Humankind is not perfect, far from it, which is readily evident in excessively common acts of violence. The methods by which violence may be cured, have been hotly debated, each method being a polar opposite of the other. Desensitization is the belief that watching violence in any form of media will lead to violent acts as the viewer becomes numb to horrors of violence. Desensitization leads people to believe that negative images or ideas not limited to that of only violence but as well as sexuality or profane language must be limited and regulated to prevent people from performing illegal or immoral acts.
On the other end of the spectrum is the theory of catharsis, first introduced by the prodigious Greek philosopher Aristotle, which puts forth the idea that observing these images allow one to release pent up stress or aggression, mimicking the effect of a safety valve, rather than causing violence to occur. Violence in media does not lead to desensitization because it instead acts as a catharsis, preventing violence by instilling brutal and horrifying images in the mind of the viewer and allowing a release of pent up stress and aggression.
Movies, music, and games deemed to be too violent or profane are given ratings and labels to deter parents from allowing children to experience the media. This has been done to protect the children from inappropriate or violent media, however even with these ratings in place, children still see violent or scary images in the media geared towards them. In Stephen King’s essay, “My Creature from the Black Lagoon,” he argues that to children “even Disney movies are minefields of terror” (585) and that “almost everything has scare potential for the child under eight.
Children are literally afraid of their own shadows at the right time and place” (584). The fear that is instilled by these trivial and childish movies does not create mass-murderers or rapists. The images instead linger in the mind of the viewer as they age. Stephen king is still haunted by childhood movies, he said, “the images that remains forever after is of the creature slowly and patiently walling its victims into the Black Lagoon; even now I can see it peering over that growing wall of mud and sticks” (589).
These images give King a constant reminder of the horrors of violence. After a great number of years he is still uncomfortable with the images he sees. The horrors have failed to desensitize him to violence. Children are easily scared by the most mundane images of horror and violence. When comparing an adult to a child, one would believe that an adult is more capable of handling violence than a child. King disagrees with this notion, he believes that “The irony of all this is that children are better able to deal with fantasy and terror on its own terms than elders are” (586).
To prove this he makes the point that if a child and an adult unknowingly on LSD were both to watch a horror film a child would only be scared with nightmares for a short period of time, but the adult unknowing that the film was not reality would be dramatically affected over a long period of time. King sees these images as “perfect points of crystallization for those fears and hostilities” (587). To King these images of horror are necessary in a child’s life. Brutal images can affect people at any time of life, not only in childhood.
The fear that the tragedy, known as the Columbine High School Massacre that took place on April 20, 1999, aroused still resonates today, more than ten years later, and will take a lifetime to dissipate. Two senior students embarked on a rampage, killing thirteen and injuring countless others. In a New York Daily News article about the murderers, Dr. Dave Moore and Bill Manville are conversing about the shooting. It was explained that the murderers were avid video gamers that played games “that are deliberately programmed to make the player a first person shooter. It is then said by Dr. Moore that in this type of video game “You are not controlling a character, YOU ARE the character. ” For these two murderers, video games were unknowingly training sessions to their future rampage. They were able to garner skill, and strategy from the video games they played. Even though they sought refuge in murdering intimate characters on a computer monitor, it was not their video games that created their rage.
Jerald Block, a researcher and psychiatrist that analyzed the Columbine massacre told the Denver Post “The two young men relied on the virtual world of computer games to express their rage and to spend time, and cutting them off in 1998 sent them into crisis. ” As high-school students they were bullied by the other students. It was not their computer games that created rage fueled by animosity and depression, but instead it was the computer games that quelled it. The games acted as a safety valve, or catharsis, for the two.
Many believe that the video game revolution of recent years has caused violence to occur much like that of the Columbine Massacre. Video games are often connected to violence, as many games encourage players to take part in virtual violent acts. A study conducted at Iowa State University, was looking to link violent video game with desensitization. The conclusion of the experiment was that: The present experiment demonstrates that violent video game exposure can cause desensitization to real-life violence. In this experiment, violent game players were less physiologically aroused by real-life violence than were nonviolent game players.
It appears that individuals who play violent video games habituate or “get used to” all the violence and eventually become physiologically numb to it (495). One must understand that this was a controlled experiment, and not a study of the real world. In an article posted by PBS entitled, “Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked” by MIT professor Henry Jenkins refutes the results of this experiment and many similar to it as inconclusive. Most of those studies are inconclusive and many have been criticized on methodological grounds.
In these studies, media images are removed from any narrative context…Finally, the laboratory context is radically different from the environments where games would normally be played. Most studies found a correlation, not a causal relationship, which means the research could simply show that aggressive people like aggressive entertainment… If there is a consensus emerging around this research, it is that violent video games may be one risk factor – when coupled with other more immediate, real-world influences — which can contribute to anti-social behavior.
But no research has found that video games are a primary factor or that violent video game play could turn an otherwise normal person into a killer. There has yet to be research proving the desensitization occurs. It is possible that people that are already predisposed to violence may use video games as a tool, or other violent images to conduct violent acts, but these are people that would have likely done so regardless. Playing video games is a valuable way to quell the anger growing inside much like exercise is, the only difference is that by playing video games one sharpens their reflexes and mind, whilst exercise tones one’s body.
Violence in media formats such as video games have helped to lower the crime rates in America. The decline has continued in accordance with the boom in play of video games and a vast improvement in film-making technology, allowing movies to seem more life-like than ever before. The violent crime rate in America was the highest in 1991, 758. 1 violent crimes occurred per 100,000 people. From 1991 the rate declined steadily to 429. 4 violent crimes per 100,000 in 2009. Although much of this can be attested to improvements in law enforcement, the safety valve that violent media offers was certainly a factor in lowering the rate.
Another more useful statistic is that of the juvenile crime rate. The rate was at its highest in 1994 at just under 1000, arrests per 100,000 juveniles between the ages of 15-17. Since then it has seen a drastic drop to a current level of 500 per 100,000. This statistic can best help prove that video games do not cause desensitization. It was the mid 90’s that saw video game console featuring violence in games being played at home. These consoles provided juveniles, the most likely to game, with a safety valve to release their emotions. Catharsis does not only provide for a safety valve for criminal violence but sexuality as well.
Pornography is often seen as evil and immoral. Many believe that watching pornography leads one to perform illegal sexual acts. The fact is that pornography does a lot of good, aside from providing for thousands of jobs in a booming industry, it is a very valuable safety valve for sexuality. Pornography allows men and women to release their sexual tension through a safe and healthy method. It can help to curb the desire of sex; a pastime which can have many consequences. Often men and sometimes women, which have had sexual desires built up without release, will resort to illegal means.
Forcible rape is a detrimental act that often ruins the life of the victim. Since the advent of the internet, access to pornography has greatly increased. The crime saw its climax in 1992 and has lowered rapidly since. Adults should be encouraged to view pornography as a method of preventing rape. Violence is an issue that will likely improve over time. People now have better safety valves at their disposal than any time prior. With the advent of video games, and more realistic graphics, people can resort to the media as a source of catharsis rather than performing acts of violence themselves.
People should not fear that desensitization or numbness to violence can occur through media, but in fact the opposite occurs. Although not everyone needs a catharsis for violence, sexuality, or stress, it doesn’t hurt one to find their own methods of releasing steam.
Work Cited Carnagey, Nicholas L. , Craig A. Anderson, and Brad J. Bushman. The Effect of Video Game Violence on Physiological Desensitization to Real-life Violence. Journal of Experimental Social Psycology, 17 July 2006. Web. <http://www. psychology. iastate. edu/faculty/caa/abstracts/2005-2009/07CAB. pdf>. Human, Kathy. Study Links Computer Denial to Columbine. ” Denver Post 05 July 2007. Web. <http://www. denverpost. com/headlines/ci_6300370>. Jenkins, Henry. “Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked. ” The Video Game Revolution. Web. <http://www. pbs. org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/myths. html>. “Juvenile Violent Crime Rate | Public Agenda. ” Public Agenda: Helping Americans Explore Today’s Issues | Public Agenda. ;lt;http://www. publicagenda. org/charts/juvenile-violent-crime-rate;gt;. King, Stephen “My Creature from the Black Lagoon. ” The McGraw-Hill Reader. ED 10. Gilbert H. Muller. New York. McGraw Hill, 2008. 582-589 Moore, Dave, and Bill Manville. “What Role Might Video Game Addiction Have Played in the Columbine Shootings? ” Editorial. NYDailyNews. com. New York Daily News, 23 Apr. 2009. Web. ;lt;http://www. nydailynews. com/lifestyle/health/2009/04/24/2009-04-24_what_role_might_video_game_addiction_have_played_in_the_c olumbine_shootings. html;gt;. “United States Crime Rates 1960 – 2009. ” Web. 22 Sept. 2010. ;lt;http://www. disastercenter. com/crime/uscrime. htm;gt;. U. S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, ‘‘Violent Crime, Forcible Rape;’’