Today a reader sent me a link to a commentary by Mick LaSalle, movie critic at The San Francisco Chronicle. Its headline pretty much says it all: "Violent media poisoning nation's soul."
LaSalle recalls his original reaction to "The Dark Knight Rises," which he saw before the Aurora, Colo. theater massacre:
I regarded it as a wallow in nonstop cruelty and destruction, a film that was antilife. But when I wrote the review, I said none of those things, which I considered to be too subjective and personal. ... I gave it a middling-to-negative review.
But after the shootings, he saw his own writing as inadequate. He came to a realization:
...Critics must, first of all, identify the messages that movies are communicating. If movies are cruel and nihilistic, say so. Say it explicitly.
I'd encourage you to read the whole column. While what he's saying echoes a refrain common in culturally conservative circles for years, LaSalle is making a similar argument from the progressive side.
I think his point has merit. It's part of the critic's job to put any work into context of the larger world we live in, and he rightly notes that many writers are afraid to appear out of touch if they note content that's generally considered socially unacceptable. But I agree with him that fully reporting on the content of that entertainment is a fundamental responsibility of the journalist, and not wanting to look uncool is a lousy argument for not doing it.