[WARNING: 'BREAKING BAD' SPOILERS BELOW]
Oliver Stone is no stranger to controversy. In fact, you could say the director’s more than three decade career thrives on it. But the three-time Academy Award winner may have pushed things too far when he recently criticized the finale of AMC’s beloved hit show, Breaking Bad.
During a press day to promote the release of his documentary The Untold History of the United States, Stone sounded off on the “fantasy violence” featured in the finale and why he believes similar depictions of violence have “infected the American culture.” You heard it right. Oliver Stone is criticizing someone else for violent content.
Now, it’s very easy to dismiss Stone’s comments as a simple case of the pot calling the kettle black. And the fact that Stone is making these controversial comments as he’s promoting his work (as if to say, “Hey everyone! Look at what I have to say! I’m important!”) doesn’t give them much credibility either. However, if you look at Stone’s full quote in context (via Forbes), he makes some defensible points.
Here are his comments below:
“There’s too much violence in our movies – and it’s all unreal to me. I don’t know if you saw the denouement [of 'Breaking Bad'], I happen to not watch the series very much, but I happened to tune in and I saw the most ridiculous 15 minutes of a movie – it would be laughed off the screen. Nobody could park his car right then and there and could have a machine gun that could go off perfectly and kill all of the bad guys! It would be a joke.
“It’s only in the movies that you find this kind of fantasy violence. And that’s infected the American culture; you young people believe all of this sh*t! Batman and Superman, you’ve lost your minds, and you don ‘t even know it! At least respect violence. I’m not saying don’t show violence, but show it with authenticity…
“If people think that bringing a machine gun to your last meeting is a solution to a television series that’s very popular, I think they’re insane. Something’s wrong. It’s not the world we know.”
The fact that Stone didn’t watch the series regularly and is only basing his opinion on the last 15 minutes of the final episode means his comments should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Was the machine gun a little bit of a Deus Ex Machina? Maybe. But whatever implausibility there may have been in the final sequence of the show, Vince Gilligan earned it by taking audiences on a compelling five-year journey that has led many to call Breaking Bad the greatest show in TV history.
So on the subject of Breaking Bad, Stone doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. That being said, his broader point is interesting. Is it credible when a filmmaker uses violence as a way to tie a nice bow on a story? Violence is messy and the decision to use it should come with consequences. The good guy shouldn’t always get to ride off into the sunset after shooting the bad guy.
Stone’s most recent film, Savages, was criticized by many for its excessive levels of violence. But Stone would likely argue that the violence in his film was appropriate and served more than just a basic narrative function, but worked on a thematic level. (Whether you agree with that assessment is up to you.)
At the end of the day, it’s just one man’s opinion and fans of Breaking Bad are going to (rightfully) tell Stone where he can stick it. If you can separate Stone’s bluster from his actual insights, however, you might actually have an interesting conversation.
What do you think? Is Stone’s assessment of violence in TV and movies accurate or do his comments stink of hypocrisy?
Breaking Bad: The Complete Series will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on November 26th, 2013.