OK, at risk of giving the Trump slaughter parody video too much attention (though serious, it’s also a subject one hopes has a mercifully brief time in the spotlight), we must add to our primary editorial on Tuesday that the discussion has included too little attention to the over-the-top movie scene on which the video was based.
To recap: At a conference last week led by supporters of Donald Trump, a video was shown in which the president was shown gunning down and otherwise mutilating political rivals and members of the media, in a church. That presentation has been widely criticized.
The video was based on a scene from the 2014 spy movie “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” itself a rendition of the James Bond films. The movie included the scene of the hero Harry Hart (played by Colin Firth) gunning down dozens of people in a Southern U.S. church with Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Free Bird” as a soundtrack. (In the character’s defense, his mind was electronically controlled by the movie’s villain at the time.)
There’s plenty of violence in movies, and it’s often the subject of criticism, as a discussion over a film currently in theaters (“Joker”) demonstrates. Context matters. We have faith that when such scenes are done well, they can meaningfully explore the human condition. At other times, though it’s trickier, they can provide a comedic catharsis.
The “Kingsman” movie aimed for the latter. It’s a lark. Among its comedic charms, wrote the Star Tribune’s movie critic at the time, is seeing something different from the actor Colin Firth, “hitherto known as a proper, fastidious Englishman in every film he’s made.”
Our critic went on: “Seeing the dapper Firth bayonet a bigoted Southern preacher on a stake, or cleave a redneck lady congregant’s skull with a hatchet, is such a refreshing change of pace.”
But this, of course, was at a time when mass shootings had become a frightening part of the public consciousness. The notion that ostensibly conservative churchgoers make good targets also was atrocious.
As we often explain, the Star Tribune Editorial Board operates separately from the newsroom, and certainly separately from the newspaper’s movie reviewers. We’d disagree with the “Kingsman” reviewer. The church scene was simply gratuitous. As the Trump parody video gets debated, that’s worth keeping in mind.