Are films to blame for violent acts?
Following the shooting in Aurora Colorado the media leapt on the fact that the film that was playing at the time was The Dark Knight Rises (Filmstalker review) and the insinuations were flying, the killer was copying and influenced by The Dark Knight Rises, a film he hadn't yet seen. There was no connection made with anything else from the books he read, the people in his life, or the weapons he bought. They were trying to nudge the blame towards the film.
Following that the film news came of films being altered, film-makers being blamed as well as being called to task to think about the violence they put in films, and generally the old "film is evil, corrupts and causes people to kill others" argument came out. Films are to blame for the violence in our society, or at least in American society, and if not just film then videogames, and if not just those then anything from the realm of entertainment.
Yet are films really to blame? Is film reflecting society and providing entertainment rather than driving society forward to acts they had never imagined before or were capable of? Is film really causing people to sporadic and random acts of violence?
I feel that this argument can be killed off really quickly and easily. People have been violent and killing each other since the dawn of time, well before films, videogames, television, radio, plays, before even speech.
Oh but then we were barbarians weren't we, uncontrollable feelings and we just murdered people at random. Well yes but that has described humanity for a very long time. Just because we believe we are civilised through cultures such as Ancient Greeks, Romans, the Victorians and our modern cultures, doesn't mean we have left our animal impulses behind us and they are only magically triggered when we see or hear certain things. In fact these three cultures have seen some of our most violent times and killers existed throughout them all.
Just look to the fact that there were still public executions, essentially executions for entertainment, happening until quite recently in many of our cultures and in some they still occur in the most brutal and shocking ways. In each of those three seemingly civilised cultures the execution of people was put on public display.
So what can we blame it on? Is it really as simple as just blaming humans and our animal instincts? Some cultures, groups and races have been far more violent than others; some have used their own power and influence to control armies to destroy other cultures, groups and races, and all done without the influence of films, videogames or television.
Can we turn to weapons and the availability of them to any individual and blame that? The fact that a random person can pick up thousands of rounds of ammunition, guns of all descriptions and even grenades?
Or do we turn to society and say that the real problem is the fact that people feel that they cannot live a normal life and have the desire to kill others in order to attract the attention of the media, blaming anything they can to get headlines and grab their few days of fame.
Could it be that the media throw them too much attention, creating this global awareness of the person behind what they have done and through the stories no matter how repulsive or shocking, deliver them exactly what they wanted in the first place?
Films and entertainment are clearly not the problem and if you are saying that then you are writing off all of the other statements above ignoring war, violent cultures, public executions, religions, and so on.
My belief is that the first step is a refocusing of the media and when an event such as this happens we need to ignore the person responsible and not even waste time deriding them. Talk of the victims and the terrible things they have to deal with but give the killer nothing not even a single column inch.
Then there really has to be recognition of need for gun control. How can you blame any form of entertainment, never mind the violence and gun light films such as the Batman series when someone can walk out and get thousands of rounds of ammunition along with various guns with which to fire them? Surely it would help to regulate the items that allow them to carry out such killings first? Doesn't that make the smallest amount of sense? Oh perhaps the argument of "from my cold, dead hands" would arise, well please let that prophecy pass, you take the place of the victims and have your wish come true while the innocent remain alive with their families and we can prise the guns away from you.
After that we need to address the people and what drove them to this place. Why did they feel the need to kill others to gain the attention? What was wrong with their life that they didn't get what they needed from it? When you look at these people you can't simply say they were crazy psychotics and if you did we should then be asking why they weren't recognised as such and treated.
How can you in anyway way blame entertainment and suddenly leap to cancelling events, re-editing films, censorship by the minority in reactionary fear and even discussions from prominent people within the entertainment industry saying that it is the moralistic duty of film-makers to stop showing violence. Really? Is that going to help?
In 1977 there was a court case that referenced the television series Kojak and blamed it as the cause of the murderer's actions, even the star of the show Telly Savalas appeared in the court. Did it win and get the murderer off? No. That's why the television show was pulled into the case by the lawyers in the first place, anything to have the killer found not guilty or reduce their sentence. However it didn't work, and let me point out the obvious that Kojak was not a film and was far from the violence we see on film these days.
Which brings me to another point, someone is sure to say that films, games and television are more violent these days, but if that were the case then where is the comparative increase in these killings that can be directly related to entertainment? Even if there really is an increase in violent acts and not just in the media reporting on them, can it be directly related to entertainment? I've certainly witnessed more media coverage in murders in recent years and more focus on pointing the finger, apportioning blame and making sensationalised television in order to get viewers turning to their news programme.
What do you believe is at fault for these violent acts? Should we start seeing violent films cut back and once again blame the entertainment for people murdering each other letting the real reasons slide by without scrutinising them or trying to find a resolution?
Recently I asked readers, in a poll that you can still see running on the site, what they thought caused violence and as of writing the results are as follows:
People - 58.33%
Media - 16.67%
Films - 8.33%
Religion - 8.33%
Videogames - 8.33%
Television, Books, Comics, Plays and Guns - 0%
Do you agree with those results? The majority are clearly saying its people that kill and are responsible for these killings and coming in second place is the media themselves, clearly I'm not alone with my thoughts. There are a few that believe it could be films and videogames, but just as many believe its religion. Interesting results.
Well you can have your say while the poll is still running by selecting the options you feel are responsible or typing in your own, and you can get discussing it in the comments below, on the or the where you will find this article highlighted as well as the poll.