Re "We love to torture," Opinion, Dec. 18
Torture is deemed to be acceptable if done by good guys on the bad. In Abu Ghraib, torturing prisoners was seen by many as nothing more than fraternity pranks. A few American soldiers were just getting "an emotional release," as Rush Limbaugh explained, good guys "having a good time." Whatever it is, and whoever are the perpetrators, torture is savage cruelty appealing to prurient pleasures, as it now does in many movies. In the film "Hard Candy," a 14-year-old girl tortures a pedophile until he voluntarily jumps to his death. We justify our fascination with the preceding torture by rationalizing that he deserved it. How terrible that movies such as "Hard Candy," as well as "Turistas," "Casino Royale" and "Apocalypto," can knock us off our moral base so that we can rationalize our viewing pleasure instead of being filled with revulsion.
As I read A.S. Hamrah's article, I couldn't help but notice the quick lumping in of Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" being deemed another film guilty of excessive torture as "transcendence." If we look to every piece of art and search for a negative, we'll find it. "Apocalypto" was a well-written love story with stunning cinematography. Yes, there is some unbelievable violence, but this violence did happen in the Mayan culture. Let this work stand alone as a film, and let's not infuse it with our own political beliefs, trying to find some type of cryptic message illuminating our current political situation.
IAN CLAY SEWALL
In reading a newspaper like The Times, do people prefer hearing about negative events because they wish to right them? Does our interest in torture signify a desire to prevent it? Or, perversely, do we attend to these things because for an instant we feel better, by contrast? Is there relief through a general sense of retaliation? Perhaps, more benignly, a fascination for the macabre is like a fascination for the sublime: simply an attempt to escape the mundane.
JAMES A. SADTLER