Scapegoats for Society

Scapegoats for Society
In the last decade or so, and especially since the shootings in Columbine and various other schools, people have been up in arms about violence and sex in movies, television, music and video games. New restrictions have been put on most of these media forms, or at the very least, old restrictions are enforced more rigidly. Rating systems have been put into effect for television and video games, and warnings have been put on music that sometimes isn?t even all that offensive. While many of these precautions are justified, I believe that blaming terrible incidents like Columbine on these media is just passing the buck, and ultimately avoiding the real issues at hand. Ever since Clark Gable said the word damn in Gone With The Wind in 1939, movies have pushed the boundaries of what our society considers to be acceptable. As our society becomes more desensitized to sex, foul language and violence, movies are going to have to try even harder to push the limits. One might ask, ?Why do film makers try to surprise audiences with more ?offensive? content in movies?" They continue to make movies more graphic because that is what will make money.
Even if action movies don?t have much of a presence in the top ten highest grossing movies of all time, a good action movie will generally more than break even. Whether the customers are bloodthirsty action movie fans, or censorship advocates watching just to see what filth is being produced, sex and violence sell. Many movies that are more artistic use violence to make intriguing social commentary, or to tell an important historical story. For example, powerful movies like American History X, a story about a young man who has grown up as a Neo-Nazi, and later sees the error of his ways, (by the way, this is an amazing movie, and if you haven?t seen it you really should) can change people?s lives forever, but could not make nearly as strong a statement without using violence as a story telling tool. War movies would also be rather ineffective without showing the death and destruction that surround war. Another industry that has received its share of baseless blame for violence in the last several years is the video game industry. For years, mothers around the world have told their kids that video games were a waste of time, money and brain power. Recently, with graphics getting better and better in video games, gory games have been taking a lot of heat for encouraging violence among misled gamers. There is a whole genre of games called ?first person shooters? where the whole game is running around shooting people or robots or whatever. In light of all of the attention that violence in games has gotten, a rating system was put into place similar to the one that rates movies. These ratings include ?early childhood?, ?kids to adults?, ?teen?, ?mature?, ?adults only? and ?rating pending?(www.bestbuy.com), and are displayed on the covers of all video games. Until the last year or so, this was provided as a strictly informational tool, so that when parents went out to get their kid a new game for Christmas, they could tell whether or not they wanted to get little Timmy a copy of ?Goldeneye?. The problem with this rating system is that in the last year or so, stores have started requiring id to buy games with higher ratings. I guess that this is not the worst thing that could happen, but my point is that it doesn?t matter what kind of games a kid plays, if a kid is crazy, and has access to guns, he can still do terrible things. When the news started publishing stories about kids shooting up their schools, people needed a reason for the violence. They needed to find a cause to get behind in order to explain the fact that sometimes, for a number of reasons, kids are just plain messed up. Angry, confused parents everywhere decided to blame different forms of media, totally neglecting the question of why the kids had the guns in the first place. Because these shootings occurred shortly after the movie The Matrix was released, many people said that the shootings happened because the shooters saw the movie, which has lots of gunfights in it, and then decided to go on a rampage because of the violence in the movie. Other people chose a different scapegoat on which to cast the blame, videogames. Games like ?Quake?, ?Half Life? and any of a myriad of other lesser known titles were blamed for these seemingly random acts of violence. Still others blamed music by such artists as Eminem. Eminem?s songs contain some very disturbing imagery and descriptions of very violent things which practically beg to be blamed for violence. People decided to ignore the fact that kids have been bringing guns to school and shooting other kids for years, and instead blamed different forms of media which contain graphic material. According to an article in the ?Chicago Sun Times,? ?Researchers from the Secret Service have completed a detailed analysis of 37 school shootings (Dedman)?. Rap artist Eminem uses vulgar descriptions of violent scenes to sell his records. Many people have attempted to have slap Eminem with the blame for all sorts of violence and anti-gay sentiment. Even though I personally feel that Eminem has little to say that is actually worth hearing, I still believe strongly that his hate filled lyrics are not to blame for violence. The real cause of violence is not something that can just be identified and fixed. In reality, violence cannot be linked to any one thing or person. It is something that will never be totally gotten rid of, no matter how many limitations are put on the content of different media. Douglas Lowenstein put it well when he said ?video games don?t cause you to be violent,? ?You have to have a whole lot of other risk factors present to make someone violent.?(Snider) The fact of the matter is that movies, games and music will continue to get more explicit with time, and people will continue to blame events that can?t be explained on things that are not at fault. Putting limitations on what can and can not be in these different forms of media would be a step backwards for America and one of its most important freedoms.

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