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Violence in movies, kids, and guns; here's a book you've got to read!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jonathan Burk, Oct 13, 2002.

  1. Jonathan Burk

    Jonathan Burk Second Unit

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    With a five year old boy, and 3 year old girl, I'm constantly worried about the media they watch, and the ways they spend their time. While not as drastic as some, I've given pause to my 5 year old's fascination with guns and fighting, and frowned as my 3 year old starts to show interest in Barbie. I've tried to reconcile my feelings with the fact that I spent a lot of time while I was younger playing with guns and war toys, and have grown up with a relatively non-violent outlook on life. With events like Columbine and 9/11, concerns about kids, the media, and violence have taken huge weight.
    Then there are the common questions I've seen on this forum, or discussed with other parents:
    • Why do people seem to be bothered by sex and profanity in movies, but much less so by violence?
    • Why did Spielberg take the guns out of ET, and was it a decision that helped the film, or will help my kids?
    • Can Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings films draw my kids into an unhealthy interest in the occult; does a fascination with these "magic" movies lead kids to devilish arts, or is it the same as a fascination with WWF or PowerPuff Girls?
    With these questions in the back of my mind, I came across Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heros, and Make-believe Violence by Gerard Jones, at the library. I quickly checked it out, and reading it has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life as a parent. This book has helped me understand so much about what fascinated me as a child, and the interests my own children have in the things they experience.
    Killing Monsters is a discussion of entertainment violence's effect on children (and teenagers). It is written by a comic book/ screen writer who has worked with such stories as Batman, Spider-man, and Pokemon. He also conducts workshops with children to help them develop stories and comics, to help them learn more about themselves. He has traveled the country, and talked with hundreds of kids, and has some pretty incredible experiences to share (especially in the post-Columbine/ 9/11 world).
    The book is divided into 13 chapters, and I'd like to summarize and quote my favorite thoughts from each.
    1. Being Strong
    The most powerful lessons of this chapter are that:
    • Mass media and pop culture give children a feeling of power over things that make them feel powerless.
    • Adult's insistence on viewing children's fantasy's through an "adult" perspective (i.e. "My five year old pretends to shoot me, thus he is learning that violence is fun."), is harmful to children, who are trying to learn the differences between reality and fantasy.
    And to answer the questions posted above...
    From my take on the book, people tend to be less bothered by fake violence than profanity and sex because we know it's fake, and it creates a "fantasy" world that is comfortable for us.
    Steven Spielberg made ET a less effective movie by taking away the peril of ET's chase at the end, and diminished the joy that a child would feel at seeing ET, Elliot and the other "kids" overcome the dangerous adults that seek to capture (or kill?) ET with their guns.
    And the wands and magic in Harry Potter and LOTR are used in the same way guns are: as a source of power to affect other people. Kids are fascinated by the power, and recognize it is a fantasy, and as long as they know movies aren't real, they shouldn't have a problem.
    I've especially recommended this book to my sister (who has very strict rules on toy guns and play violence), and a friend who designs video games, and gets attacked with these issues all the time. If you have any interest in violence, kids, and the movies they watch, you have got read this.
     
  2. John Watson

    John Watson Screenwriter

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    Somewhere in the liner notes of STOP MAKING SENSE, the phrase "TV violence affects children whose parents act like TV personalities" is splashed.

    Lot of truth in it.
     
  3. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

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    Although I'm not a parent, that book sounds like a fascinating read and I may go looking for it. I'm really tired of people wanting to blame all of societies problems on entertainment. I grew up in what I consider a fairly normal household and watched a lot of "Tom & Jerry" & "The 3 Stooges", etc.... and played Cowboys & Indians & War and countless other games. I also played my share of violent video games, but I have never once been in a fist fight or picked up a real gun. I have no interest in these things, but I still watch "Tom & Jerry" & "The 3 Stooges" & play video games.

    Enough said!!
     
  4. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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  5. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Very interesting and thanks for the heads up. [​IMG] I’m past the point where I am an active, interested parent. I remain a disinterested person.
     
  6. Jim A. Banville

    Jim A. Banville Supporting Actor

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  7. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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