Michael Stein confronts his fear of violence censorship by comparing and justifying violence in a number of films. He suggests that post-Vietnam films contain a different type of American violence. It was no longer the American hero’s violence but a taboo violence viewed as a disease. The films all had a paradoxical theme involving protagonists who use violence to regain their own and other’s humanity. Filmmakers used this paradox to grab the audience with violence and force them to confront it.
Stein summarizes and analyzes the violence of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Terrence Mallick’s Badlands, and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. In an interesting way, he justifies Alex’s violence: “with violence comes passion and with that passion comes our ability to choose what we love, what we dare, who we want to be—our humanity.” He points out that Alex, played by Malcolm McDowell, is elfin and childlike, causing us to enjoy what he enjoys. Kubrick causes us to sympathize with this violent character. We want him to get out of jail and go through the treatment which eventually makes him a “clockwork orange.” Kubrick emphasizes that violence and free choice go hand in hand. It’s like burning the flag and democracy. The film forces you to acknowledge that violence is a part of human nature.
With Badlands Stein argues that American violence is often a twisted version of success. The character Kit, roaming through the wilderness, feels he must kill people in order to survive. He also learns of his fame, possibly equating it with success. The audience is able to digest the violence and like the characters because of their romantic struggle. They are trying to be more human by killing people.
Blade Runner’s violence is also justified by characters fighting for their humanity. Deckard is the robot because he has no choice of being a replicant hunter. Through violence, Deckard is able to regain his humanity by rediscovering feeling, mostly love pain, and fear. Stein also considers Robocop, Terminator, and Lethal Weapon's use of violence relative to individuals and the state.