And why it needs to end
By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor
There’s been a resurgence of the debate on violence in the media since two very horrific events that occurred in the latter half of last year. The first, and more appropriately applied, was the Aurora, Colorado shooting—better known as The Dark Knight Rises shooting—that took place on July 20. The second was the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that happened on December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut. While a progressive argument about gun laws in the US has risen, another debate that comes up far too often is whether there is too much violence in the media.
One classic example is that news programs and, worse, sensationalist magazine shows like Entertainment Tonight focus far too much on violent subjects. While this is to some extent true, it honestly depends on how much they’re beating a subject into the ground. Let’s not forget the Casey Anthony trial, which was the main focus of a number of news stations for almost four years. That’s a ridiculous amount of time to spend on such a topic, especially since most missing people reports usually get gradually declining attention. With all of that said, the focus of news stories hasn’t been taking nearly as much flack now that certain other forms of media are easier to attack.
An incredibly annoying example that always pops up, and has popped up since the first shooter games were born, is the amount of violence in video games. Whether you’re crushing on Goombas or ramming a bullet between some unfortunate jarhead’s eyes, there’s going to be some level of violence going on if the game calls for it. But even though graphics of more big name games are getting far more realistic, it doesn’t change the fact that these games don’t actually drive anyone to do something horrible.
The same goes for violent television, news and the like put aside. When I was a kid, I definitely watched a number of shows I shouldn’t have, one of the better examples being the HBO series Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, based on the comics. I will say that shows like that certainly had a hand in developing the foul mouth my friends and family have become accustomed to, but beyond that I can’t say I’ve ever had any violent tendencies. Even though more shows have taken darker risks, like Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire, it still doesn’t change the fact that these are the things that set people off.
Going back to the Aurora shooting, the event caused those behind the film Gangster Squad to announce that they were going to reshoot a large chunk of the film based on the fact that there was a scene where a movie theatre audience was massacred by the titular gangster squad. I don’t know how realistic that excuse is now, since the late release of Gangster Squad has revealed that even without the now mysterious theatre-shooting scene, the film is insatiably violent and extremely gory. And in the end, while I’m sure it’s been touched on, I can’t recall hearing any major news outlets questioning the fact.
Part of what makes the argument surrounding violence in the media so annoying is that there never seems to be any clear direction on it. Most should recall back after the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, Marilyn Manson suddenly became a target in the press. This constant lack of direction is largely based on the fact that there always needs to be someone or something to blame.
While I’m happy to say society is progressing a great deal in blaming such forms of media less than they used to, there will still be the unfortunate case of misunderstanding. A brief but recent example was when the community of Southington, Connecticut (several miles outside of Newtown) insisted on local families to present their household video games in what would have been a group destruction of the discs. While it has since been called off, the fact that a town nearly came together for a small picture solution to a bigger problem does show that we’ve still got more work to do.
Not every show, film, or video game that offers violence has to be horrifically gruesome, but that said, the more curious side of society does take enjoyment out of watching things strictly in fiction go a bit far. We’re a lot more desensitized now, but it should say more when the same people who can’t wait to watch the next bone-melting episode of Breaking Bad or pick up the next Call of Duty can all agree that when a horrible event has occurred, something needs to be done—it just needs to be done to the proper issue at hand.