Why Do We Love Violence In Movies?


The level of violence in movies and its acceptability has been debated for decades. It is no closer to being resolved now than when it first began. There have been countless studies into the effects of movie and TV violence on children. They’ve studied the effects on levels of aggression, IQs, emotional intelligence, socialisation and psychosocial development. Over recent years they’ve also included the effects of violent computer and video games. Results generally indicate that movie violence does lead to increased aggression, bullying, as well as the retardation of emotional intelligence and socialisation. However, it is always cautioned that they cannot entirely rule out other contributory factors such as family circumstances, circumstances at school and family history of mental illness.

In order to try and regulate the age of movie audiences, age restrictions were introduced. Some are rated as strictly no under 15s or no fewer than 18s, while others have a PG rating. PG stands for Parental Guidance and it means that children of a certain age are allowed to see the movie if they are accompanied by an adult. However, these restrictions are very seldom adhered to, as cinema owners are more interested in making a profit than in promoting the welfare of children and usually turn a blind eye to ticket sales. The same goes for places where you can rent dvds or videos. They are very seldom concerned with the age of the person renting the movie so long as the money is paid. This gives children of all ages access to all levels of cinematic violence.

A man much accustomed to the use of violence and gore as a form of  entertainment , pondered the issue of violence in movies and the public’s love with violence in general. In a column that he writes for  Entertainment  Weekly, Stephen King, whose portrayal of violence is often graphic, often gory, but never gratuitous, looks first at his own his own history of violence and then at the obsession that so many other people seem to have.

He has, on two separate occasions, wiped out nearly the entire population of Earth. On one of those occasions most of the survivors became mindless zombies. He’s had a clown prey on children, and he’s turned an entire town into vampires. On one memorable occasion he described a noise as sounding something like blowing gently over a glass bottle filled with dead fingers.

In his article he describes the morality of violent  entertainment  as currently being “no more than a warm-button issue” in America. He believes it’s because it’s not serious enough to demand the attention of politicians but “floats to the surface” of newspaper editorials regularly. “Sort of like a drowning victim that won’t stay on the bottom” is how he puts it. An apt image considering the subject at hand.

He considers both sides of the violence in movies argument. There are the people who are proponents of free speech, who are of the opinion that the world is a violent place and that movies that don’t comment on that fact hide from reality. They are also fond of pointing out that of all the people who see violent films, very few will feel compelled to commit acts of violence and proceed to do so.

On the other side, the NRA and gun fanatics – guns don’t kill people, people kill people – also agree that it’s a violent world. They also point out that most people handle weapons carefully and responsibly and don’t go about the place shooting at people, cars and buildings for fun. Both sides have arguments that are ironically similar.

Of course there are people for whom seeing a violent film at the wrong time will cause some sort of mental implosion. For those in his or her immediate vicinity there is the potential for things to get very exciting. However, for people like this, it need not necessarily be a film that sets them off. It could a news bulletin on the radio; they could be receiving messages from a personal deity via their bedroom curtains. Anything can upset an unstable mind. It could even be the fact that last night’s dishes haven’t been washed.

In Stephen King’s conclusion he has no answers, only the hope that we use violent movies as a mental gutter through which we channel our worst fears and impulses and so cleanse our emotional systems.

It’s not a bad theory, violent movies as a form of catharsis. The child bullies, delinquents and a growing number of child rapists don’t quite conform to it though. It seems that children still need monitoring when watching TV, movies or playing games. When we consider that their very lives are at stake, it seems the least that we can do to protect them. Meanwhile the war against violence continues. One of the latest battles involves posters that include pictures of guns. More importantly the guns are aimed in the general direction of the viewer. Is there anything more frightening that a picture of a movie poster gun? This highlights the importance of picking your battles, and distinguishes the difference between a valid argument and nitpicking.

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Source by Sandy Cosser

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