The social hypocrisy of violence


By Gery Deer

Deer in Headlines

It can be truly puzzling to understand the human compulsion to watch a train wreck then complain about the safety of rail travel. Americans, in particular, have a love of all things violent when it comes to television and movies – the gorier the better.

And yet, most spend an abundance of time lamenting about the problems of violence in our society. How can someone be a consumer of violent entertainment while condemning the real thing? At what point do we become a nation of hypocrites, or has that time passed?

As a society Americans spend millions of dollars every year to watch all types of violence and crime on the silver screen while complaining that movie and TV producers are irresponsible. Here are some interesting statistics.

According to the American Psychological Association, the average American youth will witness 200,000 violent acts on TV before the age of 18, with a weapon appearing on prime time about nine time every hour. More over, violent video games account for an average of about 13 hours a week of time for Americans. So when we’re not watching violent behavior we are virtually participating in it through video games.

When filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino take in hundreds of millions in revenue for movies packed with stylized, pulp-gothic violence and then take the podium to condemn the 2nd Amendment, he lacks a certain level of credibility. The word “hypocrite” comes to mind once more.

While Tarantino and his fellow producers aren’t out there taking out crowds with an AR-15, they could very well be contributing to the problem by glamourizing murder and mayhem in a stylish context. It’s hard to take seriously anyone on the Hollywood left when they scream about the affects of media on the nation’s youth.

Possibly worse is that back in the old days it was easier to tell the good guys from the bad. Today, people are rooting for the bad guys, which is, again, puzzling. Entire film series are being based on the antagonists of fiction.

Along with movies and TV, Americans spend millions more on sporting events that have violent context. Boxing, mixed martial arts and similar sports practices are based on the very notion of one competitor beating the other into unconsciousness – and we pay to watch it.

In the streets, if two guys are beating each other to death, it’s probably over money or drugs or something and they’d go to jail for it. But put the same two guys in a ring with a big cash payout at the end and it’s a whole different story. It makes no sense.

So why do we do it? Some experts suggest that what we fear most in life is what we look forward to in our fictional pursuits. There is a compelling stimulation we get from imagining those things that frighten us most. It’s not the end of the world that make disaster movies so fascinating to us, but the feeling that these imaginary horrors prepare us for events in the real world.

I’m not so sure I agree with this analysis, however. I don’t think watching a violent movie about a mass shooting helps anyone when a crazy person with an automatic rifle starts blasting away inside a movie theater.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear we have a problem with violence (not just with guns) in today’s society and we should probably stop being so hypocritical about it. Whether violence in media fans the flames of real life crime will be a constant source of debate. But, the truth is, the consumer holds all the cards.

If Americans want filmmakers to stop making violent movies, they’ll have to stop going to see them first. Just like people complaining about tabloid newspapers while sneaking a peak at the three-headed Martian baby on page 6 while in the grocery checkout. It’s a supply and demand problem.

Still, it’s hard to stomach the lack of character demonstrated by those who believe that murderous violence in film is fine as long as there’s a good paycheck behind it. We can’t have it both ways. Either violence is horrific and something to be avoided, or it’s acceptable. It’s time to make a choice.
Deer in Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at

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