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John Grisham’s argument in his essay Unnatural Killers is absolutely nothing new. Grisham criticizes Oliver Stone for making heroes out of Mickey and Mallory Knox, in Stone’s film, Natural Born Killers. Grisham should realize that, at his core, he is neither a psychologist nor a social commentator, but a lawyer and a politician. Artists have come under fire for their art being misconstrued since the use of Bill Haley’s "Rock This Town" in the movie The Wild Bunch. Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers is a satire with a twist of irony, in the fact that he critiques the media’s bloodlust by making a movie about a couple that gains infamy and become pop-culture icons, through media coverage, during a three week killing spree. The best way to look at the strengths and weaknesses of Grisham’s argument is to look at the psychological impact upon Ben Darras and his subsequent influence over Sarah Edmondson, the suggested parallels between the movie and the two murders, and by answering Grisham’s question on whether or not an artist should take responsibility for his or her art.

Grisham has a basic understanding of the underlying reasons behind the murders, but what he states gives an incomplete picture to the reasons for the murders. Andy Warhol once said that everyone will have fifteen minutes of fame. With the emergence of audience driven live programming, everyone has a chance to be on television like the celebrities that they so avidly watch. This idea of gaining fame through media coverage has been repeated countless times, especially concerning violent crimes.

Ben’s father was an alcoholic, and most likely abusive. Ben also had a history of drug use and psychiatric treatment. He may have had a need for attention, and, possibly, an inability to discern fantasy from reality. Ben saw similarities between himself and the character on screen and decided to idolize him, to become him.

Sarah’s similar history of drug use and psychiatric treatment would indicate a weak personality, and being susceptible to the influences of another person. This would explain why she needed to be thoroughly coaxed by Ben to commit robbery and murder. It would also explain why she hastily shot the convenience store clerk, hoping to kill her, and then robbing the store after going back to the car and being told to do so by Ben.

Grisham makes many references to Oliver Stone’s film, Natural Born Killers. He makes some relevant points to the movie, but he makes more inferences than actual facts. Natural Born Killers is, contrary to Grisham’s beliefs, is a satire. If, as Grisham states, a satire is supposed to make fun of what is being attacked, then Natural Born Killers is a definitely dark satire with a deep and sound social message. Apparently, there is also a strong demonic theme that occurs every few minutes. Were this true, it would make perfect sense that Sarah saw a demon in the convenience store. If the murders were inspired by the movie, it would make sense that Ben encouraged Sarah, as Mickey apparently encouraged Mallory, to commit murder. Unfortunately, Mickey did not urge Mallory to kill. Also, Mickey and Mallory did not kill random people as they went along. The Mickey and Mallory only killed people that gave them trouble, such as cops and rednecks. Sarah and Ben’s killings were random and unprovoked, with the only similarity being theft. If the movie was being blamed for the crimes, then they must have a different copy of the film, because Mickey and Mallory were a team in everything they did together, where Ben and Sarah turned on each other as soon as they got caught.

Should an artist take responsibility for his or her work? They should not have to take responsibility for the acts of strangers. Many artists have one group or another after him or herself, if the artist writes controversial lyrics. Eminem is a prime example of this type of response. Though one may find this out simply by listening to a majority of his songs, Eminem’s songs are completely satirical, and set an anti-example for the listeners. The lyrics in Eminem’s latest CD have many references to violence against homosexuals, and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation are currently protesting his latest album. Eminem does, however, make some good social statements in his latest CD. In his song "The Way I Am," Eminem makes reference to the shooting at Columbine by saying, "And they blame it on Marilyn (Manson)/ And the heroin/ But where are the parents at/ And look where it’s at/ Middle America, now it’s a tragedy/ Now it’s so sad to see an upper class city." (Eminem) Marilyn Manson was blamed by the media for Columbine, merely because the students in the Trenchcoat Mafia had his music in their collections, much like the media blaming Richard Ramirez’s killings on rock music.

Grisham made a very hasty decision in writing this essay. There are more holes in his statements concerning the psychological impact upon Ben Darras and his subsequent influence over Sarah Edmondson, the suggested parallels between the movie and the two murders, and by answering Grisham’s question on whether or not an artist should take responsibility for his or her art than in a large block of Swiss cheese. Unfortunately, Hollywood will not stop making movies like Natural Born Killers, since America loves violence. Also, the entertainment industry will keep catering to the lowest common denominator, so as to improve ticket sales.

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