In more recent years, the vigilante has been a vehicle for baby boomer nostalgia in comic-book movies such as “Batman” and “The Green Hornet”; feminist revisionism in the feisty “Kick-Ass” and the fiercely avenging “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”; and misguided comedy in the coarsely unfunny “Observe and Report,” in which Seth Rogen played a wildly overreaching mall security guard.
As if by popular demand, Eastwood even reprized his Dirty Harry persona with “Gran Torino,” in which he cleverly allowed his poisonously prejudiced character to have his cake and eat it, too: He might have been an epithet-spewing racist, but he ultimately used his swagger for good on behalf of the very immigrants he routinely dismissed with ethnic put-downs.
It’s impossible to know whether Zimmerman saw himself in any of these movies as he followed Martin through a gated community in Florida in February. An aspiring police officer who had made nearly 50 calls about suspicious events in his neighborhood over the past eight years, he surely saw himself, like all vigilantes, on the side of right in the battle against crime, decay and disorder.
I love that last paragraph. Who knew The Chief Film Critic of the Washington Post had the supernatural ability to go back in time and get into the head of George Zimmerman?
...he surely saw himself, like all vigilantes, on the side of right in the battle against crime, decay and disorder[.]
As someone who strongly believes that popular culture affects the entire culture, on a somewhat shaky level this article makes some sense. The bottom line, though, is that we live in a free society where we can and should make kick-ass vigilante movies, and it's just a fact that as a result, less than 99.9999999999999999999999% of people who love them some "Death Wish" (as I do), do not go out and become murderous vigilantes.
My guess is that vigilante movies do much, much more good than harm. Thematically, the idea of manning up, not relying on the government, and doing what it takes to legally defend your home against marauders is about as healthy and American as it gets.
But isn't Hornaday's column itself an irresponsible act of vigilantism? After all, the Chief Film Critic for The Washington Post is pretty sure Zimmerman is a vigilante, and she's finding him guilty by bizarrely putting us inside of his mind without so much as a trial.
And where are the Blame Hollywood for Society's Ills columns when it comes to STDs, unwanted pregnancies, teenage abortions, and all the loveless sex that creates so much misery in this country, especially for women?
One teenager died at the hands of a neighborhood watchman, and any way you slice it, that's an awful thing; but how many millions die or are relegated to poverty and disease because of Hollywood's non-stop promoting of loveless sex as an act of female liberation and empowerment? Not only is this an appalling interpretation of "feminism" surrounding young girls in every conceivable aspect of popular culture-- unlike the vigilante film, it promotes nothing positive whatsoever.
Where are the self-important 1200 word columns on that?
Until that conversation begins in earnest, leave my vigilante movies alone.