Why must every Hollywood film have a serial killer?

I finally got around to watching K-PAX last night and thought it was a good film. At least, until the scene where we learn the tragedy that caused the protagonist to consider himself an alien from the planet K-PAX. In a typical Hollywood fashion we can’t just have someone relating the story, we have to see the rape, mutilation and murders. It was totally unnecessary to the advancement of the plot and enjoyment of the film.

But why is that so much a staple of films nowadays? I watch a lot of films from the 40s and 50s and even in the most violent of them, it’s ridiculously tame compared to the many, many graphic and gory films released today.

I know, I know, Hollywood feeds the American public what it wants to watch, but that’s a cop-out in my opinion. Someone has to take a stance. It’s not completely about box-office returns, after all, but about the values, ethics and culture of our society. And I’d rather have films that put more effort into showing healthy relationships and the challenges of growing together, films that helped reinforce the values we seek in our society, than films that glorify the bad guys, encourage us to cheer when cops or other officials are hurt or killed, and end with the antagonists (or are they protagonists, I get confused nowadays) toasting each other and celebrating their victory over ‘the system’.

A great example of this is the exciting, but fundamentally dubious film Gone in 60 Seconds. No worries about the people who might have worked for years to buy their fancy cars, no concerns about whether it’s actually legal to steal cars, just a modern retelling of the brother riding into town and avenging the torment of his sibling. But in Westerns, the brothers were the good guys and they were fighting on the side of law and order. In Gone in 60 Seconds everyone’s a bad guy, the cops respect and secretly envy the criminals, and, of course, the bad guys get away with stealing, killing and assaulting the other bad guys, causing accidents, etc. All in a day’s work, aren’t they just wonderful, cool dudes?

At least in The Matrix they had the pretense of being in a non-existent universe when they were wantonly shooting up the “other side”, as fast as they could switch clips on their guns…

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