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My Thoughts on America’s “Culture of Violence” [18 December 2012]

18 Dec

This is going to be a hard post for me to write, but I feel as though it needs to be said. Also, forgive me for how inevitably rambly this post will be, I’m kind of just typing as I think.

Last night, when having a debate with my mother – and the TV – about everything that comes up whenever these mass-shootings happen…I asked questions of myself that I was not prepared to answer. The “everything that comes up” I am referring to includes the following – gun control laws, bullying, making mass-murderers famous, and the “culture of violence” that the media is always so quick to blame.

When Columbine happened, I was very young. Too young to even fully understand death – who does “fully understand death”? But I agreed whole-heartedly with the adults who said that we need to make it harder for these kids to get guns and with the ones who said that something needs to be done about the bullying in schools. However, when video games, movies, and music were mentioned…I no longer agreed. I was just a little kid and I played games and they were fun. I would never hurt anyone, I was just having fun and I didn’t know why these mean adults wanted to take that away from me.

I was in my early teens when the massacre at Virginia Tech happened. I knew a little bit more about people and the ways of the world, but I still held the same opinions on the issues of gun control, bullying in schools, and violent media. I wondered why the media seemingly made martyrs of and gave cute nicknames to serial killers and mass murderers. They made their livings off of real life pain, suffering, violence, and gore and yet had the nerve to condemn movies, video games, and music for “glorifying violence and violent behavior”.

Sandy Hook and the media coverage that came along with it have resonated with me in far greater ways than the other two school shootings I have mentioned. The combination of the fact that I am somewhat of an adult now, the absolute disgust I had with the Aurora shooting, and the fact that these were children caused this story to weigh on my soul more than anything I have ever seen in the news. When talking with my mother about this, I defended the media that I love (particularly video games) without listening at all to the other side. However, I thought about my own obsession with gore. I am the girl who will watch movies like The Poughkeepsie Tapes or Cannibal Holocaust specifically because other people said they couldn’t stomach them. I am always searching for something more shocking. That aspect of my personality began to really bother me. I had never even attempted to physically harm another human being, but what if I keep searching for the next shocking thing and that leads to watching snuff tapes or getting involved with real murder?

After letting the media scare me into believing that I am a monster and a murderer waiting to happen, I thought about some things. The major question was “Well, what draws me to these things? Is it the violence?” I then realized, that the reason I watch shocking horror is not because I want to see people die at all. It is more of an adrenaline rush, similar to skydiving. You don’t expect to die when skydiving and it’s the feeling of coming that close to death and surviving that makes it fun. Watching a movie that scares the shit out of my peers and coming out unscathed provides that to me. In horror more similar to The Walking Dead, it’s because I want to see people like Rick go through hell and make it out mostly okay. It shows us that we can go through the ringer and make it out mostly okay. I never watch anything only for the death or only for the violence.  If that were the case, action movies would be an entire army or squad coming in and killing a few people with no challenge. We want to see Frank Dux when the kumite because he’s just one guy with the odds against him. Our primary interest isn’t the blood. Of course, humans are fascinated by violence…and sick individuals can just see these forms of media as a way to indulge their blood fetishes. But I think before the media blames a “culture of violence”, they should look into why people watch these movies and listen to this music.

And now, here’s a relevant Facebook status that I made earlier…

“I have to admit, I had to do a little soul-searching with all of this talk of “violence culture” in the media recently. As you all know, I am a huge fan of the action and horror genres in video games, movies, and even in music. I had to ask myself, “why am I drawn to violence”? But I realized that I have always been repulsed by real life violence and I have never physically hurt anyone. There are most definitely sick people in the world who might try to imitate fictional violence. These people are sick independent of the media they consume. This sickness may be the result of mental illness or just a generally a hateful soul. Most of us don’t listen to the Misfits for the violence, it’s for the music and for the story. I don’t admire Bruce Lee’s roles in real life and in movies (just) because he kicked so many asses…it’s because it was a metaphor for overcoming adversity. And we don’t just play Halo for the headshots, we want the adventure. Of course, the primal love affair with violence is part of why I – and others like myself – take part in this “culture of violence”. But we are good people and we are old enough and mature enough to separate fiction and reality. And more importantly, we don’t just consume this media for the violence – it is meaningful to us. If you are sick enough that all you get out of playing Metal Gear Solid is wanting to put a gun in your hand and turn it against your fellow man…YOU don’t deserve to play that game. However, taking the media that I grew up with and choose to consume away from a harmless person like me…what good is that going to do anyone?”

– Hug your children and carry peace within your hearts

Kai xxx