Videos and Violence

  In the wake of the Littleton murders, Hollywood executives have been tripping all over themselves to recall violent films and TV programs aimed at teenagers. Yet at the same time, Tinseltown is claiming with a straight face that there's absolutely no correlation between make-believe violence and the real thing. But the reality is that there is a strong and deadly link. And Hollywood knows that we know it. For in the weeks after Littleton, television and film executives began yanking movies and TV programs that had anything to do with schoolyard killings. For example, MGM Home Entertainment announced plans to recall copies of The Basketball Diaries, a film that depicts a boy shooting his classmates to death. The producers of the TV program Buffy the Vampire Slayer have cancelled an episode about a boy who daydreams about murdering his classmates. And Disney's Miramax division just renamed a soon-to-be-released violent film about a teacher called Killing Mrs. Tingle to the much tamer Teaching Mrs. Tingle. Even as they yank these violent films, moviemakers continue to claim that what's really responsible for murderous kids is, as one Hollywood executive put it, "bad home life, bad parenting, [and] having guns in the home." But as writer Gregg Easterbrook points out in the New Republic, Hollywood is wrong. For example, a University of Chicago Law School study reveals that the percentage of homes with guns has not changed noticeably since World War II. What has changed, Easterbrook notes, "is the willingness of people to fire their guns at one another." Another study reveals that America's postwar murder rate began to rise roughly a decade after TV viewing became common in the 1950s. The same phenomenon occurred in South Africa. There, television was not generally available until 1975; the national murder rates began rising about a decade later. Perhaps most damning of all are the findings of Leonard Eron, a psychologist who found that "those who watched the most TV and movies in childhood were much more likely to have been arrested for, or convicted of, violent felonies." While violent entertainment might not spur the average adult to murder, for children and the psychologically unbalanced, Easterbrook says, "the calculus is different." "Mass murders by the young, once phenomenally rare, are suddenly on the increase," Easterbrook writes. "Can it be a coincidence that this increase is happening at the same time that Hollywood has begun to market the notion that mass murder is fun?" The evidence that what we feed our minds affects how we behave should come as no surprise to Christians. In Proverbs, we read that "as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he.” And in Philippians, Paul exhorts us to dwell on what is "noble and lovely and kind." Easterbrook's splendid article will help you make your case to your kids when they want to go see the latest violent film. And you might also use the article to help you write to a few television and film producers to let them know exactly what you think of their products. No matter what those Hollywood executives claim, there is a link between make-believe murder and the real thing. Mass murder is not fun, as the movies suggest. Just ask the families of Littleton.


Chuck Colson


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