Addressing the Harmful Effects of Violence in Popular Entertainment

We’ve all heard the popular debate over the harmful effects of violence in television, movies, and games in America. The conclusions are supposedly disputable in that there is evidence from both sides. But somehow this argument has been skewed, twisted around. This debate has been focused on whether it causes actual violence in society. Of course, violence is illegal. The real damage is being done to our nation’s soul and to the hearts and minds of the people. This garbage corrupts the mind and creates anger, bitterness, and hatred in people; it basically makes them jerks, which explains a lot. Why were people so much kinder sixty years ago? Think about it. The Golden Age of America was a time of peace and prosperity where people were more polite and civilized. Though, perhaps it’s the chicken and the egg syndrome. It needn’t be said that our culture is already excessively violent, especially when compared to the other industrialized nations. We need to examine the long-term effects of viewing violence over a lifetime, but of course, in a modern lifetime, one can witness the entire birth, growth, and evolution of this new visual art form.

Let us more deeply consider the negative psychological effects of repeatedly viewing acts of violence. Americans like to they link they live in the greatest country in the world. But in terms of the morality of our culture in respect to violence in movies, television, and games, we are dead last. We are also the creators of anti-social music-hard core rock and gangsta rap. So that makes four categories. In more humanistic countries like say France or Venezuela, this debate would be a no-brainer; of course it’s harmful to the soul. Perhaps the conservative majority has so overwhelmed this debate, that basic intuitive common sense has been opposed with a sort of twisted logic.

Our freedom of speech rights are rather impressive even compared to more progressive countries, so these products are not censored. Also, sex often gets lumped in with violence, which is ironic, since they are basically polar opposites; love versus hate. Members of the Religious Right make an issue of this and see them has synonymous extremes of sinful living, while progressives like myself are generally opposed to anything that promotes violence. I believe the solution to this problem is education and research about the harmful psychological effects of violence as portrayed in movies, games, and television.

The implications of this epidemic are staggering. American culture has been growing darker and grows darker still. Movies are more violent, the violence is more brutal and grotesque, and violent movies are more numerous. Also, consider that TV and movie violence is often unrealistic. How many times have we witnessed brutal fist fights where the opponents come out without a scratch? People’s lack of empathy for each other is another contributing factor or perhaps a result or both. We have growing wealth inequality, and it is evident that people are not as nice, polite, or kind as they were back in the fifties. While we had some violence in the classic cinema of the forties and fifties, it was much more benign back then – a simple, occasional smack to the face or a gun shot with no blood or “cool” sound effects.

Violence is very common in video games these days and is much more realistic compared the ancient relics like Space Invaders. In the case of games, we have a participant who is actually committing the pseudo-acts of violence. This adds another psychological dimension to the problem. The violent acts become more ingrained in the psyche.

One might imagine a horrific future with game shows of real people being tortured or killed for the delight of millions of sick-minded citizens. Take a poll of how many Americans would like to see this, and I think you’d be shocked at the numbers. One can only hope for an end to this Dark Age, perhaps an intervention from other countries or a renewed period of enlightenment. Today, we must face the tough challenge of confronting our peers, especially men, and pointing out the obvious immorality and harmfulness of this excessive violence in our culture.

In a side note, Americans watch on average four to five hours of television per day, and much of TV is mind-numbing. I find this incredulous; where to people get that much time? I believe they are sacrificing important, healthy life habits like sleep and exercise. Yes, there are some educational programs on the boob tube, like the History and Science Channels, but even those programs are filled with stupid, obnoxious commercials, and you can learn the material five times faster if you actually read about the subject in a book, not to mention you can filter out what you don’t want. That being said, at looking at the current popular writers and contemporary fiction, I was shocked to find that so many of the books were about horror, violence, or science fiction, so this is something that really permeates our entire culture. Since censorship is off the table, maybe we should just shame people for having bad taste.

Psychologists have well documented the negative effects of violence in popular media, but despite being educated in this now mature social science, many Americans are surprisingly ignorant or unwise about this subject. Research exists that it can contribute to aggressive behavior. You should be careful what you feed your mind or body; don’t just indulge in whatever feels good at the moment. This sadistic material is a “dark pleasure”, meaning that it appeals to the darker side of the mind, invoking negative emotions. Culture should generally be uplifting and is best when it makes you feel happy, not angry or hostile; at the very least it should reflect positive humanistic values like peace, love, and compassion. While we have many songs and movies that are “sad”, at least they invoke feelings of compassion and empathy. Still, if you listen to depressing music all the time, you will likely become more depressed. Common sense dictates that whatever you think about most of the time or expose yourself to will become a part of your personality. Violence is clearly an immoral act, so enjoying viewing it is in a sense immoral in and of itself. My advice is to be mindful of what you feed your mind.