Do Now #58: The Effects of Violence in Media

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Do Now

Is there a link between aggressive behavior and the portrayal of violence in the media? Do movies and/or video games make us violent? Does video game violence affect us differently than movie violence? Please respond to any of these questions.


Mick LaSalle, the film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, seems to think so. In his article Violent Media Poisoning Nation's Soul, he argues, “The interaction between real-life and movies is complicated. Some will claim that movies influence behavior, even as producers will invariably insist that movies only reflect society, as though movies were some unobtrusive aspect of culture, unnoticed by the world. The truth is that movies and society influence each other in ways that overlap and are therefore arguable. But clearly something seems to be going on, and something is in need of changing.”

He acknowledges that there may not be an immediate causal connection, but in this piece describes his "epiphany" after the killer in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado dressed as a Batman villain gunned down people in the “The Dark Knight Rises” audience last year. The film didn’t cause the killing. But there must be a connection. Dark movies that glorify carnage associate these images with pleasure in the minds of theater-going audiences. Gratuitous slaughter becomes cool.

“… it did seem to me that the soul-crushing chaos of the film - ultimately reflected in what happened in Aurora.” LaSalle, 1/2/13


Many entertainment writers disagree. Christopher Ferguson at Time maintains that it is irrelevant that James Holmes chose this screening as the venue for his killing spree. Batman had nothing to do with it. He argues in a Time Magazine story Don't Blame Batman for the Aurora Shooting “The wishful thinking underlying this impulse is that if we could get rid of those cultural influences, mass homicides would go away……"

CinemaBlend's Katey Rich agrees. In her post entitled Don't Let Anyone Blame The Dark Knight Rises For The Colorado Tragedy, she quotes Anthony Lane The New Yorker, "no film makes you kill". “That goes double for what happened in Aurora. Leave the art out of it, and focus on the ways to actually prevent something like this from happening ever again.


Watch What Next: Violence in the Media on PBS. See more from After Newtown.

PBS video What Next: Violence in the Media - Dec. 12, 2012
Is there a consensus about violent media and violent behavior? How should parents respond to what their children see? An in-depth analysis on the culture of violence in the media.

To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with@KQEDedspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to tweet their personal opinions as well as support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people's ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can…and any contribution is most welcomed.

More Resources

KQED News Fix post San Francisco Film Critic Mick LaSalle on His Call For Less Violence in Films
It’s a rare moment when a San Francisco Chronicle Columnist finds common ground with the executive director of the National Rifle Association. That happened this month when Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle put out a call to stanch the flow of cinema carnage. Wayne LaPierre of the NRA made a similar appeal just weeks before. Both were responding to the Dec. 14 massacre of school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.