Thursday, January 7, 2010

Violence and Entertainment

on peace

Paul Waldman at TAPPED:

"On film, guns are plentiful, evil is pure, and violence is nearly always the answer to any problem."

Indeed: popular entertainment provides us many images of moral violence and effective violence. There is of course a great deal of art that challenges the ethics and efficacy of violence, but popular entertainment generally shows us good guys prevailing over bad guys in a fight. We in the audience, no matter how peace-loving we may be, are asked to see particular violent acts as righteous, to see particular violent acts as effective, and to root for the heroes when they perform violent acts.

I've never been convinced that violent entertainment causes individuals to commit violent acts (see Richard Rhodes' "Hollow Claims About Fantasy Violence"). But I've become more and more convinced that our popular entertainment reinforces a militaristic culture that accepts and promotes warfare as a moral, effective solution to problems.


  1. I have noticed a trend toward heroes who are only violent to defend themselves in young adult literature (Twilight and Harry Potter--is two a trend?). They are painted as more noble and superior to everyone else because they choose not to fight. But they are still described as being more powerful and in theory more threatening and more capable of successful violence, should they decide to act that way. I find it interesting.

  2. The "reluctant" hero (who doesn't want the fight, but eventually feels pulled into it) is a staple of the Western (like Seth Bullock, who doesn't want to be sheriff, but eventually Deadwood needs somebody like him...) and other film genres. I think it's part of the American frontier myth, and the story America tells about itself (trying to stay out of the fight, but ready to finish it if pulled in by a dastardly villain).

  3. By the way, I have an idea that the heroes of today's "adolescent" lit will have an impact on television and film heroes of the future: