Violence In Media: Can We Put The Debate To Rest?

By December 29, 2013Blog, Featured

Movies aren’t going anywhere.  Complain all you want about how they romanticize violence, objectify sensuality, and fuel stereotypical inequalities rampant in human culture, but movies are here to stay.


Movies are human and humans are fallible. We are selfish, judgmental, curious, scared, protective and egotistical. Most importantly to movies, we are entertaining. Unless we suddenly abide by a moral code of perfection, movies will continue to embellish our imperfections and we will continue to be entertained by them.

Frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Movies impact culture. You can hate this truth till the cows come home, but it cannot be denied.

Romantic comedies may have lost you the girl back in high school…

Action movies may have fueled backyard squirt gun fights…

Horror movies may have made you think twice about wandering down by the lake to make out under the moonlight…

Point is…all of this is life. Everything we do carries an inherent risk. To solely identify movies as a contributing factor of evil is rubbish. Movies are simply a reflection of the imperfect human condition. More importantly, they provide a format of harmless indulgence to safely explore both the dark and the light.

Let’s break this down by format…

First — FEATURE FILMS. We go to a movie house to sit (safely) in the comfort of a dark room packed with strangers to embellish our senses with fictitious fantasy. We pay for this. We work our jobs for this. We get to know people by “taking them to a movie” and then discussing the contents afterwards. Because we’ve coined this as entertainment we have an expectation to see something we’ve never yet experienced. For 99.9% of us, we’ve never experienced a crazed madman wreaking havoc on a campground in a hockey mask, or invading our dreams with a blade of fingers. This is fantasy, an exaggerated experience built around a universal emotion: fear. Yet, this fear is safe. We know we’re safe because we’re a customer paying for this experience built by (relatively) normal people working to entertain us — like a roller coaster. You’re not going to dive off a twelve-story building into a double- loop — but you’ll pay to get that experience safely at a theme park. Movies trade in thrills, and thrills are intense, heightened exaggerations of emotion.

Second — TELEVISION. Arguments are often made that television is universally accessible and thus must be tailored to the highest standard of ethical safety. I’d argue that a good imagination is far more accessible than any form of visual media, especially television. I remember at age nine being shown Stephen King’s two-part miniseries, It. The first scene of Pennywise in the rain gutter was utterly terrifying. Poor Georgie goes from floating a boat in the rain to an off-screen demise at the hands of a killer clown. You don’t see his death. In fact, the whole probability of how he could have actually died from his “fear” in a rain gutter is relatively improbable. But, it’s friggin’ scary. By the end of the narrative, however, the clown has transformed into a giant spider and the climatic terror has been ruined by a laughable low-budget arachnid. Point is, imagination is far more terrifying. Better that your child watch to the end than forever think a killer clown is going to pull him/her into a rain gutter. There are more than enough sensors and securities to prevent children from seeing violent media, but their curiosity will always win. It’s a parent’s job to control the environment in which they consume that content (to the best of their ability) so they know that they, as the audience, are the good guys.

Third – VIDEO GAMES.Interactivity. Here the consumer takes part in the story by controlling the actions of a digital avatar. You wield the gun, the axe, the bomb. On paper, this all sounds very extreme — I remember my grandmother being disgusted by Nintendo’s Castlevania. If only she were alive today, the 8-bit chaining of ghouls is quite a contrast from the drug smuggling runs of Grand Theft Auto. There is a keyword here that I think we need to focus on: digital. A combination of zeroes and ones. This means that, quite simply, it’s not real. A point we’ve yet to really touch on. Violence in video games is not real. It may depict real events, but the media itself is as fake as a Halloween superstore. The brutality found in any seventh-grade history book is far more real than any hack-and-slash button masher on Playstation. In real life, entire kingdoms were conquered by the sword and the gun. At home, you’re lucky if you can get an hour of gaming in before your wife comes home and tells you she wants to watch Project Runway.

In every instance of media, we must remember that the intention is to entertain. This intention is accomplished because the creators view the consumers as morally upstanding. As mentioned above, the audience is the good guy. We watch knowing right from wrong and can separate our understanding of how actions play out on screen from what we do in our daily lives. However, it should be stated that an inability to understand this separation requires a different level of concern — just like any disability or disorder.

I’d rather live in a world where entertainment serves the 99.9%, than panders to the .01%. Call me crazy in my own right, but that .01% (you know, the ones that kill/rape/steal), will forever be the .01% whether “obscene” media exists or not. We cannot deny that humans do and have done bad things. In my opinion, to deny its existence only raises the level of curiosity tied to it — and that’s where things get dangerous. Truth is, it’s history — unfortunate history — but history, nonetheless. Exploring and exaggerating said history within the safety of a glowing screen is a good thing. Everybody just calm down and enjoy the movie.

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