It’s Big, It’s Greasy, It’s Sexy: It’s Violence

Sam Jacobsen, Junior Editor

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Today in America, children are, from a young age, introduced to violent media.  From the aggressive shoot-’em-up video games sold in stores, to the bloody television shows playing 24/7, violence is displayed everywhere.  It’s painted on our walls, produced by our networks, and played in our theatres.  Violence in the media is not necessarily more prevalent now than in our past; violent media forms have existed for a long time like “Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol”, a theatre that specialized in grotesque life-like violence in the 19th and 20th centuries.  However, it is far more available to people of all ages.  People made it that way, and people keep it there because people like violence; it’s big, it’s greasy, it’s sexy.  With the amount of stylized violence being portrayed, surely there are some nasty side-effects, but what are they?  What do our younger generations take away from all this violence?  Just like violence, these questions are prevalent in our society.

To answer these questions, we must first approach the subject logically (or with what would appear to be logic).  Kids don’t know much, do they?  So it could logically be assumed then that kids exposed to violence will act more violently (monkey-see-monkey-do).  On the surface, that seems to be a logical assumption, but at a second glance the idea of monkey see monkey do isn’t necessarily valid.  The human mind is a fantastically complex organ composed of countless little electrodes firing at different times across a span of varying sectors–each with a separate job– and inset into those neurons are patterns shared by countless organisms over countless generations.  brain-basic_and_limbicThese are our most ancient imprints–the ones that drive us to survive, and to aid in the survival of our species.  The survival instinct is  a very deep pattern that our brains have been playing for centuries.  It tells us not to hurt our fellow humans, because if we do we risk social seclusion, or worse.  It’s an instinct that reminds us that if we mess up we could end on the outside of the circle.  That instinct to survive and be an accepted member of a group is very deep rooted, and very hard to bypass.  Humans are naturally social animals; we are not only concerned on ourselves.  Instinct is not a monkey see monkey do thing, it is something we’re born with.  

So, should violent media be able to surpass the instinctual drive to be accepted in society?  In recent years, it has been widely accepted that, yes, violent media produces violent people.  To some extent this is  true.  In a 2015 article from the American Psychological Association it was confirmed that “violent video game play is linked to increased aggression in players.”  Proof!  Ha!  Yes, that is pretty solid proof.  But that just makes sense.  Of course aggression is increased by video games.  However, increases in aggression can come from all sorts of things.  From driving a car, to working, aggression is just a constant.  However, in the same article it was also stated that there was “insufficient evidence…about whether the link extends to criminal violence or delinquency.”  The subject becomes fuzzy.  

If violent video games lead to increased aggression would it be so hard to link it to criminal violence?  Simply being aggressive is not necessarily a sign of a criminal.  Think about all the aggressive drivers on the roads.  In a 2006 poll by The Washington Post, 12% of people claimed to experience rage on the road, by 2013 that had doubled.  In the piece recording that drastic increase, journalists Ashley Halsey III and Bonnie S. Berkowitz wrote, “some people who feel empowered by the the gas pedal flash to anger when another driver impinges on that sense of entitlement.”  Road aggression is a common thing, and the fact is that aggression is all around us.  And, most of us don’t think of ourselves as violent criminals when we’re late for a meeting and find ourselves yelling at a stop light.

        The idea of violent media being directly linked to violent actions committed by violent people may come around because we want to blame violent actions on something.  In an America where the news displays headlines about terrible shootings and nine-inch steel blade carrying crazies, most of us want something to blame other than ourselves for these modern monsters.  But is it correct to place blame on violent media?  It all ties back to that ancient instinct that tells us not to hurt our fellows.  People who lack that instinct most likely have something wrong with them.  

I will use myself as example here: I love violent movies.  I love cheesy, splattery gore splashing across my screen.  I, however, detest violence.  I am one of the generation of kids who has grown up in a society where violent media is readily available–I have been sadly tainted.  Does that make me want to do violent things?  Of course not.  Playing violent games doesn’t make me a nut, and it hasn’t seemed to have any effect on the empathy my violent-game loving friends have towards each other either.  Does that mean every person is like me?  Of course not.  To assume that would be foolish.

The reason I don’t actually want to commit violent crimes towards people is because I’m not sick like the people who do.  And the amount of people who do terrible things isn’t really all that big.  Since our world is so connected we hear about more things that happen around the world, and since sex and violence sell, violent stories are often the stories we see.   Lacking the empathy required to prevent people from committing atrocities towards other people is an actual disease.  It’s usually referred to as either Sociopathy or Psychopathy, depending on the severity.  These words sometimes get muddled around in the media, and many would like to think that they’re just things made for horror movies about murderers with William Shatner masks and teens who can’t keep it in their pants, but they are very real problems.  They are illnesses just like the common cold and the flu, but they are ignored by so many, and let to welt and simmer until the day the poor sap with the condition decides to walk into a shopping mall packing the heat of hell.

Violence in media, then, is not the cause of criminal violence. Rather, the cause is is the poor mental care provided to those in need of it.  And it is poor.  In a 2015 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) it was stated that “Worldwide, nearly one in ten people have a mental health disorder” but only roughly $50 per capita is spent on health care in higher-income countries; that money is being funneled primarily to mental health hospitals “which serve a small proportion of those who need care.”  Mental health is a big problem, which is receiving low funding nationally.  There is low funding and what money there is is not used wisely.  For example, in 2005, 27% of the US mental health care budget was spent on drugs, 33% on Outpatient facilities, and only 33% left for inpatient and residential costs.  

This is problematic.  The human mind is not as easily fixed as say a broken arm–problems in the mind cannot be solved simply by walking into a doctor’s office and getting a cast.  The reason human instinct is so deep-rooted is because when a certain path is burnt into the brain, it sticks.  Burnt-in tracks are exactly what mental issues are.  Mental depression?  OCD?  Just tracks that aren’t quite where they need to be or in the right shape.  These tracks are sicknesses like any other, they just take a lot longer to take care of.

I tend now to use a personal example with mental health.  Mental health is a slight issue in my family (just as various heart diseases can be genetic, so can mental issues).  Mental health itself doesn’t have to be an issue, but it’s made to be that in my extended family sometimes.  It is made thus by a lack of understanding.  There are odd stigmas about mental health.  Stigmas like “If you have mental problems, you’re a lunatic,” and “Those with mental health needs are weak.”  These stigmas most likely root from a belief that most people have–that we control our brains.  It’s a naive belief that’s half truth, half lie.  Do we control parts of our brains?  Of course!  Do we control all of our brains?   No.  If we do, then why do we sometimes laugh or cry when we tell ourselves not to?  Our brain consists of electric pulses and chemical reactions working together in haplopish harmony.

Electric shock

         Chemical reaction

                     Electric shock

                             Chemical reaction

It’s a process happening all the time at incredibly high speeds.  We don’t always get to decide when our brain does what it does.  Sadly, a majority of people believe otherwise, leading to stigmas like the ones much of my extended family holds toward a problem that affects its generations so feverishly.  Luckily, my immediate family consists of a biologist, an engineer who designs tools for brain surgery, and their offspring.

When I was younger I suffered from two rather problematic mental illnesses: auditory hallucinations (hearing people that aren’t there) and depression (that one’s pretty basic).  Thanks to the people I was growing up with, my problem was taken care of appropriately.  There were no problem-causing drugs meant to fix problems (such as those portrayed in the 2000 film Requiem for a Dream), and no brief conversations with doctors that ended with them telling me what I already knew.  What I did receive was months of counseling and help.  Months followed by years of recovery.  Months…then years.  I haven’t even fully fixed my problem yet.

My problem was minor, but it took a long time, and patience.  That’s what it takes, but that’s not what a lot of people are willing to give.  If someone’s sick enough (such like the main character Alex from the violent, and loved book/movie A Clockwork Orange) to take the life of a devotchka or malchick in the form of smoking lead and flaming death then they need help.  That help doesn’t come from unplugging a video game console or turning off a TV.  It comes from patience, knowledge, and a gentle hand.

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