Cho no

As expected, someone has figured out a way to blame the movies for the mass murder at Virginia Tech. No, it wasn’t the fact that someone with a long record of mental illness, suicidal impulses and stalking women could walk into any WalMart in Virginia and buy enough firepower to kill 32 people. It was because the guy was one of the 200 or so people in America, mostly critics like myself and others who recognized it as an outstanding film, who saw the South Korean filmmaker (there’s a connection!) Park Chan-wook’s “Oldboy.”

Here’s how this story got started. As reported in the “New York Times” blog, a Virginia Tech film professor, after seeing Cho’s repugnant video manifesto on NBC, spotted similarities between some images in it and some in the movie. Such as the now infamous hammer scene, and another in which he’s holding a gun to his head. It didn’t take Sky News long to report (and the story is still on their website as “updated”) that “the police were studying the film” because they believe Cho had been watching it over and over again to prepare for his rampage.

Uh, wrong. As CNN would subsequently report, there is no reference to “Oldboy” in Cho’s voluminous confessionals. Nor do any of his fellow students recall him watching that movie, or any movie. As for the hammer scene, Bob Cesca in the Huffington Post has found that Cho might also have been inspired by numerous other dark movies, including "Sling Blade," and, most sinister, "Bob the Buiilder."

Meanwhile, there is no doubt that the 225 rounds of ammo from the two handguns Cho legally bought in Virginia killed those 32 people.

So, the “Oldboy” story was bullshit. It would have been even if Cho had seen the movie. Did “Taxi Driver” cause Hinckley to take a shot at Reagan? Actually, the gun to the head scene from Cho’s video atually looks more like the scene in “Taxi Driver”…) Did “The Catcher in the Rye” drive Chapman to shoot Lennon? Ban those suckers. Actually, maybe it was Lennon’s music that drove Chapman to kill Lennon. So we should have banned the guy’s music to prevent someone from shooting him.

But even though the "Oldboy" story is apocryphal, the impulse to scapegoat the movies for complex, unthinkable tragedies won’t escape the notice of opportunistic politicians. I’m wondering who will be the first presidential candidate to state his or her outrage at violent movies. I’m thinking that it will be Hillary Clinton, given her bold stand on “The Death of the President” and other movies she hasn’t seen.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for someone to speak up for gun control. Not with the NRA lobby breathing down their neck. Mitt Romney won’t be the only claiming to be a hunter; I’m surprised Hillary hasn’t done her photo op yet with a shot gun and a brace of quail.


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