst commemorative days. My favourite: Pancake Day. The dreaded Valentine’s Day, however, has always been a hatred target for me and many other disgruntled members of society.  Pancake Day is great! It’s traditional, yummy and filling. Valentine’s Day is resented by tighter folk that it’s just a good chance for card companies to have a laugh at us. My grumpy mouth would usually be the first person to voice out against Valentine’s Day, I’ll admit, it hasn’t been for me. Red love hearts everywhere! Cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, shops and even radio stations are relentless with their attacks of tacky decorations and love songs wail on. Yes, we all know that deep, deep down it’s supposed to be nice and that we should grin and support the fact that couples around are smitten. But the occasion is undeniably infuriating. Upsetting for new singletons, depressing or wasted ‘fun’ depending on the mood of single individuals, awkward for new couples and it could go many ways depending on the strength, skill and memory of longer term couples. I have no preference over which group of these Valentines are better or worse, all extremes on this day hurt.I’ve had an inward struggle this year about a different stance for the next approaching February 14th. After extensive Wikipedia research (the author had 150 footnotes so let’s relax and admit Wiki can be okay) Valentine’s Day is becoming something I believe I could be comfortable with if I were to shape it more into the type of celebration I want to think of it as. People celebrate St Valentine’s Day all over the world. We have interesting differences but an overriding similar theme to the day, it seems we’ve boiled it down to making others know that we like and care for them, whether it is a beau, friend or colleague. I want to divert Valentine’s Day away from cheesiness and relax about addressing a day with agape. It’s a good thing that we allocate days to appreciate any person who can put up with us, that’s why Birthdays, Mother’s day, Father’s day and Valentine’s Day are positive days in a year. Of course, it is still undoubtedly a day where jewellers, flower shops and chocolatiers jump for delight. But perhaps it isn’t such a bad a thing that businesses are given a few days a year where they increase sales; you could be helping out Clintons and Thorntons, older faces in many of our British High Streets. It gives an important boost to our cherished local businesses that have struggled in a recession: cafes, flower shops, local pubs that form our town centres (…and as I said before, I suppose deep deep down, it is just quite nice.)I still love Pancake Day more than ever but my passionate dislike for Valentine’s Day wanes. Despite my valiant efforts at rationalising my change of tune to the day, I think that as the date looms - despite everything - many of us can fluctuate, straddle, and splinter our bums on the fence deliberating whether we really are true cynics or if it could just be that we have a slither of us that deep deep down is a teeny weeny bit of a sop. Samantha Carr Image by Stanly Dezignus

Violence and Movies - Django Unchained

Claire Nelson explores how violence is used in Django Unchained.Django_Unchained_PosterThis article is filled with spoilers.I saw Django for the second time about a week ago with a bunch of friends. The first time I saw it was with my older brother at a big movie theater in Philadelphia. I loved it both times, but my friends had mixed opinions. The biggest complaint was that there was too much gore. A couple of them argued that it got in the way of their appreciation of the film, because at the end of the day they don’t want to be watching something so violent. American cinema in particular fetishizes blood and gore – which has entered the dialogue on gun control in America, with the NRA arguing that such flippant depictions of violence cause viewers to imitate what they see.Quentin Tarantino loves to use violence – Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds and Reservoir Dogs were all bloody. He tempers the violence with comedy, though, like the colour names scene in Reservoir Dogs or the scene in Django about problems with badly cut eyeholes in the pre-KKK group’s masks. And the violence in Django feels justified – there is a strong moral tone that runs throughout the movie. Somewhat like how I can justify rooting for a serial killer who targets “bad guys” in Dexter, I can justify the over-the-top level gore in Django because at least the people who die seem to deserve it. They explode and fly into the air and gush blood because it’s vengeance. And because it’s so cartoonish, it doesn't seem to affect me in the visceral way that more realistic gore does.But not everybody who dies in a bloody mess deserves to be killed. One of Monsieur Candie’s slaves is shown being ripped apart by dogs, which makes even the hardened bounty hunter Dr. Schultz wince. The slave’s death confirms Dr. Schultz’s decision to shoot Mr. Candie, but it’s still a horrible scene.When I saw the movie in America, the theater was large and filled and a good amount of people were laughing at all of the exploding bodies, myself included. It’s unsettling, really, to laugh at something like that. I don’t believe that violence in movies or violence in video games turns people violent, but I still wouldn't say that I enjoy watching gore. Tarantino lightened the mood by comically exaggerating the blood, but I’m not sure that I want to find mass amounts of blood to be comical.The violence isn't enough to override how I otherwise feel about the movie – I liked it enough to see it twice. While I don’t want to find the excessive level of blood to be funny, it does work to pull the viewer out of the darker parts of the movie. And, I admit, I like the idea that Django gets some revenge on the slavers who tortured and separated him and Broomhilda. It also feels a little satisfying to see Mr. Candie’s sister fly across the room when Django shoots her.When the violence is exaggerated, as Tarantino did in Django, I’m reminded that I’m watching a movie and it doesn’t feel as difficult to watch. Which is funny, because it would seem that the bloodier it is the harder the scene is to see. Or, I just don’t mind gratuitous gore as long as it’s in a Tarantino film. Claire Nelson Image from Wikipedia