Television is the biggest form of multimedia out there. Its most important role is to report the news and maintain communications between people around the world. Television’s most influential, yet most serious aspect is its shows for entertainment. Violent children’s shows like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and adult shows like NYPD Blue and Homicide almost always fail to show the characters resolve their differences in a non-violent manner, instead they show a more entertaining resolution, where the good guy beats the crap out of the bad guy. In one episode of NYPD Blue three people were murdered in the span of an hour. “Contemporary television creates a seemingly insatiable appetite for amusement of all kinds without regard for social or moral benefits” (Foley, 41). Findings over the past twenty years by three Surgeon Generals, the Attorney General’s Task Force on Family Violence, the American Medical Association, the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other medical authorities indicate that televised violence is harmful to all of us, but particularly to the mental health of children (Foley, 70-71). In 1989 the results of a five-year study by the American Psychological Association indicated that the average child has witnessed 8,000 murders and 100,000 other acts of violence on television by the time he or she has completed sixth grade. In further studies it was determined that by the time that same child graduates from high school he or she will have spent 22,000 hours watching television, twice as many hours as he or she has spent in school (Lamson 124).
In a study by the Centers for Disease Control, published by the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), it was shown that homicide rates had doubled between the introduction of television in the 1950’s and the end of the study in 1994. In that same study other possible causes for the vast increases in violence were studied, “the ‘baby boom’ effect, trends in urbanization, economic trends, trends in alcohol abuse, the role of capital punishment, civil unrest, the availability of guns, and exposure to television”(Lamson 32). Each of these purported causes was tested in a variety of ways to see whether it could be eliminated as a credible contributor to doubling the crime rate in the United States, and one by each of them was invalidated, except for television. Children average four hours of television per day, and in the inner city that increases to as much as eleven hours a day, with an average of eight to twelve violent incidents per hour. It is also interesting to note that violence occurs some fifty-five times more often on television than it does in the real world (Lamson 156). FBI and census data shows the homicide arrest rate for seventeen-year-olds more than doubled between 1985 and 1991, and the rates for fifteen-and sixteen-year-olds increased even faster. Movies also add their fair share to the problem of violence in society. “Researchers have established that copycat events are not an anomaly. Statistically speaking, they are rare, but predictable, occurrences. Television shows, novels, but especially movies-all can trigger copycat violence” (Lamson 72). As recently as November of 1995, New York City officials believed that the burning of a tollbooth clerk was a result of copycat violence, resulting from a similar scene in the movie Money Train. In 1994, Nathan Martinez shot and killed his stepmother and half sister after watching the movie Natural Born Killers at least six times. “Later, Martinez, who had shaved his head and wore granny sun glasses like Natural Born Killer’s main character Mickey Knox, reportedly told a friend, “It’s nothing like the movies”(Purtell A1). In a 1993 film, The Program, there was a scene showing college football players lying in the center of a highway in an attempt to show their courage and dedication to their sport. This movie was later blamed for inspiring real-life imitators; (one of whom died). In numerous experiments based at pre-schools, researchers have observed children playing before and after seeing violent movies and television shows. “Following the violent program the children’s play is invariably more aggressive. They are much more likely to hit, punch, kick, and grab to get their way. In other words, violent entertainment teaches children how to use aggression for personal gain” (Foley, 75). It is also hard to believe that movies like Rambo III and Terminator 2 which showed countless killings, even a nuclear holocaust, have at one time, had their own line of children’s action figures even though both movies are rated R. One must seriously consider the idea that the movie studios are targeting a younger and easily influenced main audience. With all the evidence showing that violence in entertainment causes real life violence, it is very hard to say that violence in entertainment is justifiable. When little children and adults alike, fall victim to entertainment’s violent influence it is not justifiable and it is especially not justifiable when violent entertainment creates real life victims.
Is censorship the answer to the problem of violent entertainment? Should we tell people what they can or can’t read or watch? The answer to this is obviously no, we can’t censor violent entertainment. The First Amendment clearly states that: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. It is only instinct to censor something we dont like, its easier. If the government ever did censor violent entertainment, who knows where they would stop, or even if they would. Perhaps they would try to censor violent speech or try to censor the speech of those who disagreed with the actions of the government. The simple message is don’t promote censorship, because it could easily get out of hand. There are then only two ways to get rid of the violent entertainment in our lives: we could pressure those who make the violent movies, television shows, books, and plays, into having a social conscience, making them be less prone to creating violent entertainment; or we could simply solve the problem ourselves, with a push of a button, or the turn of a page.