Can’t Have It Both Ways

As I write this, I don’t know what recommendations Vice President Biden will be making to President Obama about how to deal with our gun/violence crisis. But I’ve been interested in a few comments I’ve heard…and it’s gotten me to thinking.

I know there are many factors that cause someone to decide (rationally or not!) to collect an arsenal of weapons and ammunition in order to kill people. Sometimes mental illness is a definite factor–and we have not done an effective job of (1) learning the signs of significant mental illness, (2) making treatment available for those who need it, and (3) making any kind of treatment available without stigma attached. That’s not my question today.

At the same time, we seem to have a culture of violence in many ways. When I look at many of the popular movies, video games, and TV shows, violence is rampant. Granted, some portray only the amount of violence necessary to show a historical context…some (including a couple I enjoy watching) show a violent scene to set a context but then focus on solving the crime. But there is still a lot of violence in many areas of our society.

So…I read these comments in my newspaper this morning:

  • In recent days, only FX President John Landgraf said he was in favor of further study about any correlation between entertainment and real violence.
  • “I’m not a psychologist, so I’m not sure you can make the leap (that) a show about serial killers has caused the sort of problems with violence in our country,” said Robert Greenblatt, who put “Dexter” on the air when he ran Showtime and is now overseeing development of a series on the notorious creep Hannibal Lecter for NBC.

And my question is this: If we’re not impacted in some way by what we watch, then why is advertising so important for TV shows (including product placement in movies)?

Either what we watch does have an impact on us, or it doesn’t. If it does, then we need to have a serious discussion on what we are making available to our children. (Yes, I know that parents have a significant responsibility in determining what their children watch, but I’m also aware that unless we lock our children away, we can’t completely control what they see or what they hear others talking about.) If it doesn’t, then why do we spend so much time worrying about advertising?

We can’t have it both ways.

2 thoughts on “Can’t Have It Both Ways

  1. The study by Anderson et al. and The Christian Science Monitor both say that the debate over whether media violence increases aggression is over. According to Anderson, the next critical task is to provide kids with a healthier media diet, but this effort may only succeed if the public is aware of the specific risks of media-violence exposure by kids. For example, a study cited by the Monitor found that teenage boys who watched professional wrestling were 18 percent more likely to physically confront a date. Common sense says that parents well-informed that violent TV shows could lead to future domestic violence would likely object more strongly to the programming available in their household as well as region.

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