Feminist Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday was the first one to see Hollywood sexism in the stabbings and shootings of one sick young man at the University of California-Santa Barbara who killed six. Hornaday tweeted out her article: “In a shooter's videotaped diatribe, reflections of the sexism, insecurity and entitlement that plague Hollywood.”
Hornaday wrote that as Elliot Rodger bemoaned his life of “loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desire” and “arrogantly announced that he would now prove his own status as ‘the true alpha male,’ he unwittingly expressed the toxic double helix of insecurity and entitlement that comprises Hollywood’s DNA.”
She added: "For generations, mass entertainment has been overwhelmingly controlled by white men, whose escapist fantasies so often revolve around vigilantism and sexual wish-fulfillment (often, if not always, featuring a steady through-line of casual misogyny). Rodger’s rampage may be a function of his own profound distress, but it also shows how a sexist movie monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike."
Certainly we social conservatives have argued that ultraviolent entertainment can glamorize ultraviolence. It just sounds strange to blame Superbad or Neighbors for murderous rampages by sexually entitled young men:
How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like Neighbors and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?
Movies may not reflect reality, but they powerfully condition what we desire, expect and feel we deserve from it. The myths that movies have been selling us become even more palpable at a time when spectators become their own auteurs and stars on YouTube, Instagram and Vine. If our cinematic grammar is one of violence, sexual conquest and macho swagger — thanks to male studio executives who green-light projects according to their own pathetic predilections — no one should be surprised when those impulses take luridly literal form in the culture at large.
Part of what makes cinema so potent is the way even its most outlandish characters and narratives burrow into and fuse with our own stories and identities. When the dominant medium of our age — both as art form and industrial practice — is in the hands of one gender, what may start out as harmless escapist fantasies can, through repetition and amplification, become distortions and dangerous lies.
The Post film critic was too busy unloading a Feminist Big Thought that she didn't deal with the movie Rodger actually was reported to have discussed: the 2012 film Chronicle, where he identified with a loner whose "inferiority complex pushes him to exact Carrie-style revenge on the bullies who made his life miserable in the past."
Hornaday concluded by repeating the feminist mantra that things could be better somehow (less real-world violence by males) if women wrote and directed their own movies, and if they passed the "Bechdel Test" where "a movie (1) at least two named female characters who (2) talk to each other about (3) something besides a man." How that stops entitled men with mental problems is anyone's guess.