Saturday, August 2, 2008

Violence Creates Media

People get the relationship between violence and media completely backward. Media doesn't create violence - violence creates media.

Research shows that, at least for a short period of time, people leaving a violent movie tend to be more aggressive. Of course they are - that's why the movie was created and why they went to it. People watch violent media because they are afraid of real violence and want to prepare themselves so they can handle it if they ever need to. They don't want to be the people screaming and running around foolishly - they want to be the people who do the right thing and survive.

Media didn't create the war in Iraq. Media didn't create the fear instilled in young men and their families who fear they will have to travel overseas and confront real violence. Young men go to violent and scary movies because they are afraid and they don't want to freeze up so they try to play out what they might do in the safety of a movie theater.

A certain sector of our population wants young men prepared to be good soldiers when called upon so they come back home alive. Young men go to violent movies to help prepare themselves for what they might need to do to stay alive. One thing we want right now is people who can stand up to sociopaths and psychopaths. So, in Street Kings, Keanu Reeves (above center) plays a "good" cop who isn't afraid to "do the right thing" when the law or any other means won't work. He plays a "good" sociopath who is sent to eliminate a "bad" sociopath. The message of the movie is that we need sociopaths to do what others are afraid to do - like travel over seas to kill people.

Jodie Foster plays a woman who becomes a vigilante in "The Brave One" (above left). We desperately need to hear stories about "good" people who can "do the right thing" when the situation demands it. Young men and women feel they need to be "brave ones" and seeing films like this helps them cope with their fears and play out in their minds how they would handle violent situations.

At this particular point in history, we were ready for a particular portrayal of the Joker in "The Dark Night" (above right) who is a sociopath - not driven by anything we understand like greed or vengeance. Hmm, let me think, why are we afraid of violent acts by people we don't understand? Why do movies deliver what we need to try to figure out what to do? Media is written and produced so that we can address our fears in simulated environments so we feel we can handle them better in real life.

Movies, TV, books, and even Grimm's fairy tales are designed to help us cope with fears we already have - they don't create the fears we have.

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