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TV and Violence

calvin and hobbes violence Fictionalized violence. Does it cause violence in the real world? Hardly.  Does watching Comedy Central make one funny?  Of course not.  Does watching The Natural make one a star baseball player?  Don’t be ridiculous.

In my experience, violence is either a learned or innate behavior.  People are either born violent or raised in a violent home.  I was raised in a home with no violence.  I’ve seen hundreds of violent movies.  I’ve played thousands of hours of violent video games.  I’ve read hundreds of books containing violence.  Despite all of that, the last time I was in a fight was in elementary school.  I despise real life violence.  It’s pointless.  It’s barbaric.  It’s animalistic.  I do not find  entertainment in the likes of UFC, MMA, boxing, or hockey as a lot of people seem to.  They love watching violence.  They love watching people beat the crap out of each other.  I honestly get a little nauseous when I see a fight.  I don’t understand how it can ever come to that.  I loathe confrontation.  Sometimes, though, I understand that it’s unavoidable, but it hasn’t been for me for my entire adult life.  To date, anyhow. Calvin and Hobbes. Throughout human history the one constant has been violence.  War.  Murder.  Rape.  If violence on TV is to be blamed for real life violence then what caused violence before there were motion pictures?  What caused entire nations to invade and murder citizens of other nations?  What caused people such as Jack the Ripper to go on killing sprees?  What barbaric programming influenced the likes of Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and Hitler?

We are mammals.  Mammals, by nature, are violent.  While most of us are raised to believe violence is wrong and should be avoided at all costs, others are raised to believe that violence is the very key to solving every dispute.  That might makes right. calvin_killing When I was in high school a friend and I were walking through our neighborhood talking when a fight broke out between a couple of young children.  One boy’s mother came and broke up the fight.  The other boy’s mom was shouting encouragement to her boy from her deck and then threatened to kick the other mom’s ass for breaking up the fight.  I have no doubt that the second boy grew up living a life of violence and no amount of TV can be blamed for that.  You can’t blame that child’s propensity for violence on TV when his mother, of all people, is encouraging him to fight other children.

I’ve talked at length about my first wife on this blog.  She was prone to violence when angry.  What I haven’t really ever talked about is her oldest son, who is very mentally ill.  Psychotic was the last possible diagnosis he received before the state took custody of him….for sexually assaulting his sister.  When he was 11 years old.  I can assure you we never let him watch movies rated over PG.  He  was an extremely violent child, especially when upset.  He lost all control and raged fiercely when upset.  I can guarantee you that is not caused by anything he saw on TV.  We had the police department on speed dial when he lived with us.  We obviously couldn’t do anything to him when he got that way without it being considered child abuse so we had to have the police come and detain him until he calmed down.  Multiple times per month.  No, TV was not an influence there.

So what does violence on TV do?  Just what Calvin says it does in the very first picture at the top of the post.  It glamorizes violence.  It desensitizes us to violence.  Helps us tolerate it.  Makes us less likely to be empathetic to our fellow human beings.  In short, we have gotten used to it and it doesn’t bother us any longer.  It absolutely does not, however, cause violence.  If it did every person who has ever watched violence on TV would become violent and we’d have total anarchy.  Hell, there’d be a riot every time Monday Night Raw came on.  Or NCIS.  Or American Idol (you know, because that show absolutely sucks). Calvin-on-Violent-Television-debate-1160363_600_191 Violent people are going to be violent whether or not they’re sitting in front of a TV watching MacGuyver reruns.   Murderers are still going to commit murder whether or not they’ve played the latest Grand Theft Auto game.  Rapists are still going to rape whether or not….you know…I’ve seen a lot of movies and shows on TV, but I’ve never seen rape on TV or movie.  So TV is definitely off the hook for that.  The bottom line is this:  people are responsible for their own actions.  TV, books, video games, or any other form of violent media does not cause violence.  It may lend ideas to those who already have violent tendencies, but it doesn’t cause those people to become violent.

*This week’s post was written for the Weekly Writing Challenge

*All pictures are © of Bill Watterson and Universal Press Syndicate..

Check out these other great Weekly Writing Challenge Posts

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  5. Ilya Fostiy. A Village | Inside My Glitching Mind
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  7. How violent acts in film can mislead the victim | 22 going on 33
  8. Art imitates life… or Does Life imitate art? | The House of O
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  10. Weekly writing challenge: on ‘ultraviolence’ | Empressnasigoreng’s Blog
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  13. Mind the Gap: Does watching violent movies inspire violence in the real world? | Dianaruth’s Journal
  14. Weekly Writing Challenge: Looney Toons, movies and violence | DCMontreal
  15. How Virtual is Movie Violence ? (Writing Challenge) | Serena Stillwater
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  17. Weekly Writing Challenge: Mind the Gap (Violence in Movies) | Irregular Ventilator
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  21. Weekly Writing Challenge: Mind the Gap or not | baka’s blog
  22. Violence in entertainment- mind the gap | Talyn Marie
  23. A Rant About Violent Movies | melanielynngriffin
  24. Mind the Gap: Does watching violent movies inspire violence in the real world? | S. J. Paige

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Discussion

77 thoughts on “TV and Violence

  1. Essentially I agree. Violence on TV, video games etc does not ’cause’ violence. I do also agree that it has a desensitising effect. What does this mean for every day people? For most of us, not much, but I do think there are those few people who, for whatever reason are naturally inclined to violence, and for those few people it can be a bad thing. But the portrayal of violence is not to blame. These people are violent anyway.
    I’m sorry to hear about your struggles with your step son. I cannot imagine how hard that would be to deal with.

    Like

    Posted by stephrogers | April 23, 2013, 10:42 pm
  2. Yes, the person is definitely accountable for their actions. But someone who leans in that direction might find it a little easier to go over the edge by being inundated by the imagery.
    There’s a reason I don;t listen to Rage Against The Machine in the car when I’m stuck in traffic.

    Like

    Posted by El Guapo | April 23, 2013, 10:46 pm
  3. Good POV on the topic of TV and violence. However, I have to stand up for hockey (although, I too, do not like the gloves off punching)…I find it exhilarating to participate in that contact sport. Where else can I actually knock down a police officer without repercussions? I find it fascinating (at times) to watch people get really angry on the ice – but once they’re off – they leave it behind. Women have a harder time letting go of that temporary anger during the game – but I think it’s because we’re socialized a bit differently – and even that is changing as more females play sports growing up. But anyway – I agree, watching violence doesn’t MAKE you violent; being violent makes you violent.

    Like

    Posted by Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher | April 23, 2013, 10:47 pm
  4. I think you’re right that TV or Video game violence does not cause violence…but I do think it may help the idea along. (as you said at the end) A kid that is going to hurt someone will probably do so regardless, but if they spend time playing a first person shooter game, all that kid is doing is potentially practicing. They aren’t just desensitizing us…they’re making it easier for us to carry it out. Good post.

    Like

    Posted by Brother Jon | April 23, 2013, 10:49 pm
  5. Good post and thanks for the pingback. Also sorry to hear about what you went through with your stepson.

    Like

    Posted by empressnasigoreng | April 23, 2013, 11:06 pm
  6. I enjoyed reading this post. (I’m not a fan of UFC or MMA either, but hockey fights are just silly. It’s like they do it on purpose.) Thanks for the ping back!

    Like

    Posted by S. J. Paige | April 24, 2013, 12:56 am
  7. Excellent post and thank you for the ping back. You make some really important points and clearly have much more knowledge on the topic than most. I really appreciate your honesty, and like the Calvin and Hobbes too!

    Like

    Posted by Amy Logan | April 24, 2013, 4:10 am
  8. Great point of view on a popular subject, especially these days. Your right, these things certainly aren’t the cause. I always believed that we are all capable of violence, making the choice to act on that is the difference. However, I do believe that being introduced to violence, such as in video games at a young age, can certainly give a negative impression that has long lasting effects.

    Like

    Posted by Life With The Top Down | April 24, 2013, 5:44 am
    • It can. It all depends on the person, I think. My kids have obviously seen violence on TV and they are now at the age where they can play some violent video games but they know full well that I don’t tolerate violence and that it is never an acceptable option unless defending one’s self.

      Like

      Posted by twindaddy | April 24, 2013, 6:52 am
  9. I couldn’t agree more. Blaming television/video games is a bullshit way for people to skirt their own agency in the choices they make in their lives. Everyone responds to violence differently. I didn’t “grow up” playing violent video games or watching violent movies, but the Internet gives you access to just about anything. I think it’s also important that people understand there’s a difference between being desensitized to violence and being a violent person. Maybe violence doesn’t affect me in the profound way that it should, but that doesn’t mean I’m more prone to do violent things because of it.

    Like

    Posted by Katie | April 24, 2013, 6:20 am
  10. Precisely. Unfortunately too many violent people are raised in violent homes and taught that violence is acceptable. It doesn’t matter what they watch on TV.

    Like

    Posted by twindaddy | April 24, 2013, 6:55 am
  11. Between growing up with a mother who was prone to abusive rages and my son’s father being physically violent toward me, I did not want to introduce any level of violent movies, games, TV, etc. into my son’s life if I could help it. I was worried about which way his tendencies would go when he dealt with frustration or anger and did not want to give him that as an example.

    His dad (former stepfather) let him play the games at his house every summer and I realized that the kid was OK. Now we do have an xBox and COD here but he isn’t glued to it all the time and is able to leave the game in the game. He still shows empathy and doesn’t get obsessed, unlike a few of his friends (or least my observation of them), doesn’t get into fights and uses his sense of humor to get out of situations. Whether it was nature or nurture, I don’t know. I have just finally figured out that COD or similar games are just a way for him to play online with friends, just like Mario Kart was last year.

    Like

    Posted by sortaginger | April 24, 2013, 9:11 am
  12. I get the desensitizing effect. I had a somewhat opposite experience. When the Things were very little, we only got three four channels, one of which was PBS. So we watched a lot of PBS cartoons. They were didactic and annoying with the sweetness, but at least they were peaceful. Then I happened to be at someone’s house who was playing the old school cartoons – Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes, etc. and I was just WOW. I’d forgotten how freaking violent cartoons could be – it was eye-opening. I’d become used to the peaceful happy clappy of PBS, and suddenly here were explosions, and animals hitting each other with hammers, and blowing each others’ faces off, etc. Not dissing the Looney Tunes (though I always hated Tom and Jerry) but you don’t realize how violent TV, even cartoons, can be until you are away from them for a while. At least these were cartoons and obviously not real. The more realistic you get, the more desensitizing it can be because it seems more real.

    Like

    Posted by aliceatwonderland | April 24, 2013, 10:40 am
  13. TV isn’t making us violent, but I really don’t like that we’re becoming desensitized to it. It’s like that last episode of Seinfeld when they watch as a guy gets robbed, but so much worse. I guess we should just be glad that rape hasn’t made it to television yet.

    Like

    Posted by MissFourEyes | April 24, 2013, 1:55 pm
  14. The fact that your post is bolstered by the wisdom of Calvin and Hobbes naturally makes it the best Stuph of the day. Hands down. Oh, and your points were well-made also :)

    Like

    Posted by AR Neal | April 24, 2013, 2:19 pm
  15. I’ve had some of my most interesting debates to date on this topic. I’ve always loved stylized violence, I clap like a little kid during ridiculously violent movies (anything Tarantino, Ninja Assassin) and I love hockey (with or without the fights, truly) and MMA. On the other hand, I’ve never been in a fight for myself though I’ve gotten in a few standing up for other people. I’m a member of the ASPCA, donate money to save Tibet, and study the tenets of Buddhism and yoga. Real life violence can make me sick to my stomach, though; I can’t watch the end of an MMA match if it’s just one dude clonking the other in the face over and over again before it gets called. Part of my life was spent with rough and rumble cousins beating the crap out of each other all in good fun and part with an abusive parent. I think it split my sensibilities down the middle. This is the longest comment I’ve ever made, ha, sorry for the ramble…

    Like

    Posted by stankmeaner | April 24, 2013, 7:43 pm
  16. Violence for entertainment goes back to pre-historic times. It’s just that now with the advent of the internet, people who are violent are able to share or find more extreme ideas for carrying out their violent tendencies, and yes, the desensitising nature of constantly seeing violence on TV does mean that to shock people it has to become more extreme.

    The only way to get rid of violence would be to round up everyone with violent tendencies and send them to colonise another planet or the moon, but I’m still not sure how effective that method would be because I’m sure folks would slip through the gaps.

    Like

    Posted by faithhopechocolate | May 3, 2013, 3:28 pm

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