Before last week, if you'd told us that controversy lurked within Step Up Revolution -- the fourth installment in the formulaic Step Up franchise in which teenage dancers discover themselves and find love through the magic of dance -- we'd have just shrugged and assumed some right wing group had boycotted the film because its romantic leads weren't leaving any room for the Baby Jesus between them during their dance numbers.
But that was before the tragic movie theater shooting at a showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. The event has many reexamining their stances on gun laws, violent images in film, and even security in public gathering places like movie theaters. And in light of the shooting, some say that a scene in the otherwise innocuous Step Up sequel should have been removed out of sensitivity for those affected in the Denver area.
The plot of Step Up Revolution follows a group of dancers who stage flash mobs around the city of Miami. In the questionable scene, the mob infiltrates a ritzy gala event held on the upper level of the parking garage at 1111 Lincoln Road. Dancers storm onto the scene wearing gas masks and protective vests, creating diversions by setting off canisters of smoke.
Aurora shooter James Holmes dressed similarly, and also used smoke canisters during his attack last week. Deadline.com reports that the scene was "the talk of the media's conversations on Twitter" after press screenings earlier this week. But after a discussion, distributor Summit Entertainment decided to leave the film unedited. Advertisements using video or images from the scene have been altered.
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We watched the film with the rest of the media earlier this week, and have to admit that the scene could be triggering for those who experienced the shootings in Aurora. But we imagine most things on TV and in films are potential triggers when you've lived through something so awful. Though the scene in question contains body vests and gas canisters, no guns are portrayed. (There is dance choreography that suggests shooting.) Nobody in the film suffers physical harm during the scene. The mob is subdued, some members are arrested, and the dance crew suffers other punishment as a result of its actions. The message is about as un-subtle as the rest of the film: Doing this is a bad idea. Don't.
That's not to say having a discussion about violent imagery in media and its effects on society isn't a valuable thing to do. It's just to say that Step Up Revolution is probably not the best place to start.