The entertainment industry is no stranger to capitalizing on the tragedies experienced by others, but the upcoming film Del Playa brings Hollywood’s brand of insensitivity to entirely new levels.
So far, only the trailer has been released and it’s clear this low budget, D-grade excuse for a movie sets out to squeeze entertainment out of the 2014 Isla Vista massacre, perpetrated by the now infamously privileged, racist, and misogynistic Elliot Rodger. Rodger blamed his unspeakably violent actions that took the lives of six others along with his own on societal rejection, romantic inability, and lack of respect for his “alpha male” status.
This very real tragedy is mirrored in the plotline for Del Playa, (non-coincidentally the name of the street on which he committed many of his violent acts) which depicts a thus far unnamed, misunderstood pretty boy whose suffering at the hands of schoolmates, girls, and parents drive him to murder, after donning a mask that resembles that of any one of countless better made predecessors. This is all contextualized within the new vogue of teen-to-young adult partying excess, familial abuse, and some warped need for popular acceptance.
While it has necessarily been argued that these issues – such as alcohol and drug abuse, mental health, and bullying – need to be addressed, and it is undoubtedly true that they do, it does not take an expert to see that this is not the format in which to do it. From the YouTube description, the director Shaun Hart himself states that “Del Playa is an artistic and less direct way of drawing attention to very real issues, while also hopefully starting a discussion in the same way that films like Fight Club and Dr. Strangelove have been very successful at doing. Satire.”
This begs the obvious question of how a D-grade, low budget, cliché-ridden shock horror movie could in any way be compared to cerebral masterpieces like Fight Club or Dr. Strangelove. These films were artistic masterpieces and are entrenched in cinematic lore; the director has in effect compared his third grade doodles to the Mona Lisa, without a shred of evidence to support this.
Another, seemingly unnecessary question would be how on earth anyone would think that this tragedy, having occurred only a little more than a year ago, would need to be presented in a satirical format. As a UCSB student myself, I have many friends who witnessed firsthand the horror brought about by the shooter, and have seen the inexpressible loss that six families had to endure for no good reason other than that a deranged, wealthy manchild thought that he deserved more than he had ever earned, and others needed to pay for that sin. To think that such troubling, horrific, truly unexplainable violence, both physical and emotional, could be satirized in a palatable or humane way is beyond my capacity for belief.
In short, I believe that the director, and anyone else responsible for the creation of this abomination of a film, is doing a truly offensive disservice to anyone who suffered, directly or indirectly, from the killings on May 23. To self-righteously preach about not “burying our heads in the sand” while the director changes facts and narratives to better suit his ‘artistic’ needs is an affront to what actually happened that night and all who were affected by it. His pathetic attempt to excuse this movie by not only identifying himself as a former Isla Vista resident but also giving his specific address only adds to the thin veneer of compassion or connection to the community that this man obviously lacks. Anyone who cared an ounce about what has happened and the impact it has had would have never even thought about making this movie.
It is easy, with the ubiquity of the internet and the all-inclusive, free for all climate of entertainment today, to shield your work beneath pretensions of artistry or social commentary, when you are in fact pimping out real life tragedy for your own gain. People’s lives were ruined beyond repair; parents lost children, kids lost their best friends, a community was shattered, and to spit on all that by saying that your overly simplified, watered down, monster-humanizing film is somehow trying to assuage all anguish – or somehow works towards preventing a similar future incident in the same vein – is the biggest insult of all.
In short, if you have any shred of decency or respect, the memory of six college students (or their families) in the prime of their lives whose existences were cut short at the hands of a sad mistake for a human being, please boycott this movie and any future work of anyone who helped to create it.
There is a petition to halt the release of the film that can be found here.