Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Violence on TV

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Ellen Goodman's essay "How to Zap Violence," is an essay about a device called the V-chip. The V-chip is supposed to help parents alter television shows that prove to be too violent for their children to watch. Bill Clinton promises "new technologies can put you back in the drive's seat in your life"(458). The new idea is very appealing to parents who are concerned with the type of messages that come from their television.

Goodman states that Ed Donnerstein as not a "cultural coroner"(457). He feels that you can't understand the dilemma with violence by doing a mere "body count" or a "bullet count"(457). The problem is more complex that just counting the bodies. It is true that not all the violence on television is equally damaging to young viewers. So the question is, what kinds of programs are harmful to young children and what types are of children are harmed.

On twenty-three channels, researchers analyzed ,6 television programs that contain harmful violence. Researchers, within these television programs, recognized three threats; "Learning to behave violently, becoming more desensitized to the harmful consequences of violence, and becoming more fearful of being attacked"(458). About seventy-three percent of the programs contain violence that's unpunished. A lot of the programs that contain gunfights, the victims are not shown severely injured. Fifty-eight percent of the programs contain images of the victims showing no pain. About 16 percent of the television programs display the aftermath of the act of violence. This part of Goodman's essay is what I feel is the strong point. I have seen programs that contain violence and the perpetrator is unpunished. In movies like, "The Rock" there is a particular car chase where random cars are hit and public property is damaged. Of course the story makes sense to an adult but young children would get the wrong impression. Children are too young to comprehend a movie's plot so they really should not be watching adult movies but that's the reason for the V-chip.

Goodman feels most violent programs that seem to be harmless are probably the most harmful to children. For instance, children's programs that include violence are most likely to make it humorous. An example of a children's program that contains such elements is the classic, "GI Joes" cartoon series. The whole plot of the cartoon is about war, but the characters are drawn and portrayed in a harmless manner. The guns are drawn simple and shoot laser beams instead of bullets. The "bad guys" never die and somehow they always survive once the "good guys" beat them. As my dad once said, " There is nothing funny about war" I feel the same way given the knowledge I have about war and it's consequences. Overall the cartoon series can prove to be extremely misleading to youngsters especially in this day and age.

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Given the fact that harmless children's shows can contain misleading imagery, what about the programs that try to portray antiviolent themes? With no surprise, the percent of antiviolent themes is about 4 percent. Perhaps the programmers are afraid if the shows contain too much antiviolent themes, no one will watch them. For the producers, programmers and anyone else in the entertainment field argues with the intention of their programs are merely showing a creative imagination and are not destructive to American society. In her last paragraph, Goodman explains the V-chip is a violence block, but wonders what will get rid of the creative block. I'm sure the parents who are monitoring what their children are watching can answer to the question. The parents are the ones who decide what is creative and what is violent. I don't know the details of the new V-chip device but it would prove to be most useful if the device had an interactive interface. Depending on the parent's choice, the level of violence could be altered to their liking.

I understand Goodman's point completely, but I cannot help to think about other countries and their problem with violence. For example Japan is the first country I think of. Japan is known for the graphic images shown through the animation. Imported cartoons from Japan cause controversy in America because it may influence the children in the wrong way. But why is it that Japan does not have a problem with violence on television? Japan's crime rate is low and anime cartoons continue to break boundaries on all levels. The themes in Japanese animation vary from children's shows to adult pornography. The whole topic baffles me in a way I believe I'll never acquire an understanding of these two completely different worlds, Japan and the U.S.

So the V-chip seems to prove a good purpose. The question is, how will it work and how much will it cost? It's obvious from the facts that a change has to be made for the young viewers out there being exposed to misleading imagery. But nothing can take the place of good old fashion parenting by teaching the kids the difference between right and wrong. I think that's where most of the problems occur. Too many parents rely or blame the television programs for the violent images. I feel some responsibility should be taken by the parents themselves.

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