Jeremy Spoke

Do you remember Jeremy? Released in 1992, the music video for Pearl Jam’s first commercially successful single ended with a classroom of school children covered in blood.

Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam

Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam

The song and video were purportedly based on the suicide of Jeremy Delle, a sophomore who killed himself in front of his classmates and teacher in 1991 at Richardson High School in Texas. I never got that, even 20 years ago when I was watching it as the new “it” video in heavy rotation on MTV.

The unedited video shows Jeremy putting a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger to suicide, but MTV restrictions didn’t allow that imagery to be aired because it was too violent. What they did allow was an ambiguous ending viewers like me misinterpreted as a mass shooting: a closeup of Jeremy juxtaposed with his blood-covered classmates frozen in horror.

This was before Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook. 

Jeremy came to mind as I researched statistics about American violence for my post this week for Finding (Un)Common Ground. Our nation is scrambling in the wake of Sandy Hook. One side wants armed guards in schools. The other side wants to restrict the Second Amendment. I argue neither strategy is satisfactory.

Gun violence in America is a symptom of a larger, more ominous problem. We’ve cultivated an environment laced with violence, one in which human life is cheap and expendable.

Winona Ryder, Christian Slater in Heathers

Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in Heathers

A friend recently remarked he doubted the student-murdering, suicide-laden, bomb-planting movie Heathers could even be made now. I wonder what kind of criticism a video like Jeremy would draw if it were made today. But Eddie Vedder and Winona Ryder aren’t solely to blame for our culture of violence. Their “art” would probably be considered tame these days. It merely foreshadowed the waves of death we’ve witnessed. What astounds me is our obstinate refusal to connect what we allow to entertain us with the horrific violence in our country. Garbage in, garbage out.

Of course it goes much deeper than that. Violence is the symptom; our disease is the other “s” word, the three-letter one. Sin left unchecked leads to violence. That’s its trajectory. And sin is our nature. The violent culture we live and breathe flows from our human condition. Censorship, armed guards, and national gun databases won’t curb that.

Nothing less than a change of our very hearts is required.

So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11 NLT

Jeremy spoke in class today. The unplugged version.

Read more in my Finding (Un)Common Ground post 
Armed Guards, Gun Control Fall Short in ‘Violence Culture.’

UPDATE 2.19.13: For more thinking and rethinking this topic, please see Necessary Violence?

photo credit: Pearl Jam Official via photopin cc
photo credit: Patrick McEvoy-Halston via photopin cc

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12 Comments

Filed under America, life

12 Responses to Jeremy Spoke

  1. Very thought provoking! I’ve been working on a post this morning too…not sure yet when I’ll publish it, or if I will.

  2. Betsy

    I agree, Aimee! Ironically, my husband and I just purchased our first gun right before the incident at Sandy Hook. I find it so absurd to think that gun bans will change anything…law-abiding citizens will be the only ones who are hurt by those changes. Criminals will always have their guns, just as druggies will always have their drugs, despite the fact that they are illegal. But to your point, we do have a culture, especially Hollywood, that glorifies violence and death. I’m sure you’ve seen the video of all the hypocritical celebrities on you tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VyQzH-85Sk
    If not, it is worth a watch. We do need a change of heart and, until that day comes, I’m not planning to get rid of my gun, and my ability to protect my family, anytime soon.

    • Betsy, I had not seen that video! Wow! It makes the sickening point. These people should be apologizing for their contributions to gun violence rather than self-righteously blaming the rest of us.

      I hope you’ll read my (Un)Common Ground post, too. I go into the argument you make that criminals will always have their guns. And I include heartbreaking statistics that show violence in our entertainment is but one way we create and tolerate a culture of violence. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/U86Ujt

      • Betsy

        Sorry about the language at the end of that video. I just watched it again and realized that it is really bad. However, it does make a sickening point as you say. Personally, if a movie is very violent, it is ruled out for me. I hate watching violence of any sort, not really because I am morally opposed to it but because I’m a wimp. :) I agree with you that America needs a wake-up call about the types of “entertainment” that we allow into our homes and into our children’s minds.

        • I’m a wimp, too. I can’t stomach very much. Still, I see more than enough on network TV… And I want to be clear that I know we’re all part of the problem, myself included. We’ve allowed this to happen. “We are free in ways that we never should be…” –Mercy Me from “God With Us”

  3. So true that entertainment is an ingredient in the recipe of this sin. Another problem that was discussed on the radio yesterday is the violence in video games as another ‘ingredient.’ The host of the show led the discussion by asking why we don’t see video games with rape. *silence* But it’s the same idea as the video games that have all kinds of violence that would also be illegal in ‘real life.’ He has a good point. And over time, people get numb to all of it.

    • Speaking for myself, I’m desensitized to much of it, more than I would like to be. It’s interesting you should bring up video games…

      For the (Un)Common Ground post (http://bit.ly/U86Ujt), I searched for data linking aggressive behavior to violent gaming. There was at least one study that found children to be more aggressive in their short-term behaviors after playing violent video games. However, most articles were written by game enthusiasts who said there is no link. Their point is that lots of people who play violent video games don’t then go out and kill people.

      That logic could be applied to movies and music as well. For example, I’ve seen The Matrix, but I haven’t taken up a machine gun yet. Still, what bothers me is the subtleness of the desensitization and the rejection of “higher” forms of entertainment. Shouldn’t we elevate our thinking and fill our minds with good things rather than violence? Sure, most of us may be immune to the ubiquitousness of violence in our culture, but we don’t know who among us might be negatively affected.

  4. What an excellent and thought provoking post Aimee. I am sharing this…

  5. Great insights, Aimee. I will say, I saw a bunch of people sharing quotes about gun violence from Hollywood stars on FB after Sandy Hook and kept thinking…why are we listening to people who make guns seem like romantic toys for a living? (Well, I wasn’t listening, but others were.) Can’t wait to read your Uncommon post!

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