Cheering gore at John Carpenter, the repetitive news cycle and the horrors of reality

- OPINION—There’s a scene early on in John Carpenter’s cult classic film, “Assault on Precinct 13,” where a blonde pig tailed girl resembling Cindy Brady is in a car with her dad driving to visit a family member in Southern California. 

They stop so the father can use a pay phone, commonplace especially for a film released in 1976. 

The little girl—Kathy—hears music coming from the ice cream man’s truck. She asks her dad if she can get ice cream, to which he obliges. 

Anyhow, he’s busy talking on the phone. 

The viewer has already caught glimpses of a street gang creeping around these same streets in a car. As the gang members’ car rolls slowly through the neighborhood in broad daylight, a gun poking through the open window foreshadows Kathy’s fate. 

She eventually meets the ice cream man and buys a treat, but by the time this happens, the gang has pulled up alongside the truck. Along with the ice cream man, the little girl is shot point blank and killed. The dad, just up the street, finishes his phone call and is shocked when he finds his daughter and the ice cream man in a pool of blood. 

An abridged version of this exact scene was projected on the wall Saturday night at San Francisco’s Warfield Theater as film director, composer and musician Carpenter performed music from his film scores live. As the shooting scene played, peculiarly the audience cheered. 

Now, admittedly, if this were a midnight-movie screening situation, I myself probably would have inappropriately laughed at the scene, even if it is a graphic depiction of a shockingly violent, yet fictitious event. And I don’t think the audience necessarily laughed out of callousness either. 

Halloween lingered in the air and yes, Carpenter directed the film “Halloween” — the one with Michael Myers— and so many other horror thrillers. It seemed more like fans cheering on their hero as his craft came to life before their eyes. 

Applause fit the mood.

I also don’t think they were cheering because they were pro gun. In fact, the shooting scene reminded me of walking up to the venue and being surprised by the metal detectors that had temporarily been installed right outside the venue.  

A promoter with Goldenvoice, AEG Presents, which puts on shows at the Warfield, said walkthrough metal detectors have been in place at the venue for more than a year now.  

It probably shouldn't surprise me though. Barely a month ago, a mass shooter, characterized by the sheriff’s office as a depressed person who had recently lost money, killed 58 people at an outdoor country music concert in Las Vegas. 

Sixteen months earlier, the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando claimed 49 people’s lives at a gay bar. With these two events, the morbid distinction of the 'deadliest U.S. mass shooting' had quickly been topped while the wounds have barely healed. 

Yet a relentless news cycle is simultaneously blamed for shining the spotlight on these killers but also breezing past these repetitive events. On one hand, mass shootings have almost become a competition to see who can get the highest body count even if the shooters themselves die in the process. As if out of guilt, media outlets (this one has done so in the past too) plaster ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ memes on social media like that’s a heartfelt consolation or helping in some way.

The morning after the Warfield concert it happened again. 
This time at a church. 
Again. 
But in Texas. 

Again, a mass shooting broke another record. The governor of Texas claimed this one, at a Sutherland Springs Baptist church that killed at least 26 people, injuring as many as 20 others, was the largest mass shooting in the state’s history. (also deadliest church shooting in modern U.S. history)

On Twitter, California’s Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom wrote, “They were in their church praying when this happened. What they need is gun control.” He wasn’t alone. Many posted the same or similar criticism to those who offer thoughts and prayers on social media.

When I left the Warfield that night, there was a chill in the air as I mingled with some smokers in front of the theater. I noticed the two metal detectors tucked away to the side of the entrance after a night’s work. 

There was plenty of gratuitous violence on the screen that night and maybe it’s okay to laugh and cheer since it’s fake. San Francisco would be spared this time, but Texas wouldn’t be so fortunate by the next morning. The true horror remains our country’s own vicious cycle that we can’t seem to break. 

We can’t even seem to focus on these incidents long enough as they keep happening.
 

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