Is media to blame for violence?

Is media to blame for violence? Why literature has nothing (and everything) to do with it. | Bewildered Mother

I’m sure you’ve heard by now about the case involving two 12-year-old girls that attempted first-degree murder on their friend at a sleepover. Everyone is trying their darnedness to blame their violence on something other than their own depraved souls. People are blaming literature, movies, and video games. No one is blaming their upbringing.

First, what the girls were reading barely counts as literature. Pulp fiction is great entertainment, don’t get me wrong, but literature is an art form. (The difference between literature and pulp fiction is the difference between film and viral YouTube videos. There’s a place for both.) LITERATURE teaches empathy. Even religions use stories to teach empathy to their followers. Why do you think Jesus spoke in parables? Fiction is necessary. Storytelling is what separates us from the animals.

Secondly, media isn’t the cause of violence, but it can be a symptom of it. If there’s a correlation between violent TV and violent children, for example, that probably means that violent children are more likely to watch violent television. Correlation does not mean causation. Violence on television does not necessarily cause violence. If a violent child watches Animal Planet, they will probably get more thrills from shark week than Meerkat Manor. But you know who else likes watching shark week? Totally well adjusted people. (Sorry if I’m mixing up my networks. I haven’t had cable in over 6 years.)

The difference is sometimes upbringing, but honestly, even great parents can raise terrible human beings.

The real difference is that some children are empathetic or they learn to empathize. Some children are wise—they can predict consequences, and some need to learn that actions have consequences.

Those girls clearly had no empathy when they tried to murder their friend. Were they sociopaths? Or had they just not learned to empathize?

I am not a naturally empathetic being. I am naturally calculated. I’m an INTP. I value being smart over being nice. Like any other child, sometimes I could be cruel growing up. I was predisposed to having a temper and sometimes resorted to violence. But you know what? I learned to empathize. I made friends, I read novels like The Giver and Number the Stars, I saw broken relationships, I became a Christian, I matured in my faith, I got married, I had children. Sometimes my kids have the ability to push my buttons and that old monster rears her snake-tendrilled head. But I read novels, I connect with people, I pray.

Taking away pulp fiction, movies, television, or any other media isn’t going to change these kids. Throwing them in mandatory religious education isn’t going to change these kids. What they need is literature. They need empathy. Without empathy, they won’t see past themselves, they won’t consider consequences that don’t directly apply to them, and they won’t give a damn about morals.

Am I an idealist? Sure I am. You can’t force kids to read. But you can show them movies with empathetic characters. You can let them watch superhero shows that teach good versus evil at its simplest. You can find commercial literature that is fun to read but still generates empathy and at least some exploration of right and wrong, like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.

Why do you think we’re seeing a resurgence in superhero movies and dystopias? We want to know that there’s a such thing as good and evil. We want to be able to tell the difference. Is it reality? No. But the great thing about fiction, about literature, about movies, is that they can take what isn’t true and show us what is truth.

Teach your children empathy. Teach them consequences. And for heaven’s sake, supply them with good movies and fiction.

Fighting for Girls’ Sake

There are plenty of YouTube videos, books, and articles on the topic of misrepresentation of women in media.

Ralph Lauren Photoshop Disaster

Ralph Lauren Photoshop Disaster

Think about the average portrayal of a woman in an advertisement or television show. She’s anything but average. She’s probably a size zero, and that’s all we notice about her. Appearance is what’s important—not who she is, what she does, or what her talents or skills are. Granted, the media is primarily visual. Humans are primarily visual. First impressions are usually made based on appearance. But what is bothersome is that appearance seems to be the primary focus, and that even women who are intellectuals or are extremely talented are judged by what they look like.

I’m guilty of putting appearance first, too. It’s a sickness, and I’m trying to get better. Awareness comes first.

Recently I watched a video commenting on media’s portrayal of women, linking that to the pathetic representation of women in the US Congress.

I’m pretty traditional. I’m a stay at home mom, and I think that children need their mothers when they are growing up. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think we should have women in congress, representing 51% of the population of our country. Absolutely not. I think congress needs women and mothers of grown children representing other women.

A woman that I highly respect, who was my English teacher in high school for the better half of three years, recently posted that video (warning: includes graphic, sexual images of women) with an appeal to her Facebook friends to discuss how we can change this problem of misrepresentation, more deeply, the problem of girls being “taught” by media that they are only worth their dress size, and that women are valued by appearance, not ability. Here was my response. I’d like to hear your thoughts as well.

Sesame Street and the American Girl company were both good influences in my life growing up. The American Girl BOOKS, though. The dolls harbor materialism in young girls, just like any other commercial toy.

Language is huge—we have to change the way we speak to change the way we think, and vice versa (You taught me that, Keri, when we were reading 1984). We can’t focus on girls’ appearance FIRST, if we mention it at all. All girls want to be beautiful, and we can help them to feel beautiful, but we need to tell them and show them that beauty comes from truth and reality, not deception and fantasy. I always loudly comment on a photoshopped image of a woman when I see one in public.

I rip ads out of my magazines; we don’t have cable so we don’t see commercials. We need to change the way both boys and girls think.

I’ll annoy my children by constantly reminding them that the point isn’t to have a boyfriend or girlfriend—it’s to create a partnership with another person. I hope that my marriage will be the prime example to my children how men and women should treat each other.

Parents can change the world, but parents are too often replaced by media. If you are a parent, fight for your right to be your child’s parent.

I’ll also subject my children to Bollywood movies, so they see healthy actresses like Aishwarya Rai, whom I consider to be the most gorgeous woman on the planet.

Click through for source.

Brief Interlude: An Appeal from Bewildered Mother

Related to this issue of how we view women as a society is the extreme problem of human trafficking in the US. “Human Trafficking” is the politically correct term for “sex trade” or “children sold into slavery so perverts can rape them.” YOU CAN HELP to protect and save children in the US by donating to Gracehaven or Love 146. LT and I donated last year, and we did again this year. It’s tax-deductable, too. We donated through the Comic Creators for Freedom Drive. The drive ends Tomorrow, January 20th! Please consider donating to the drive, or individually to Gracehaven or Love 146 (click the links to find out more information about each organization). Either way, 100% of your funds will be donated—it won’t go to administration or anything. At the very least, start talking about Human Trafficking in the US. Awareness is the first step to any radical change, and change happens one person at a time.

What are your thoughts? What can we do to raise girls (and boys) differently? What are your favorite articles, books, or videos on the subject?

Note: Out of respect for my other readers, please give a description of any link you post, and let us know if there is any questionable content in the link, otherwise I will edit your comment to include one.