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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bombs, Bullets and Arrows

by Carol Herder

My favorite part of officer training was the hand grenade range.
Our trainers didn’t allow us to watch – we had to duck behind a sturdy wall – but just hearing the bang was a huge high. My kids think I’m weird. But from my youth I fondly recall black and white WWII movies where beautiful film stars with sexy European accents blew up Nazi munitions dumps. I can’t help feeling I’m in good company. Did I enjoy tossing grenades because of childhood memories of aggressive war movies? Did watching those movies turn me into a destructive, sociopathic freak?

In keeping with our blog’s “hot topic” theme, I’m writing about violence in media. I can honestly say I don’t mind a bit of violence, but like everyone else I’m selective. I abhor scary movies, but in a good action flick, when the bad guy is about to get his comeuppance, I’m right there. I recently watched “The Mechanic” a movie about a hit man.
Bishop’s assignments were to take out some really bad guys. This was okay with me until he blew up Steve, his sidekick. Here I got a little squeamish. Steve’s character wasn’t stellar. Although behaving badly he WAS avenging his father.

My son is a big time gamer. He plays stuff like “Bioshock” and “Mass Effect" both chock full of violence.

Happily, he is now 20 so I don’t have to monitor him anymore. Even so, I was pretty lucky in the parent department, Michael is peace-loving; his last thought is to participate in any real-life violence. But like most guys he loves action, violence and guns. So, what is too much? What comes first – a kid prone to violence or media violence pushing a kid over the edge? Is it both? Is it neither?

“The Hunger Games” novels are a huge hit.
Honestly, though, when I first heard the premise of the story, I delayed reading the books. I thought it would involve a lot of long fight scenes. Is it the female side of me that just doesn’t enjoy endless action? Happily I was mistaken! Suzanne Collins did an excellent job of balancing action and drama, all the while keeping me totally spellbound throughout the novel. I’ve come to love Katniss, and have added her to my “hero” list right up there with Alice from “Resident Evil.”

"The Hunger Games" and, even "Harry Potter" make me think there is a place for violence in media. Tastefully done violence can enhance and enrich a story. Often it is necessary to balance a story for entertainment purposes, give a satisfactory ending, or emphasis an admirable character. Sometimes violence is loud and colorful such as a bloody, bone crunching fist fight. At other times it’s mean and insidious like a group of teen girls posting ugly rumors about a classmate. Even our daily news programs are peppered with brutality and carnage.

Do violent scenes open the door to excess? At what point should the decision of media violence be taken out of the viewer’s hands? Who decides violence levels in movies or games? And most important of all –what we read? Remember when book burnings were prevalent? The obvious answer is moderation. But who decides the degree of moderation?

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