The last five years have seen an increase in the stand on violence in movies. As action
movies with their big stars are taken to new heights every year, more people seem to
argue that the violence is influencing our country’s youth. Yet, each year, the amount of
viewers also increases. This summer’s smash hit Independence Day grossed more money
than any other film in history, and it was full of violence. The other summer hits included
Mission: Impossible, Courage Under Fire, and A Time to Kill. All of these movies
contained violence, and all were highly acclaimed. And all, with the exception of
Independence Day, were aimed toward adults who understood the violence and could
separate screen violence from real violence. There is nothing wrong with having violence
in film. If an adult wants to spend an evening watching Arnold Schwartzenager Save the
world, then he should have that right.
Film critic Hal Hinson enjoys watching movies. In fact, he fell in love with
movies at the same time that he remembers being afraid for the first time. He was
watching Frankenstein, and, as he described in his essay ?In Defense of Violence,? it
played with his senses in such a way that he instantaneously fell in love with movies..
The danger was fake, but Hinson described that it played with his senses in such a way
that he almost instantly fell in love. Hinson feels that most movie lovers were incited by
the same hooks as himself. Movies were thrilling, dangerous, and mesmerizing (Hinson
Hinson says that as a culture, we like violent art. Yet this is not something that is
new to today’s culture. The ancient Greeks perfected the genre of tragedy with a use of
violence. According to Hinson, they believed that “while violence in life is destructive,
violence in art need not be; that art provides a healthy channel for the natural aggressive
forces within us” (Hinson 585). Today, the Greek tragedy is not often seen, but there are
other shows movies that embody and use violence. Tom and Jerry, The Three Stooges,
and popular prime time shows including the highly acclaimed NYPD Blue and ER are all
There is a surplus of violent movies in Hollywood. Usually, the years highest
moneymakers are violent. Even Oscar winning movies, those movies that are “the best of
the year,” have violence in them. Silence of the Lambs, Unforgiving, and In the Line of
Fire are just a few.
Even with all this violence on both the small and big screen, Hinson makes a clear
statement that real-life violence is the problem, not movie violence. He feels that people
fear screen violence because they fear we might become what is depicted on screen.
Hinson feels that to enjoy violence, one must be able to distinguish between what is real
and what is not (Hinson 587).
Another essay, this one entitled ?Popcorn Violence,? illustrates how the type of
violence seen in film and television is completely different than real life violence. The
author, Roger Rosenblatt, describes how young children can be exposed to screen
violence early on in life, yet the type of violence is so fictional that the connection between
what is seen on television and what goes on out in the streets is never made. The example
Rosenblatt uses to illustrate this point is wrestling. In professional wrestling there are
good guys, such as Hulk Hogan and Randy ?Macho Man? Savage, and bad guys, which
includes the likes of The Undertaker and Rowdy Piper. Every Saturday morning they go
into the ring and fight. Its good versus bad. The show, of course, is humorous, as it is
meant to be. The characters are so strange that they are comical. They roam around the
ring, yelling and screaming, looking quite ridiculous. They play to the crowd, either
making them boo or cheer. Occasionally, for example, if say Hulk Hogan is winning a
fight, the bad guy’s friends might join in and gang up on Hulk. All of this violence, and
the kids love it (Rosenblatt 589).
The same occurs in ?action? movies. There is a good guy and a bad guy, but the
bad guy usually has lots of friends, and they all gang up on the good guy. Rosenblatt
explains that sometimes you root for the good guys, and other times for the bad guys. He
says that we root for the bad because sometimes ?you’re simply bored with the good guys
and the bad are beautiful? (Rosenblatt 589-90). But when we do root for the good guy, it
is because all odds are against him.
In his essay, Rosenblatt explains that admiration for the either good or bad comes
from the desire to achieve what ultimately the that person achieves: success. The winner
of the battle is the one who succeeds and does so with power and strength and the ability
to outwit an opponent (Rosenblatt 590).
Sometimes, Rosenblatt explains, you really want the bad guy to succeed. He uses
two good examples to illustrate this point. First off is Terminator, the movie that started
Arnold Schwartzenager’s career. In the movie, his job as a cyborg was to kill Sarah
Connor(AKA Linda Hamilton). No matter what amount of destructive force was aimed at
the Terminator, as long as some part of him was functioning, he would still go after her.
Rosenblatt also uses an example that is not particularly violent, but does show how we
sometimes tend to root for the bad guy. The example he uses is The Great Gatsby.
Gatsby, according to Rosenblatt, is so appealing because he not only was a self made
millionaire, but also because he was a criminal. On his way to the top, Gatsby murdered a
man. He makes the ultimate sacrifice to achieve success (Rosenblatt 590). After reading
this novel, I can say I was quite upset when Gastby died. He was the bad guy, the
criminal, yet I wanted to see him succeed.
There is another aspect of violent movies that Rosenblatt touches briefly on. This
is the progression of weaponry in movies. The progression has been incredible, indeed. In
many violent movies, it is the type of weapon and how it is used and depicted that make
the movie so violent. It has gone from the .357 Magnum that Clint Eastwood held to a
thug’s face and said ?Go ahead, make my day,? to the magnetic pulse rifles seen Arnold
Schwartzenager’s latest The Eraser. Men seem to have a fascination with gadgets and
technology, and this is what Rosenblatt uses to defend this progression. Just as with a
new cordless power super duper drill, a high tech weapon to even the odds is ?neat.?
Rosenblatt uses a good example in the movie In the Line of Fire. There is a scene where
two duck hunters at a pond are approached by the assassin. They are fascinated by the
double barrel pistol made by the assassin, as most guys probably would have been
Rosenblatt concludes by saying that men’s fascination with violent movies stems
from our competitiveness and wanting to succeed. He says that we are not violent people
for watching these films. He claims that most of us would want to take all the guns off the
street and burn them all. Rosenblatt also mentions one of his friends, a police officer, who
loves action movies but hates the violence that he has to deal with everyday. Rosenblatt
says that men don’t take violence in films seriously (Rosenblatt 592). We know that
Schwartzenager is fake, and that there is no Rambo.
Unfortunately, there is some evidence that television and movies are schools for
violence. In the book Children in Front of the Small Screen by Grant Noble, results from
tests show that young children will imitate that which they see on screen. Several
experiments were performed to prove this point, all involving children. In the tests, the
children viewed different acts of violence. These violent acts included a man hitting a
bozo the clown self righting inflatable doll with a mallet, and two grown adults fighting
over some toys. They were then left in rooms for observation. In the case of the children
who saw the man hit the doll with the mallet, in the room was the same mallet and doll,
along with numerous other toys. In most cases, the children would imitate the exact
action they viewed. Some would even imitate the exact body stances and facial expression
that the watched on screen. The experimenters did not, however, state for how long each
aggressive act took place. They concluded ?that film models are as effective in teaching
aggressive behavior as real-life models as parents and teachers? (Grant 127).
All right, so maybe there is some validity to the idea that violence on screen
adversely affects children. The fact is, children like to mimic what the see and hear,
whether its on the television or in real life. I won’t deny the fact that this is a serious
problem. The types of behavior in many violent films are not what most parents would
want there kids to imitate. Indeed, this is solid evidence that screen violence is very
impressionable for children. Of course, what parent would allow they child to watch
Rambo or Terminator at a young age? These movies aren’t made for young children, and
therefore, should not be seen by them. That’s why there is a rating system for movies. A
child of six years old shouldn’t be sitting in front of the television watching Die Hard or
similar films. Its up to the parents to monitor their child’s viewing.
When I was growing up, my parents were very careful in monitoring what watched
and what I played with. In fact, I don’t think I ever owned a toy gun. They hardly ever
let me watch R rated movies. If, by chance, I did, I watched them under their supervision,
and they usually explained to me that what was going on in the movie was wrong.
Though I watched a few while growing up, I don’t feel that they had any adverse effects
on me. I am not a violent person or perform random, spontaneous acts of violence. I
believe this is because my parents told me that what I was watching was not an acceptable
way to act. This is what parents have to do. It is their job to teach wrong from right.
Lately, violence in film and television has been getting a bad reputation. Many
activist groups have sprung up, demanding that the film industry and the Hollywood
executives stop making violent films. There main claim is that the violence is bad for the
children. Yet these films are for the adults, not the children. It is the adults who are able
to distinguish the difference between what is real and what is fake. Personally, I love
those action movies that have death counts close to the hundreds. I love the feeling of
leaving the theater in awe of what I just saw. Being an adult, this is a privilege that I have,
and I want to keep that privilege. So, probably, does any other person who likes to watch
these same type of films.