Can We Talk?

Some may say “So what if we become more tolerant to violence?”. The question is why would we want to become tolerant of something that fuels hate and wars? Isn’t the point of the United Nations to keep peace? Aren’t the wars supposedly fought for peace? To be so close aggression and violence at the domestic level makes it seem pointless to try and fix things in other countries. If we cannot get rid of the violent tendencies we have in our children and in ourselves then who are we to preach about world peace? The solution starts with parents putting limits on what tv kids can watch. If the 80s, 90s, 2000s generation of kids are going to be more tolerant of aggression, gore and violence not only in tv but in real life then we should at least try to change how the future generations will think. Hollywood can also try to tone it down. This desensitization will not help us reach that goal. It will actually be an obstacle that will keep getting bigger.

There is a fascination with serial killers and there are countless movies devoted to their upbringings and life stories. Some even go far enough as to mail them letters in jail. We all have an interest with why someone would want to do the crimes that the killers commit and we often want to see the outcome of their acts of killing so many people. It is obvious that no living person knows what comes after death and we constantly are questioning our own mortality. This is why there are so many gawkers at car accident sites. Everyone wants to see what happened to the person and how much damage there is. Watching tv and movies is a way for us to see different situations and outcomes of risky behavior all from the safety of our living rooms. The risks that we would not personally take, the actors take for us. This fascination of death is one of the reasons why violence portrayed in movies, books and comics keeps going up.

The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children

The Catharsis Theory introduces the idea that maybe it is good for kids to see aggression in the form of video games and that it actually causes the child to have reduced urges to act aggressively in real life. Case in point would be the hypothetical situation of a child being mad at his parents for making him eat vegetables when he doesn’t want to. The child would get so mad and come almost close to hitting his younger siblings but instead he plays his favorite video game. He subconsciously imagines the bad guys in the video game are his mom and dad and gets out his aggression this way. That same boy could also watch his favorite cartoon such as Dragon Ball Z and to see the villains getting a thrashing from the heroes of the show and all his anger goes away. This theory claims that we should intentionally seek out violent forms of media to get out the aggression of our own lives but it seems almost farfetched that kids are subconsciously putting the face of their parents or whoever aggravates them onto who they are fighting in a videogame. Studies have been done that repeatedly show that exposure to aggression and violence on TV can make the viewer more aggressive themselves. The Catharsis theory isn’t a good supporting argument in the debate over whether we should lessen censorship over strong subject matter at all. There is much more evidence for the other side that says we should put limits on what can be shown in different forms of the media.

Desensitization to a certain degree is nescessary for a human to survive. however, in the modern world, so much violence is portrayed in the media that the United States public is becoming overly desensitized. The negative consequences of the U.S. become too desensitized, is that the public will become more likely to accept a violent society, commit violent actions, and lose their grip on the value of human life.

The Cause of Escalating Violence in Movies.

Has the continuing tolerance of worse violence been caused by our fascination with gore/violence? Once we see one particularly gory scene, we want more and more. Hollywood and the media just keeps trying to meet the demands. This is why each new movie tries to surpass the last movie. The last movie may have made it seem like Hollywood couldn’t do much in the case of making anything more shocking but to we as an audience get bored with the violence and gore. Hollywood is just trying to make more money and the consumers(the American people) are attracted by the goriest and most disturbing scenes. The movie companies wouldn’t make more movies like Saw or Hostel if we weren’t sitting in those movies seats at midnight premieres every time a new one comes out. It’s true for all things in America, a product only lasts if consumers are buying it. The future of movies doesn’t look bright. If movies are already as bad enough to show a girl getting her eyeball torn out(Hostel) then to get to the next level would be insane. However, it is bound to happen if we keep putting money in the film makers’ pockets as a sign of approval for the horrific movies they make.

Targeting young boys as the demographic for violent media isn’t a new thing either. Since the 1980’s, comic books have depicted gruesome fighting scenes and deaths. Their target readers are adolescent and young boys. The male gender is known to be more violent than females because of higher testosterone levels in the male’s body. Are these comics supposed to make boys tougher or do the comic book writers think that the violence and gore will make attract more of their target demographic?

The video game companies keep releasing more violent games than the last ones they released. For example, a game called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The gamer takes on the role of either an Army Ranger, SAS commandos and CIA agents. It actually takes them through battles in Afghanistan, Russia and Washington. The games opening scene is in Afghanistan where an Army Ranger has taken an Afghan city from an army of militants. Games like are severely changing our attitudes on war, death and even how we see the people we are currently at war with. A while back, President Barack Obama announced that he was sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. It is obvious the target demography is young boys and males in our country. Their opinions will most likely be affected by playing such games and make them more likely to vote for more war if they think that that War is no big deal. They do not understand that there is a great difference between getting blown up in a video game and getting blown up in real life.

Dr. David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, a Minneapolis-based non-profit, argues that the pervasiveness of violence in media has led to a “culture of disrespect” in which children get the message that it’s acceptable to treat one another rudely and even aggressively. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that because a kid plays a violent video game they’re immediately going to go out and beat somebody up,” Walsh says. “The real impact is in shaping norms, shaping attitude. As those gradually shift, the differences start to show up in behavior.”

A study was done of Japanese and American students and it showed a link between aggression in children after playing video games. The biggest finding was that “kids in both the U.S. and Japan who reported playing lots of violent video games had more aggressive behavior months later than their peers who did not, according to the study”(source).

Crimes shows are not the only television programs that promote violence. UFC and WWE has been around for a few decades. UFC for Ultimate Fighting Champion ship is the more the extreme of both leagues because it is basically boxing without gloves. One of the fighters can be bleeding all over but the fight does not stop until they are “knocked out”. WWE or World Wrestling Entertainment is pretty much the same except there are more storylines involved. It is more like wrestling than mixed martial arts. One could say that both UFC and WWE are like our modern day gladiators in the Rome Coliseum expect nobody should be killed. In 2008 the WWE company made 125.4 Million in revenues. This senseless fighting and the sport of watching it is alive and well today and continues to bring in more viewers every year. I have been to restaurants on Saturday evenings where there are actually UFC fight nights. People come to watch the fights on the restaurant’s TV’s. This all goes back to how people like to see others getting hurt. If it is not the viewer in the ring fighting then it’s fine to see another person get beat up until they cannot move.

Extreme violence is not just in Hollywood’s movies, it is also in its television programs. In the last decade or so, the amount of crime shows on the air has risen substantially. We have CSI, CSI Miami, Law and Order, Law and Order SVU, and many others. Law and Order SVU is the prime example of strong subject matter on TV. The show goes through the worst sexual and violent crimes of New York and every episode is a different crime and the crime unit tries to find and punish the person who committed the crime. Many times the perpetrator of the crime gets shot because he or she tried to point a gun at or in front of the police. The main idea is the idea of revenge and even I can admit I feel a certain satisfaction when I see the rapist get shot because of his own stupidity. The writers of the show know this and this is why they keep creating the same storylines. This promotes the idea of “an eye for an eye” and could show adults who watch the show that revenge when justified is acceptable. This makes an adult who watches Law And Order is more likely to carry out in violence in his or her own life.

Hollywood is always putting out horror movies at all times of the year. The fact that there is an entire genre of movies devoted to gore, violence and fear is a glaring sign of where we are in the cinema timeline and where we will be. In movies like Dawn of the Dead, the viewer is hit with two hours of nonstop zombies eating humans, humans killing zombies, blood, guts, machine guns and just overall violent scenes. If one has never seen a horror movie then they would be extremely shocked after walking out of the movie theater or turning off the DVD. Someone who has seen other horror movies before multiple times is more likely to become desensitized with each viewing. The systematic desensitization that psychologists do on purpose to their patients is done unintentionally all just by watching a movie. It is ridiculously easy for our culture to get used to seeing strong subject matter when it is put so easily in our movie theaters.

Violence like in this scene of The Departed with Leonardo Dicaprio and Matt Damon is common place in movies in this day and age. Many people even “ahhh” or “oooh” at scenes like this and call them “awesome.” When we are constantly fed day in and day out gore and utter lack of remorse for killing another human being, it is easy to see how we have become so tolerant of it.

So, it may be a natural tendency in us to be interested in devastation and death. The time of the 1950s of extreme conservatism and wholesome televisions shows such as Leave It To Beaver could have been an attempt to suppress what is one of our most natural characteristics. The trend of more violence in the media in the 80s, 90s and new millennium may be a way for us to get back to the same level of violence that was common when gladiators fought and when lynchings were an everyday occurrence. If we embrace our natural tendencies of being violent creatures then we can literally take the first step of going into the dark ages. Ruthless killing with no guilt would be the ultimate consequence of tolerance of extreme violence. It is better if we suppress violent behaviors and make them taboos to stop ourselves from becoming like animals.

From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were black. The blacks lynched accounted for 72.7% of the people lynched. These numbers seem large, but it is known that not all of the lynchings were ever recorded. Out of the 4,743 people lynched only 1,297 white people were lynched. That is only 27.3%. Many of the whites lynched were lynched for helping the black or being anti lynching and even for domestic crimes.

As recent as 1968, lynchings of African Americans in the south took place. The whole town would show up to come watch the person either be hung, burned alive or beaten. After the person had been killed, pictures were usually taken of the corpse and were made into postcards to be sent to relatives and friends.

One might think that our fascination with violence is a new trend in our society due to only the recent portrayals of strong subject matter in the media. However, humans have always enjoyed seeing blood, gore, and others engage in violence and killing. From 70AD, gladiators would compete in battles to the death in the Roman Coliseum in Italy. 50,000 spectators would come to see the gladiators beat each other to a bloody pulp and an estimated 500,000 people were killed in the battles over time.

One might think that our fascination with violence is a new trend in our society due to only the recent portrayals of strong subject matter in the media. However, humans have always enjoyed seeing blood, gore, and others engage in violence and killing. From 70AD, gladiators would compete in battles to the death in the Roman Coliseum in Italy. 50,000 spectators would come to see the gladiators beat each other to a bloody pulp and an estimated 500,000 people were killed in the battles over time.

To desensitize is “to make emotionally insensitive or unresponsive, as by long exposure or repeated shocks”. In psychology, desensitization is used for patients to get rid of extreme phobias such as elevators or heights. The psychologist exposes the patient to the thing that they are scared of in small steps to help them eventually get used to it and not be afraid. This technique is for extreme phobias that get in the way of living daily life. Violence isn’t something we need to “get over”. We should always be reluctant to engage in violence and building up a tolerance to see it only leads to more violence. If we were not afraid of it we would be more likely to get involved in risky behavior. This risky behavior would include getting into brawls, horsing around with weapons and the such. Natural phobias are what keep us alive and to desensitize ourselves of all of them would not be an adaptive advantage. Intentional desensitization should be left only for extreme phobias. The phobias that are common in all of humans should be left alone. in To think that we can face anything wouldn’t work for our natural fitness for survival. To lose the fear of violence or gore would ultimately lead to death.

Violence, gore and death are inevitable parts of life. There is the opinion that we should try to get away from these tragic parts of ourselves and our lives and then there is the opinion that we should embrace these parts and not shy away from them. In most of our society today, we have taken the latter view. This is apparent through different media portrayals of violence and other strong subject matter. Horror movies are as popular as ever. Remakes of successful movies are being made everyday such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, Saw, Chucky and Prom Night. These movies do not hide anything and their intention is to terrify the viewer of the movie. This is a drastic change from the horror movies of the 1930s such as Frankenstein and Dracula. In Frankenstein, the movie had to be severely censored and many shots were cut out before the movie was released to the public. A close up of a needle injection and Frankenstein’s assistant waving a torch at the monster were one of the many that were seen as too intense for the American viewing audience. Nowadays, gore and strong subject matter in movies, TV, books and other media is so common place that our tolerance has gone up to where we can watch someone being stabbed, shot at, or tortured without even flinching. We have been desensitized to the point where it takes new and different tactics from directors to shock us at all. The United States as a whole has been desensitized to gore, violence, strong subject matter through television, movies, video games and other media and our tolerance for it all just keeps going up.

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