Canadians blasted for bringing Bernardo "bible" to the big screen

News release
Canadians Concerned About Violence in Entertainment (C-CAVE)
Contact: Valerie Smith

Toronto, May 23, 1998: A division of the Vancouver-based company, Lions Gate Entertainment, has signed international screen idol, Leonardo DiCaprio to star as serial killer, Patrick Bateman, in their film version of American Psycho. "Considering that Clifford Olsen tortured and murdered eleven children in this company's home province, it is callous, cold-hearted and grossly irresponsible for Lions Gate to bring the 'bible' of another serial killer, Paul Bernardo, to the big screen," said Dr. Rose Dyson, a Toronto-based media education consultant and Chair of C-CAVE.

Prosecutors in the Paul Bernardo case sought to have American Psycho introduced as evidence, having found the book by his bedside. They were prepared to argue that Bernardo read it as his "bible". The trial judge refused, saying that the book's "vile, perverted" and "sick" contents would have a significant prejudicial effect on the jury (Life imitates 'art' in Bernardo 'bible', Toronto Sun, September 1, 1995).

The American Psycho script was also written by two Canadians, Guinevere Turner and film-maker Mary Harron, daughter of Canadian comedian, Don Harron. "Many Canadians like to blame Americans for movie screens being awash in blood, but this venture proves that some Canadians in the film industry can be even worse than Americans. Nothing good can come from putting American Psycho on the screen. It will only add further pollution to our cultural environment," said Dyson.

In 1992, Dr. Park Elliot Dietz, forensic psychiatrist and consultant to the FBI on serial killers, told the Canadian Psychiatric Association that movies such as Silence of the Lambs provide useful information for potential killers. "They (media) are able to bring to a very large number of persons, a kind of detailed knowledge of how to commit crimes, that in the past would only have been known to those who devote their careers to police work or forensic work of one kind or another. What is entertaining for most is, for others, training." Dietz told the CPA (Media violence may serve as a blueprint, Family Practice, October 19, 1992).

Three years later we learned that serial murderer and rapist Paul Bernardo did indeed pick up an idea from Silence of the Lambs. Fortunately, he was caught before he could put it into practice. Bernardo also took the name "Teale" from another movie about a serial killer, Criminal Law (filmed in Canada), and kept American Psycho by his bedside for handy reference.

"The fact that serial killers read books and watch movies and television for ideas is not a secret! Knowing this, it is tragic that Lions Gate is seeking to disseminate torture and murder techniques on a scale unprecedented in human history, something they have guaranteed by signing Leonardo DiCaprio, described as 'the biggest star in the world' in their own news release," said Dyson. "It guarantees the film an international audience which means that, not only will millions of people see the movie, but millions more will read the book than would have otherwise. That enormous exposure greatly increases the chances of copycat crimes," she said.

Casting a teen idol like DiCaprio as a serial killer also blurs the line between hero and bad-guy in the minds of teenagers. This particular problem with contemporary violent movies was noted by Dr. Alvin Pousaint of Harvard Medical Center's Judge Baker Children's Center, as Americans search, once again, for answers in the latest schoolyard bloodbath (More Victims and Less Sense in Shootings, New York Times, May 22, 1998).

Canadian taxpayers and politicians should be asking whether any of the people and companies involved in this tremendously harmful exercise have ever received, or are now receiving, government funding. Will there be Telefilm money in American Psycho? Or, did these people get to this point with help from the taxpayer? The public has a right to know if we have underwritten this exercise in any way, shape or form.

In fact, David Cronenberg, who rose to fame with the assistance of public funding, tried to produce American Psycho himself, but the project failed when he couldn't get Brad Pitt, another international movie idol, to star. That isn't just Cronenberg biting the hand that fed him; that is biting the hand off, chewing it up and spitting it back at us. "The current funding of the Canadian film and television industry is an egregious example of taxation without representation," said Dr. Dyson. "There are many people incensed that their tax dollars are being used in this manner. Sheila Copps, Minister of Heritage, should hold an inquiry into the misuse of taxpayer funds for film and television productions that create and exacerbate social problems," she concluded.