Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This study addresses the proliferation of cinematic violence since the demise of the MPAA’s Production Code in 1966. Bonnie and Clyde and The Wild Bunch were films that projected violence to comment on the civil fervent caused by the Vietnam War. Yet the floodgates these films opened allowed for virtually unlimited and graphic displays of bloodshed to redden big screens for the next three decades. Using the theories of René Girard, namely the scapegoating motif, this study proposes readings of film that, through cinematic ambiguity, contain humanitarian statements against violence by examining the consequences of using force to cause pain. The Godfather serves as a virtual contemplation of the cruelty inherent in causing bloodshed. Coppola uses both unedited long takes and fast, contrapuntal editing to expose and underscore his protagonist’s hypocrisy. Toward the end of the seventies, Taxi Driver is the next major film to enact compassion in bloodshed, as it both joins and deconstructs the cynical line of films it belongs to. Scorsese manifests an exceptional ability to take the viewer inside the brutality so that he vicariously lives through the event. The chapters that deal with the films above demonstrate that expertly rendered camerawork creates a scapegoating process for the audience to consider. In the eighties with Fatal Attraction, however, the audience has to rely on future criticism inspired by the film to initiate vindication of the immolated scapegoat, because of the enormous resistance she offers the dominant culture. And in the nineties, the surrogate victim at the end of American History X dies, symbolically lamenting the mimetic rivalry contained in both the troubled inner city and the film industry itself. Together these films constitute positive, artistic, and edifying contributions of cinematic violence that resist the ordinary depiction of bloodshed for the sake of exploitative entertainment.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

John R. May