November 25, 2014
When I was in college, I had to write an argumentative paper talking about violence in our media. It included violence depicted on television, in video games, in music, or in any other form of expression. The question was; does violence in the media have a negative effect on our society, and if so, should the creators or facilitators of this violent media be held accountable for the actions resulting from exposure to said violent media?”
There were several in the class who immediately got defensive because they listened to music with violent lyrics or played video games that contained violent material. I think at the time gangster rap and Grand Theft Auto was very popular. As such, they stated that violence in the media had no effect on those who are exposed to it.
I feel differently.
Do I believe that violence in the media has an effect on society? Yes. Absolutely. I believe it inspires us. Sometimes that inspiration can be good. Sometimes it merely reproduces more violence. But should those who create or produce or facilitate media that has violent material in it be held accountable for the actions of those exposed to this media? That’s a bit much.
Granted, if your intention in incorporating violence in your artistic expression is a form of manipulation, attempting to excite a response, then yes, that is not right. But this leads to another question: does life reflect art or does art reflect life?
While I was doing research for this paper, I remember there was a popular movie out called Money Train. If I remember correctly, there is a scene in the movie where someone sticks a hose in a subway ticket booth with the cashier still inside, pours gasoline in the booth, and then set it on fire. Shortly after the movie released in the theaters, there were a string of very similar crimes occurring in New York City. When the media reported this, they blamed the movie for giving the criminals the idea. However, when the police chief was interviewed, he admitted that these crimes had been happening long before the movie ever came out. Likely, the screenwriter or playwright had heard about these crimes and incorporated them into his movie to make it more authentic.
Another example was the movie Natural Born Killers. There is a scene in the movie where the two main characters start driving across the country basically go on a killing spree. Not too long after the movie was out, a couple did the same thing, very similar to the way it was done in the movie. When questioned why they did that, they cited the movie. Should Oliver Stone be personally held accountable for the murders of these people? No; how could he have possibly known how people would react to his movie? How could he have anticipated someone would use the film as a road map for their lives?
“The devil made me do it.”
When are people going to stop attempting to find a scapegoat for their problems and start taking responsibility for their actions?
One of my favorite movies is Batman Begins. It is somewhat of a back story for Batman. There is a part where this man, who is a billionaire, at one point in time became poor, and a criminal, in an attempt to better understand the criminal mind. There is a scene where he is hungry, and he has no money, so he steals a piece of fruit.
This scene really bothered me because Batman is supposed to be a symbol of justice in my mind, and he just stole something. But there was a very important lesson in that scene; motive for our action is sometimes more important than the action itself. Someone who steals food to eat because they have nothing is still a criminal, just as someone who steals because they don’t want to work, or because they feel they shouldn’t have to work, or because they want to “stick it to the man”, or because they are being rebellious. But even though they are all criminals, one of them I can sympathize with.
Interesting how there is a place in the Bible where God commanded His people to not harvest everything in their fields, but to leave a little for travelers that may be hungry passing through.
One way to reduce criminal activity is to not give it an opportunity to exist by providing for those in need. No, I’m not preaching socialism; I’m talking about helping those in need, not funding those who refuse to work.
I recently watched the third installment of The Hunger Games movie. There was a line that stuck with me. The main character is the symbol of the resistance, The Mocking Jay, and she says to the president in the capitol; “If we burn, you burn with us.” The point being that we are all one people and just because we come up with some way to divide ourselves, whether by pay or by status or by physical location or by race or by sex or by creed or by religion or whatever idiotic segregation we place on ourselves, we are still one people.
How many Americans died in the Civil War? All. All of them were Americans.
When we make the statement “my people” it should be inclusive of the entire human race. Because you can’t cast stones at my neighbor and it not affect me. We are one people. We need to stop acting like we are not. The judgments, the hate, the criticism, the lack for compassion and sympathy; what does it accomplish? More hate and resentment.
The Bible recorded that we were make in the image of God. To me that means we are His reflection. As such, we are purposed to reflect who He is. It is kind of difficult to do that if we don’t invest time researching what He looks like, or rather, what it is we are to reflect.
I read that God is love.
So, how do we reflect love?
We can start by figuring out how He demonstrated love to us. We find in Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” So, God demonstrated love by doing something for us. More specifically, He demonstrated His love for us by dying in our place. It would seem the basis of love is thinking of others before self. I think the way we reflect God is by regarding others higher than we do ourselves.
Do we do that now?
We hate people with different viewpoints than our own, especially in regard to religion and politics. Even if we do not necessarily “hate” them, we definitely do not “love” them, which means we are failing to reflect God. It doesn’t matter if you are flinging a bullet, an insult, or a judgmental stare at someone we deem “unfit” in our minds—we are not contributing to a solution.
I believe it was Aristotle who said “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Maybe we should invest more time on developing an educated mind rather than casting stones and spreading hate. It might make reflecting God a more obtainable task.