[lit-ideas] Re: media violence

  • From: John Wager <johnwager@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 17 May 2004 17:32:58 -0500

JulieReneB@xxxxxxx wrote:

>I wonder if any of the (justifiably, in my opinion) outraged parents of these 
>students took their children to see The Passion?
Or even worse: Kill Bill. Or Kill Bill 2, even. (I must admit I saw 
both; and in both, in the row in front of me, a "family" was sitting 
with a child big enough to watch a movie but small enough to sit in a 
parent's lap.)

>I've been thinking alot lately about the role of technology and visual 
>representations of violence.  This is going to be fuzzled because I'm actually 
>posting this hoping someone will articulate what I'm having trouble 
>articulating to 
>myself.  I don't even necessarily want an answer articulated -- if someone 
>can figure out what question I'm trying to ask it would be a start. . . . .

Well, one question would be whether we want to "protect" minors from 
exposure to disturbing material.  The culture seems to be moving towards 
LESS protection.  The educational question here is, GIVEN this movement, 
is it educationally sound to expose students to NON-Hollywood violence?  
I would be willing to guess that in the average high school class of 
seniors, 98% of the students have seen a "beheading" in a film 
somewhere. Catch 22, years ago, had an airplane beheading. Braveheart 
had several. The average slasher movie has severed heads by the dozens. 
Night of the Living Dead back in the '60's  had a child eating an arm.  
But it was understood that these were MOVIES, not REAL. The educational 
question is why THIS kind of violence is allowed or encouraged in 
society when exposure to REAL violence is discouraged or prohibited.

Would the high school teachers in California be in an equal amount of 
"trouble" if they had shown the film of Catch 22?  Or Braveheart? Or The 
Patriot? (I think I recall a cannonball beheading there; I try NOT to 
keep track of movie beheadings.)  At what age are students ready to look 
at violence when it's REAL and so sickening that it creates nightmares 
for months?  Is this part of education?  Why or why not?

Do we want students to NOT have nightmares from violence?

Do we want students TO have nightmares from violence?

These seem "open" educational questions that I don't have an answer for 
on the high school level.

(I do know that despite my recounting of several movie beheadings, and 
despite several people sending me the URL for the Iraqi beheading, I 
have decided NOT to view it. This is my choice. It is my choice because 
no teacher is asking me to look at it or making it a class topic.)

But along those lines, I wonder about the role of education in 
"respecting" squeamishness.  Some students can't deal very well with 
this kind of violence. But the world we live in has that kind of 
violence in it. Some students can't deal with numbers very well either, 
but we don't give them a pass on Long Division just because they detest 
math. Why should violence be different than other parts of the real world? 

The "utilitarian" approach would be to look at the consequences of 
exposing students to real violence: If it creates a more thoughtful, 
more realistic, more sensible culture, then showing the violence might 
be justified. If it creates more violence and more unhappiness, then 
it's not educationally sound to show such violence.

>How is the execution of Berg different from the incredible violence in movies? 
> (Ghost Ship, e.g., which I haven't seen but which College kids tell me they 
>walked out of, vomiting.) More than once I heard the word "pornographic" 
>applied to the movie, The Passion.  
As a footnote, I heard college students referring to THE PASSION OF THE 
CHRIST as the "JESUS CHAINSAW MASSACRE."  The obvious "line" to draw 
here is that some ADULTS may choose to view such materials.  They should 
not be prevented from doing so.  But the problem you articulate is what 
do we do about those who are NOT YET ADULTS? How much do we protect them 
from horrifying real violence in a world of massive virtual violence?

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