The Media-Violence Link

I think we should file a class action lawsuits against parents who are too dumb/lazy/busy/ignorant/etc. to actually exert some parental influence on their children.

Regarding video games. On average, they cost between $40-50 when they’re new. Some cost even more. Does your average 12 year old have that much money in his/her pocket? (Some are spoiled that much but that’s another rant). No. The parent gave them the money to buy Quake III or Perfect Dark or Resident Evil 3 or whatever M-rated game they wanted. And it never occured to them to ask, “Hey, what did you buy?”

One other thing that really bugs me in the video game violence debate–people who reference games that NO ONE plays anymore. It’s 2000. No one plays Doom or Mortal Kombat or Night Trap anymore. It would take like 5 minutes of research for a media person to update this list. Lazy, lazy, lazy.

Not a bad idea there Ellwood. I’ve often said that we should not be punishing children who commit crimes without looking at who is responsible for them.

But I wouldn’t want to see any real lawsuits filed against the media or entertainment industry. After all, we the consumer is who should be telling these people what we want to buy and how we want to buy it. They’ll fall in line if they start losing profits. A lawsuit would just make it easier for some nutball with a semi automatic to use the “Twinkie Defense” next time he gets caught. Or call it the “Lethal Weapon” defense if you will.


This debate isn’t likely to go away any time soon. It’s been around for hundreds of years, and will doubtless plague us hundreds of years from now.

For anyone who thinks violence in media is a new development…


In Oedipus Rex, the title character kills his father, sleeps with his mother, and gouges out his own eyeballs after his mother commits suicide.

Heracles (or the Roman Hercules) strangles a serpent in his crib before going on to a life of murder and mayhem. And Orpheus is torn to pieces by the Thracian Maids and thrown into the river after he rebuffs their advances.

In Homer’s Odyssey, several sailors are devoured or drowned in the Scylla/Charybdis encounter. Odysseus also blinds a giant by shoving a burning log into its eye. When Odysseus finally returns home, he slaughters a roomful of would-be suitors to his ostensible widow. (And The Odyssey is less violent than The Iliad.)

See also The Epic of Gilgamesh, the plays of Seneca, and the Christian Bible.

Renaissance and immediately following

Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy. Deaths by stabbing, hanging (two, both onstage), torture, shooting, and suicide. A character writes a note in her own blood. (See also The Revenger’s Tragedy, an even more gruesome drama. Authorship debated.)

Shakespeare, of course. Even the comedies.

Selections from Jacobean tragedy: In 'Tis Pity She’s a Whore, a brother and sister commit incest (onstage). The bloody play winds up with the brother killing the sister and coming into a party with her heart on a dagger. The White Devil: Body count = half a dozen, most onstage (poison, stabbings, etc.). Also features prostitution and corrupt church officials.

…And this is just in English.

Approaching today

The Brothers Grimm. Voltaire. Jonathan Swift. Italo Calvino. And so on. And so on.

I personally believe the causal link to be tenuous, at best. Rather, our storytelling reflects our preoccupations; you don’t blame the barometer for the hurricane, do you?

The bottom line, as I see it, is this.

We will always have violence in storytelling because violence is always the solution of last resort. Negotiations fail? Send in the army. Can’t convince someone to apologize? Punch them in the face. Want something from somebody, but have no reasonable way of getting it? Kill them and take it.

No matter how elevated the society, no matter how subtle and advanced the interpersonal negotiations and diplomacy, overt strength is always, always, the trump card, particularly (or even solely) in the short term. Why? Because we’re basically big-brained chimps, and the primate that most effectively combines brains and a lot of brawn will always dominate the group.

And drama is always, always, most effective when it tells stories in extremis. Which makes the better story, a mother worried about her child’s skinned knee, or a mother desperate to save her child’s life? Which makes the more compelling plot, a secret agent who wants to plant a bug on a world leader, or an assassin who wants to kill the leader?

I have no doubt that the debate over violent storytelling reflects a fervent wish on the part of humankind to be better than we really are. Unfortunately, until we reach that goal, we will always be seduced by blood. Everything else is just hand-waving.

Games like Resident Evil don’t make someone want to go out and kill any more than playing Super Mario makes you want to be a plumber. It is fantasy. To quote Dennis Miller, “if your kids are pushed over the edge by anything that Gene Simmons has to say, then you’re just not doing your job as a parent.”

So you don’t believe people are influenced by celebrities, and you’re quoting a celebrity to make your point.

I agree, but you seem to view that fact with some disdain. Isn’t there something noble in the wish?

ElwoodCuse - I know. I recently saw a CNN story that used clips from Mortal Kombat (probably the same ones they used for their original MK stories), a game released eight years ago, which has since spawned THREE sequels and at least three companion/spinoff games.

There’s an easy explanation however. MK, Doom, and Night trap were groundbreakers, hence firmly entrenched in the national psyche, hence easily identifable to the large segment of the non-videogaming population. Of course games like The House of The Dead 2 are far bloodier, but to know about them you have to actually go to an arcade, something which is apparently far too difficult for mainstream America (and news reporters).

Not sure how Night Trap got such notoriety. I never even heard of the game until the news broke, and it ran on a cheapo CD system that died out within the year. (Those were not very good times for Sega.)

I think I should recast the statement somewhat, to be clearer about its intent. The source of the disdain will then be more apparent.

Instead of the above, what I should have said was this:

“I strongly believe that the debate over violent storytelling reflects fervent denial on the part of humankind that we aren’t as primitive and bloodthirsty as we really are.”

Make more sense?

-I’m not quoting him simply because he’s a celebrity, I’m quoting him because he makes sense.
-I’m not claiming that celebrities have no influence. But if you’re doing something contrary to common sense solely because a book/video game/movie/celebrity sez so, then you are an idiot.
-Night Trap was an awful game on a seminal system. It influenced virtually nobody other than vacuous newspeople.
-THQ’s Time Killers was an extremely violent game that pre-dated Mortal Kombat. Why doesn’t it get the same press or have its footage shown in these violent game montages? Because it was U-G-L-Y. Very pixely. Mortal Kombat and Night Trap at least look good which is why they’re so commonly featured.
-There’s plenty of war sims and strategy games where you can kill people by the hundreds and thousands and they do not carry the “M” rating. Is this better than a one-on-one fighting game with exaggerated violence?


Okay, so, according to the fella you cite, I’ve missed my mark; Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold (sp?) weren’t influenced by media violence, but someone like maybe a serial rapist might be?

Even if we were only saving a few lives a year, wouldn’t some form of censorship be more desirable? The benefits of not having a couple hundred people a year violently assaulted and sexually abused would be worth it, maybe?


ExTank, you’re not going to draw some sort of parallel to the gun debates, are you?

Please…must it always go back to Columbine? By any stretch of the imagination would you consider Harris and Kelbold NORMAL teens? DOOM made them do it, that’s right. (Please don’t enlighten me about the latest games, I don’t give a shit.) No, it was “Die Hard” that made them decide to kill everyone in school and then themselves. Couldn’t possibly be the fact that they had become obscessed with their own insecurities and lack of social status. How many other Columbine students do you think are exposed to violent material and didn’t kill anybody, perhaps ALL OF THEM? Wasn’t one of the boys on medication? So someone did have a hint that something was bothering at least one of these boys. And yes, the pathology behind assasins, mass murderers and spree killers are all slightly different, but they are all also similar. Exposure to violent media material does not make them do what they do. It might “inspire” them or even give them some hints as to how to go about it, but it doesn’t MAKE them. Harris and Klebold went to school with hundreds of students that are regularily exposed to the same things they are everyday and yet the others did not kill.

There must be hundreds of thousands of individuals out there who daydream of “being someone”. They want to be rock stars, sports heros, actors and president of the United States. They watch “Hellraiser” and listen to EMINEM but they don’t go out and kill, or rape. Why? Because they control their behavior. They may even daydream occasionally about “going postal” but they don’t. In the end people like Harris and Klebold do what they do because they CHOOSE to kill. And the reasons are much more personal to them than a video game.

Needs2know…and no…I will draw a parallel the gun debate. I haven’t heard yet of anyone killing someone with a CD ROM.


I’m not attributing Columbine to media violence. You attributed a factoid asserted to a, in your own words:

This factoid, which I accepted at face value for this debate, is the best “expert opinion” I’ve heard on the subject of the media-violence link (or lack thereof, if you prefer).

I then asked if some form of censorship would be preferable to having even one person become the object of some maladjusted person’s violent/sexual fantasy’s?

Mojo: If there is a link between this debate and the larger gun control debate, you drew it, not me.

If you think that there is a link then start another thread, or expound upon your thoughts here, I care not which.

For the purposes of this discussion, as far as I am concerned, there is no commonality between 1st Amendment issues and 2nd Amendment issues.

Other than the paper they were written on, of course.

Any parallels, real or imagined, are mere coincidence.

Oh, and Needs2know? CDs haven’t killed anyone?

I just wonder how many dolt’s last thoughts on this planet were: “Nirvana or Stone Temple Pilots?” before driving their car through a red light, into someone else, or just clean off the road. :wink:


Political works have been responsible for far more death than violent games and movies. Would you ban Mein Kampf? How about Das Kapital or Common Sense? How about the Bible, which has been responsible for more death than any of those?

I guess the ultimate answer is “5-year-olds shouldn’t be playing games rated ‘Mature.’” And I won’t believe that violent games significantly alter a kids’ thought patterns until they start trying to blow each other up with rocket launchers.

A friend of mine had a theory (well, we developed the theory together, but she came up with the basic idea). If you notice, we didn’t really have a huge influx of violent children until… gasp!… it started becoming heavily covered by the News. Some disturbed kid, wanting to make something of himself, leave a mark on he world, hears a report about a disgruntled postal worker slaughter a dozen people, and thinks, “I can do that, too… I’ll show 'em.”

If them newspeople really wanted to stop violence, they’ll stop flashing it all over the screen. After all, as others have pointed out, there’s a difference between fake, animated pixels and real bodies and blood.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to add…

Sure, it’d be worth it. Completely worth it. However, I (and many others, apparently) don’t believe that “some form of censorship” would save any lives at all.

It is possible that media can influence, in some way, some maladjusted person’s violent/sexual fantasy. But I do not believe that stopping said media will prevent that violent/sexual fantasy. I have not yet seen a study that suggests cencorship would prevent agressive behavior in youths. (if there is one, please post a link)

      • I say unleash the hounds - screw them and the papier-mache horse they rode in on. Media moguls, that is: if gun manufacturers can get blamed for deaths that guns might have caused, then ANY OTHER INDUSTRY should also be held liable for any damages it might have caused. - MC

deaths that guns might have caused? call me daft, but I always assumed it was pretty easy to tell when a gun is involved in a death, what with the gaping bullet holes and all.

      • Yes, but many leftist types (more than a few in Hollywood, we note) don’t see the problem with blaming the manufacurer of a product for something a customer of that product does with it, as long as it’s a gun. It shouldn’t be too suprising that the same restriction might be used against media makers sooner or later, and yet they at totally shocked at the mere thought. -I guess they just assumed that the law wouldn’t ever be applied to them. - MC

MC: I’m glad that you see it. I was beginning to think that I was the only one on the message board that saw the double-standard coming out of Hollywierd.