Desensitized and Detached

*Edited/clarified statement in blue bold.


Does watching violent movies inspire violence in the real world? – Daily Prompt

The prevalence of violence in today’s movies has desensitized a number of people to blood and gore, but has in no way truly inspired real world violence, rather it has made violence something to be expected. Violence in movies falls under two large categories: violent acts meant as a ‘gross-out’ or ‘scream factor’ and those meant as comedic effect. The prevalence of the former category is what many critics of society use as a scapegoat for criminal acts in lieu of demanding people take responsibility for their thoughts and actions.

The Dark Knight Rises, The Town, Criminal Minds, Call of Duty. All of these movies, shows, and video games have been blamed as the reason for recent violent crimes. The flaw in the argument that watching The Town will make you gather some friends and rob a couple armored trucks, shooting anyone who gets in the way, is that it does not take in to account two things. The first being that people robbed banks and armored trucks before the movie came out (in fact the movie was inspired by actual criminal activity from the town’s real-life residents), and the second being that there is no point in any movie or video game when the action is paused and the actor faces the camera to say ‘Now you do this just like I did’.  People who have the kind of darkness inside them from which violent acts are born are going to do something bad regardless of what shoot-em-up movie is playing in theaters.

What is really at play is the growing desensitizing of the masses to violence. It’s on the movie screen, it’s on the news, it’s happening across the street and now you have to call 911. People have become detached from reality in the sense that they don’t feel what they’re watching. Severed limbs are cause for cheers and critiques of what shade of red the fake blood was compared to other movies. People forget to keep in mind that these are bad things when it is happening on screen; and when it happens in real life most of those people will comment along the lines of ‘That sort of thing happens all the time now’. There is no more outrage when something terrible happens, it has become the norm. That is not to say that witnessed violence is never met with sadness or outrage, but that hearing about something that happened in another neighborhood, city, or state has less of an emotional impact on the person watching the news (assuming the victims are strangers). In my opinion, the ongoing violence of the past ~10 years or so has made some people come to expect to hear about something bad happening on the news at 9: we’ve become detached from the belief or expectation for a ‘civilized society’ or ‘industrial nation’ to be humane, some people going so far as to force themselves to become emotionally numb to cope with the violence.

It is important not to forget that despite this detachment or ‘what can you do?’ attitude a lot of people have towards violence, certainly does not make violence acceptable. The danger is when violent movies or other media is used as a scapegoat. At the end of the day, unless some Liam Neeson character was holding a gun to your head the entire day, everything you did that day was your choice. People choose to be nice or to be cruel and society needs to hold people accountable for the impulses they choose to act on. Could a violent film give someone an idea of a way to harm someone? Sure, but the person chooses to then harm someone in the same manner. As long as someone is living in contact with society, they are going to be influenced by something. It is how individuals react to those influences that matters. One person can see a film about an abused woman and decide to campaign against domestic violence. Another person might view the movie and think that because it happened in a movie, that justifies them doing the same thing in their own home. The latter simply shouldn’t be the case, but this is not a perfect world.

When it comes down to it, do violent movies have an influence on people? Certainly, but they do not force people to be violent. Violence is a choice born out of an evil mindset or in some cases a mental illness that inhibits the person from distinguishing right from wrong or simply controlling their impulses. To blame a violent movie for real world violence is to say to people that they are not responsible for their own decisions, and cannot think for themselves.


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