The last five years have seen an increase in the stand on violence in movies.
As actionmovies with their big stars are taken to new heights every year, more people seem toargue that the violence is influencing our country’s youth. Yet, each year, the amount ofviewers also increases. This summer’s smash hit Independence Day grossed more moneythan any other film in history, and it was full of violence. The other summer hits includedMission: Impossible, Courage Under Fire, and A Time to Kill.
All of these moviescontained violence, and all were highly acclaimed. And all, with the exception ofIndependence Day, were aimed toward adults who understood the violence and couldseparate screen violence from real violence. There is nothing wrong with having violencein film. If an adult wants to spend an evening watching Arnold Schwartzenager Save theworld, then he should have that right.
Film critic Hal Hinson enjoys watching movies. In fact, he fell in love withmovies at the same time that he remembers being afraid for the first time. He waswatching Frankenstein, and, as he described in his essay ?In Defense of Violence,? itplayed 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 waythat he almost instantly fell in love. Hinson feels that most movie lovers were incited bythe same hooks as himself.
Movies were thrilling, dangerous, and mesmerizing (Hinson581-2). Hinson says that as a culture, we like violent art. Yet this is not something that isnew to today’s culture. The ancient Greeks perfected the genre of tragedy with a use ofviolence.
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 aggressiveforces within us” (Hinson 585). Today, the Greek tragedy is not often seen, but there areother 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 allviolent. There is a surplus of violent movies in Hollywood. Usually, the years highestmoneymakers are violent.
Even Oscar winning movies, those movies that are “the best ofthe year,” have violence in them. Silence of the Lambs, Unforgiving, and In the Line ofFire are just a few. Even with all this violence on both the small and big screen, Hinson makes a clearstatement that real-life violence is the problem, not movie violence. He feels that peoplefear 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 realand what is not (Hinson 587). Another essay, this one entitled ?Popcorn Violence,? illustrates how the type ofviolence seen in film and television is completely different than real life violence.
Theauthor, Roger Rosenblatt, describes how young children can be exposed to screenviolence early on in life, yet the type of violence is so fictional that the connection betweenwhat is seen on television and what goes on out in the streets is never made. The exampleRosenblatt uses to illustrate this point is wrestling. In professional wrestling there aregood guys, such as Hulk Hogan and Randy ?Macho Man? Savage, and bad guys, whichincludes the likes of The Undertaker and Rowdy Piper. Every Saturday morning they gointo the ring and fight. Its good versus bad. The show, of course, is humorous, as it ismeant to be.
The characters are so strange that they are comical. They roam around thering, yelling and screaming, looking quite ridiculous. They play to the crowd, eithermaking them boo or cheer. Occasionally, for example, if say Hulk Hogan is winning afight, the bad guy’s friends might join in and gang up on Hulk. All of this violence, andthe kids love it (Rosenblatt 589).
The same occurs in ?action? movies. There is a good guy and a bad guy, but thebad guy usually has lots of friends, and they all gang up on the good guy. Rosenblattexplains that sometimes you root for the good guys, and other times for the bad guys. Hesays that we root for the bad because sometimes ?you’re simply bored with the good guysand the bad are beautiful? (Rosenblatt 589-90). But when we do root for the good guy, itis because all odds are against him.
In his essay, Rosenblatt explains that admiration for the either good or bad comesfrom the desire to achieve what ultimately the that person achieves: success. The winnerof the battle is the one who succeeds and does so with power and strength and the abilityto outwit an opponent (Rosenblatt 590). Sometimes, Rosenblatt explains, you really want the bad guy to succeed. He usestwo good examples to illustrate this point.
First off is Terminator, the movie that startedArnold Schwartzenager’s career. In the movie, his job as a cyborg was to kill SarahConnor(AKA Linda Hamilton). No matter what amount of destructive force was aimed atthe 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 wesometimes 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 mademillionaire, but also because he was a criminal. On his way to the top, Gatsby murdered aman. He makes the ultimate sacrifice to achieve success (Rosenblatt 590). After readingthis novel, I can say I was quite upset when Gastby died. He was the bad guy, thecriminal, yet I wanted to see him succeed.
There is another aspect of violent movies that Rosenblatt touches briefly on. Thisis the progression of weaponry in movies. The progression has been incredible, indeed. Inmany violent movies, it is the type of weapon and how it is used and depicted that makethe movie so violent. It has gone from the .
357 Magnum that Clint Eastwood held to athug’s face and said ?Go ahead, make my day,? to the magnetic pulse rifles seen ArnoldSchwartzenager’s latest The Eraser. Men seem to have a fascination with gadgets andtechnology, and this is what Rosenblatt uses to defend this progression. Just as with anew 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 wheretwo duck hunters at a pond are approached by the assassin. They are fascinated by thedouble barrel pistol made by the assassin, as most guys probably would have been(Rosenblatt 591).
Rosenblatt concludes by saying that men’s fascination with violent movies stemsfrom our competitiveness and wanting to succeed. He says that we are not violent peoplefor watching these films. He claims that most of us would want to take all the guns off thestreet and burn them all. Rosenblatt also mentions one of his friends, a police officer, wholoves action movies but hates the violence that he has to deal with everyday.
Rosenblattsays that men don’t take violence in films seriously (Rosenblatt 592). We know thatSchwartzenager is fake, and that there is no Rambo. Unfortunately, there is some evidence that television and movies are schools forviolence. In the book Children in Front of the Small Screen by Grant Noble, results fromtests show that young children will imitate that which they see on screen. Severalexperiments were performed to prove this point, all involving children.
In the tests, thechildren viewed different acts of violence. These violent acts included a man hitting abozo the clown self righting inflatable doll with a mallet, and two grown adults fightingover some toys. They were then left in rooms for observation. In the case of the childrenwho 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 exactaction they viewed.
Some would even imitate the exact body stances and facial expressionthat the watched on screen. The experimenters did not, however, state for how long eachaggressive act took place. They concluded ?that film models are as effective in teachingaggressive 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 screenadversely 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 seriousproblem.
The types of behavior in many violent films are not what most parents wouldwant there kids to imitate. Indeed, this is solid evidence that screen violence is veryimpressionable for children. Of course, what parent would allow they child to watchRambo or Terminator at a young age? These movies aren’t made for young children, andtherefore, should not be seen by them. That’s why there is a rating system for movies. Achild of six years old shouldn’t be sitting in front of the television watching Die Hard orsimilar 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 watchedand what I played with. In fact, I don’t think I ever owned a toy gun. They hardly everlet 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 effectson me. I am not a violent person or perform random, spontaneous acts of violence. Ibelieve this is because my parents told me that what I was watching was not an acceptableway 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.
Manyactivist groups have sprung up, demanding that the film industry and the Hollywoodexecutives stop making violent films. There main claim is that the violence is bad for thechildren. Yet these films are for the adults, not the children. It is the adults who are ableto distinguish the difference between what is real and what is fake. Personally, I lovethose action movies that have death counts close to the hundreds. I love the feeling ofleaving 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 watchthese same type of films.