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Movies and Violence

Violence 3
Violence 3 (Photo credit: joeszilvagyi)

Does watching violent movies inspire violence in the real world?

The problem with this issue is that it is, like so many social issues, more complex than can be encompassed by a simple statement.

For example, those who argue that violence in films and on tv presents a direct causal link with violence on the streets and between communities must seek to explain what the causes of such violence were before the advent of film and TV, or they must somehow show that those times were less violent than our own.

And what to we mean by violence? “Tom and Jerry” is violent, “Star Wars” contains scenes of violence, as does “Lord of the Rings”, Harry Potter and “The Passion of the Christ.” Are these examples to be considered in the same light as the more avowedly violent films, from “A Clockwork Orange” onwards.

I pray for a world which is free of violence and I would suggest that in such a world there would be no violence shown in films or on tv. Film producers and directors are aware, however, that it is such features which sell the films to many members of the public. In that sense they are merely responding to market demand. They might also argue with some justification that to expunge all violence from their productions would severly limit their ability for their art to imitate life fully.

In addition, I might genuinely believe that I am not drawn to violent films and yet I love to watch a James Bond movie. (I might also add that this has never given me the urge to saw someone in half with a laser or steal an atomic bomb to hold the West to ransom!).

On the other hand, it is perfectly reasonable to claim that gratuitous violence in movies will influence those of a vulnerable state of mind. Just as children act out on the playground what they have seen on TV, so there will always be those adults who get their inspiration from the graphic presentation of violence on TV. However I would suggest that in such cases the movie or tv show is the “trigger” rather than the cause.

Further, in our age of instant global-reach tv news we are witnesses to violent events around our world on an almost daily basis. It may be that we need to see some of the real consequences of violence on our TV for us to grow up as individuals, communities and societies.

Ultimately, the, the context of the violence being depicted is as important as the detail of the violence shown. Violence is a tragic fact of life and to pretend that it doesn’t occur is both infantile escapism and dishonouring to those who risk their lives to protect us. To celebrate an act of violence of one person or group against another is, though, a different matter altogether.

So I would argue that for a small minority of vulnerable people violence in movies may well trigger some real-life event. For many, it is mere entertainment or it reflects a particular story or historical truth. Gratuitous violence is abhorrent, distasteful and potentially harmful to young minds – and therefore they need to be protected from it.

This is not an argument in favour of violence in films or on tv, (far from it) but a reflection on the impact such depictions have on our society.

Nigel Carter

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