3 years ago1,000+ Views

When it comes to violence, is media a cause or an effect?

I'm really amazed by the conversations the Vingle community is having right now about gun violence (thanks to @nicolejb and @VinMcCarthy for prompting everyone- here and here). The conversation seemed to be shifting towards the topic of cause and effect. Does violent media cause violent behavior, or are violent behaviors the reason that people are drawn towards violent media? The Marvel movies came up and that seemed like a great place to continue the conversation.

Violence is a prevailing theme in our media.

It's so embedded, we often don't notice it. It doesn't look like violence to us. It's so common it's unremarkable. And my favorite films are not exempt. Alongside the themes of heroism and sacrifice, there is a continuous thread of violence. It's reached the point where it's hard to imagine a hero story that doesn't have violence. They exist, but they're extremely rare. So when we have discussions about video games and mass shootings, part of me agrees that there is a problem and a discussion to be had, but video games aren't alone.

Every film. Every song. Every book.

With a few rare exceptions, violence or the threat of violence is a plot device used to motivate characters and propel stories. While some acts of violence are coded as "bad" (example: Loki leading an alien invasion in New York City), others are coded as "good" (the Hulk grabbing Loki and smashing him against the floor). And Loki doesn't die. And the narrative rewards the Hulk for doing this because Loki is "getting what he deserves".

The heroes don't kill, only the villains do

Even though the actions of plenty of Marvel's heroes would probably end up killing a lot of people, we never see the consequences of their violence in that way. Loki damages New York City and the result is hundreds of fatalities. The Hulk goes on a rampage in Age of Ultron and... the buildings are all empty? He doesn't trample anyone on the way there? Or he fights a battle in Harlem, and destroys the neighborhood, but it's okay because he was preventing even worse destruction by the Abomination?
The blame falls solely on the villains, meanwhile the heroes can commit violent acts and "get away with it" because their violence doesn't kill anyone. It creates an unhealthy dichotomy: "bad/unjustified" violence kills people, "good/justified" violence doesn't. And while none of this is working on a conscious level, the message still reaching us.
In the scene below, Captain America rampages through a bunch of armed guards. We see them fall, but we don't see a confirmation that they've died. Physically speaking, getting kicked in the face by a supersoldier would probably result in a broken neck. But we don't see that. We see a nameless, often faceless obstacle fall. They're not humanized, they're anonymous. They're person-shaped props. So it's okay, right? Because props are objects and objects can't die.

Is Violence Masculine?

Judging from the statistics, the answer is yes. While women are absolutely perpetrators of violence, and men are absolutely victims of violence, mass murders are overwhelmingly carried out by men*. Women are the exception to the rule, not the norm. Via Maya Dusenbery at Feministing:
"The fact that 61 out of 62 mass murders which happened over the past 30 years [as of December 2012] were committed by men is not considered particularly noteworthy because, in a country where 95 percent of violent crime is committed by men, it’s not noteworthy. It is expected. We’ll assume the shooter is a man unless told otherwise and then we’ll be surprised... We teach men to be aggressive. We teach them that is the very essence of “being a man.” We say that women are supposed to be caring and compassionate and we tell men not to be like women–to be anything but a “girl.” We teach men that anger is the only acceptable emotion for them to express–and violence is an appropriate way of expressing it. We police their masculinity in a million small ways every day from the time they are even younger than the children who died in Sandy Hook. In Katz’s words: “We socialize empathy out of boys all the time." And then we act as though this state of affairs is natural–as though the rules of masculinity are ordained and not systematically enforced. It’s not. There is nothing inevitable about the fact that 95 percent of violent crime in this country is committed by men."

How do we do that? How do we train men not to have empathy? What kind of toxic culture are we nurturing, to separate men from their natural emotions? Is it social? Is it media? Or is it both?

If men are getting the message everywhere they go that any emotion other than anger is unacceptable, why is it surprising that it's taken to heart?

*Obligatory not all men. Of course not all men do this.
Since we've been having such a fruitful conversation, I'm tagging everyone who's commented on the previous gun violence related cards, but I hope everyone feels welcome to chime in if they feel like they have something to say!
@smnthcarter773 @InPlainSight @ButterflyBlu @melifluosmelodi @Matokokepa @orenshani7 @loftonc16 @SarahVanDorn @alywoah @mansamirdha @RobertMarsh @MattK95 @mchlyang thank you all so much for sharing your ideas this week! This is a really difficult issue to discuss and I'm very humbled by everyone's contributions.
violence is a person killing someone or ppl because of sheer stupidity. like school shootings and murders. that is violence. a soldier, cop or the like going out and risking their lives so you can sleep peacefully in your bed so you can wake up the next morning to your routine is not violence. someone protecting a child from being kidnapped or an elderly from being beaten or a woman/girl from being molested or harmed is not violence. the differnce is how your views on violence protrude and being smart enough to know the difference.
I don't watch the news that much because of all the negitive bs they put on it. I use my app for what I need. the news is not news when it shows constant stupid vs ppl do and then wonder why they got put in jail. news to me is a birth. a person doing something good and beneficial. someone supporting a good cause or helping military vets or family. children learning and being supported. things like that. so to me the media is cause and effect.
regarding the violence being acceptable with heroes thing, i think it's because heroes resort to violence for the sake of peace, while villains use violence for the sake of violence. that's why we accept heroic violence. without heroic violence, then the villainous violence would just continue and eventually obliterate to oblivion. violence is not condoned, as the heroes do try to avoid casualties in the movies. i mean, with the villains trying to destroy everything they see, the heroes cant just slap a olive branch on the battle spaceship and call it a day
also, society doesnt teach men to be angry. they dont teach them to be aggressive either. they do, however, teach them to be strong and better physically, which leads to aggression, and anger in extreme cases/when they dont meet expectations
@RobertMarsh I definitely see what you're saying. In my experience, a lot of the time when boys were roughhousing at school the teachers sort of dismissed it. They would say the old "boys will be boys" and they didn't do anything about it. Boys would be pushing and shoving and unless someone was seriously injured, it was pretty much allowed. Looking back that's such a damaging message to be sending. Girls just have to deal with it when a boy shoves them because 'that's just how boys are'? Boys should be rough with each other because that's just their 'natural' way of communicating? Those are terrible lessons! And it feels a lot like those lessons are being supported by the media (and the people who learned those lessons are probably expressing them in the media, which is giving us a loop of repeating toxic behavior). But if people don't realize that what they've been taught is wrong, how are they going to pass on the right message? @loftonc16 I think I see what you're saying. There's definitely violence everywhere. I guess my question is, where does it stop? There's no question that stopping a mass murderer is necessary. But there was a recent video that went viral where some Swedish police officers stopped a fight in NYC not with violence, but with tactics that have been proven to de-escalate a violent situation. Yes, it was a physical altercation, but often the police here tend to escalate violence instead of trying to bring it down. @SarahVanDorn I definitely see what you're saying! When examined from a different perspective, I think it's easy to see our heroes as villains. The movies contextualize their behaviors and make them okay, but when they're pulled out of context, do they really look okay? Why are we willing to accept this behavior if it's coming from certain individuals, but not others? @nicolejb you're so right about the Hunger Games! I think unlike some of the other movies I mentioned, that one does a decent job of showing the consequences of violence. It's told from the perspective of people who have been starved and abused by the government (which is a kind of violence), and then keeps going. We see Rue die, and we see Katniss grieve. (The books went even more in depth, Katniss felt repulsed by her ability to kill the other tributes). In the third one, we see what remains of District 12. We see scorched bodies, and we feel Kaniss recoiling from it, because it's so horrific. These are people she knows, with names and identities. She's absolutely a violent character, but it seems like the Hunger Games are more critical about our culture's tendency to be entertained by violence and death.
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