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Weekly Writing Challenge April 22nd: Hollywood Violence Begets Real World Violence?

For this week’s writing challenge exploring whether or not violence on television or film contribute to violence in the real world. 

Violence and movies_

White bursts flashed across the screen illuminating his face, his eyes set, drawn into the scene before him. Sharp repeated blasts reverberated throughout the room from hidden, surround sound speakers engulfing him in the fire fight, bringing full to life the screams, overdosed in blood splatter.

An all out battle, the unlikely hero, a drug dealer and his girl fighting their way through a battalion of drug lord minions and undercover police. Chaos drained to silence, save random muffled moans. The hero gulping for breath, a polished metal semi-automatic still in hand, he ventured a glance over the leather – apparently bulletproof – sectional. A hotel suite in shambles, the haze of smoke lingering. He rose slowly and reached for his girlfriend, nodding that all’s clear. With anxious steps they move through the catastrophic scene, glass crushed under foot. His girl leaning into him, they discover the lone survivor. The man in a torn and bloodied Hawaiian shirt struggles through coffee table shards and deep red, stained glass to reach his gun, a badge hanging on a simple chain around his neck. A foot presses upon his wrist. His eyes meet the dealer’s, the girl smirks down at him. He levels the gun at the officer, “No one tells us how to live,” he says before one last gun blast ends the movie.

The screen turns to scrolling credits. He falls back into the overstuffed sofa picturing himself with the girl, with the gun in hand, maybe two blazing in each hand fighting against anyone whose ever tried to control him, to tell him what to do. His parents always force him to what they want him to be. His teachers at school demanded things from him. “Speak up, please.”, “Do you know the answer to this?”, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you when you mumble.” The other kids at school, their looks, their muffled laughs in class and in the halls when he passed. They’re not better than me.

He pushes himself from the couch, out of the living room into office his fists clenched at his side. To the gun cabinet, remnants left from the divorce waiting for father to move them out. The key, the key in the top desk drawer under last year’s day planner. His mother out for the evening, prodded by her friends needing a night out. He’s old enough to be left alone. The glass doors open, he pickes through his father’s collection.

The next morning, a slight breakfast – honeyed toast and orange juice – sits questionably in his stomach. Despite the a crisp breeze on his walk to school his brow sweats. He shrugs his shoulders against his pack aware of the extra weights inside.

Afterwards, the media, the police, the neighbors, his parents will wonder, “Was it the movies he watched that drove him to commit such an act?” Initial reactions will say it was. They will cite the DVD left in the player from the night before found by the police. Too often a scapegoat is needed, a silver bullet, that one thing that triggered the insanity. There has to be something to blame, that can then be fixed, or be fixated upon.

It’s the violence on television, movies and video games today.

It must be,

because what else could make a good kid like him loose control.

He had a happy home life,

parents that cared and,

gave him so much of what he wanted.

What else could it possibly be?

But are the reasons ever so simply, so plain, so cut and dry? Rarely. While the hypothetical killer here is depicted committing an apparent mass shooting the reasons associated with violent acts, gun related killings specifically – excluding gang violence – , tend to be the end result of long term stressors build up over time until a trigger incident occurs. According to Minnesota Department of Corrections criminologist and author of a history of mass murder in America, Grant Duwe, there are several characteristics;

  • The killer blames others for their problems

  • There is a higher likelihood they suffer from a mental illness compared to others who commit homicide.

  • The killer has few friends, often times a loner.

  • Their acts are planned out well ahead of time.

  • They are more likely to be suicidal because there is a feeling that life is not worth living any longer.

Looking back at the hypothetical killer here, there were initial, reflexive leaps to blame violence on television, in movies and video games. This has been seen before after other shootings. Blame was cast upon these after the Columbine school shootings, the violence at Virginia Tech and most recently after the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary. However, if a closer assessment is taken from the fictional account above it appeared the young man did not have many friends, he had difficulties at school, both with teachers and classmates. There was a particular amount of blame for his station in life placed upon those people. He blamed his parents and teachers for trying to control him.

While the movie may have provided an attractive visual for what he felt he wanted his life to be there were many other factors influencing his perspective of the world. Was there a trigger? Was it the movie he was watching before he gathered the guns from the cabinet? Or was it the very recent divorce his parents experienced, so recent that many of his father’s belongings still remained in the house. A mental illness may have also played a hand, in that he perceived a violent act as an acceptable reaction to his perceived problems.

The desire is strong to seek out that one particular reason for the violence that feels all too frequent in today’s society. It’s the easy solution, the quick fix but all too often the problems are far more complicated than many want to deal with. And the road to addressing the actual reasons is a long and winding one.

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4 thoughts on “Weekly Writing Challenge April 22nd: Hollywood Violence Begets Real World Violence?

  1. It is easy to try to put it in a neat little package and sell an answer as to why violence happens – all the talking heads make lots of money doing it – but the real truth is that violence is natural, it is something we have to learn to express without hurting anyone – I used to count to ten when the kids were little to get my temper from bubbling up and it was difficult, and I am a peaceful and gentle person. So…I guess it comes down to a combination of things – as you say, violence has been around forever, but the difference is that we see it 24/7 – if we want to…if we let ourselves …we can chose to do other things like write poetry or walk in the woods with our kids or make a great lasagna to share with the ones we love while we crack jokes about politics and religion – knowing in the end it is love and respect for others, even if you don’t agree with them, which in a way inoculates us from violence – and the hope that we can make a difference – even if it is just in our own hearts – and even better our children’s hearts.

    Posted by bonniejtoomey2013 | April 25, 2013, 2:48 pm
  2. I teach history to high school students. We cover the French Revolution, WW1, WW2, genocide, crimes against humanity. The students always express surprise at horrific violence committed human to human. Yet, many of them turn to violent movies and games for entertainment. It’s a very complex issue. Thanks for your insight.

    Posted by bee60 | April 28, 2013, 8:24 pm
    • That is a contradiction that makes you question people’s reasoning. Could it be that they are compartmentalizing those things? We are stunned by real instances of violence but we also know video games and movies are not real. So we/they separate the two, disconnect them from each other.

      Posted by BTCarter | April 29, 2013, 10:55 am

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