I was walking past a youngster the other day, his eyes fixed to the television. Sometimes I wonder what we let our youngest generations watch. What I saw unfolding was graphic, to say the least.
It was a man, soaked from head to toe in blood, beaten whilst people watched and laughed. Slowly, he was tortured to death in front of those that both loved and loathed him.
I said, ‘Kid, please stop watching the crucifixion of Jesus. Go play Grand Theft Auto or something.’
We use a very warped, biased logic when determining what is appropriate viewing for a child. We go to church to hear stories of murder and be threatened with an eternal lifetime of pain, no questions asked. The first image we see is this one, placed strategically for immediate acknowledgement and maximum effect.
But oh! how we like to tut at the violence of video games and movies!
Of course video games are becoming increasingly violent. Movies always have been. But how many times has Quentin Tarantino or Rockstar Games threatened me with a fiery inferno for not buying their new release? I choose to watch and play them; I wasn’t forced to as a child. (I have never been forced to church either. Any time I appear to talk as if I was, I’m talking about our population as a whole.)
Think about it. Sex and violence have always been at the forefront of entertainment, we have just been disillusioned into acceptance. From the day we are born, we are subjected to a belief system; one of the first images we will see as a newborn is the above execution.
This is why religion gets away with it time after time. Sometimes it is hard to see what is wrong when it is all we have ever known.
Entertainment is always evolving and becoming increasingly accessible. With that, violence and sexual violence has been more prominent on our screens over the last couple of decades. This can easily be observed and points the finger at a cause. Yet every time I turn on a news channel, religious violence and discrimination is at the forefront – not violence due to home entertainment.
Violence inspired by video games or movies is reported rarely. Religious violence does not cease for a single day. For this reason, I propose that the age limit for church be raised to 18. I see no reason why it isn’t already. I, for one, will not be taking my children to a church to idolise a man who was brutally executed alongside two others. Even if it was true, it isn’t pleasant in the slightest and a hindrance for a healthy upbringing.
In November last year, The Guardian produced an article on a study correlating media violence and a possible increase in related crime, The results by Christopher Ferguson in the Journal of Communication are summarised below.
Christopher Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University in Florida, carried out two studies into media violence. In the first, his team correlated US homicide rates between 1920 and 2005, with instances of violence depicted in motion pictures. Although there was evidence of a moderate correlation between a rise in screened and real-life violence during the 1950s, this reversed throughout the rest of the century, with instances of screen violence inversely related to homicide rates in the 1990s.
Video games are a more recent addition to media entertainment, emerging in the latter decades of the 20th century.
In the second study, consumption of violent video games was measured against youth violence rates in the previous 20 years. The study concluded that playing video games coincided with a fall in violent crime perpetrated by those in the 12-17 age group.
Examples of media influences that may have led to tragedies are touched upon, such as the Columbine Massacre in 1999. Yet when guns are readily available, and with various mental health issues going undetected, these things will sadly occur, albeit rarely.
So with that, a last word from Ferguson.
There is a risk that identifying the wrong problems, such as media violence, may distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities, and mental health. This research may help society focus on issues that really matter and avoid devoting unnecessary resources to the pursuit of moral agendas with little practical value.
So next time you wonder why the world is such a violent place to live, look at what we have been pushed into growing up.
Is it any wonder when one of the first things we are subjected to is a story of torture, and we are threatened with it ourselves when we attempt to look away?