Turn and draw 

Hollywood's all a-quiver ... about archery

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It's human nature to seek an order to the chaotic world around us. For economists, it might involve studying the rise and fall of stock prices, whereas fashion writers strive to be up on the latest styles. For reporters on the crime beat, it could concern tracking a rash of arsons in one particular neighborhood. For film critics, it spans even further, running the gamut from the return of the 1.33 Academy aspect ratio (Meek's Cutoff, The Artist) to the prevalence of oral sex gags that entail the removal of dentures as a punchline (Yes Man, Soul Men).

The rule of three is a fairly sensible threshold by which to determine the extent of any one trend. When an abundance of a certain something comes along, it's harder to ignore, despite any apparent lack of logic behind the movement. Including last February's focused expansion of 2011's We Need to Talk About Kevin, there have been (or will have been) eight movies somehow involving archery in theaters this year.

We have Kevin's psychotic antagonist picking off teens, much like Katniss Everdeen does in The Hunger Games. Archers proved to be vital in The Avengers, Snow White and the Huntsman and the upcoming Brave, while one young Khaki Scout's deadly aim takes its toll in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. Last but not least, and in the tradition of a great many Skyrim memes, both The Five-Year Engagement and this August's The Campaign feature gags in which a character takes a crossbow to their knee.

So far, the only other similar recurrences to approach that kind of saturation are the use of food trucks in mainstream rom-coms (Engagement, Think Like a Man, What to Expect When You're Expecting) and roles in which Paul Dano plays a struggling writer (Being Flynn, Ruby Sparks). Now, the question remains: What does the sport of archery signify about today's culture, and why has it ingrained itself so prominently within our entertainment?

Fuck if I know, but that hasn't stopped me from coming up with a couple of theories anyway.

1) Simplicity: Our country has just ended a violent, costly, senseless war overseas, so perhaps a more deliberate, less automatic means of arming oneself is preferred to the loud indifference of guns.

2) Practicality: Do bows require background checks or a waiting period? Are arrows cheaper than bullets? Aren't we in a recession? OK, then.

3) Subterfuge: July brings with it the 2012 Summer Olympics, which stands to draw a worldwide audience to the sport. What better reason for the pro-archery lobby to (pun alert!) pull some strings to get a bow-toting hero in the year's two biggest hits and the new Disney/Pixar joint? After all, the idea is to hook 'em while they're young – even my own editor's son has asked for lessons. [Editor's note: It's true. – JS] Yes, the Katniss generation appears to be upon us. Kiss your kneecaps goodbye.

More by William Goss


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