While violence is not new to the human race, it is an increasing problem in modern society. With greater access to firearms and explosives, the scope and efficiency of violent behavior has had serious consequences. We need only look at the recent school shootings, and the escalating rate of youth homicides among urban adolescents to appreciate the extent of this ominous trend. While the causes of youth violence are multifaceted and include such variables as poverty, child abuse, family psychopathology, exposure to domestic and community violence, substance abuse and other psychiatric disorders, the research literature is quite compelling that a child's exposure to media violence plays an important role in the origin of violent behavior (Watson). While it is difficult to determine which children who have experienced televised violence are at greatest risk, there appears to be a strong correlation between media violence and aggressive behavior within vulnerable "at risk" segments of youth. Children spend more time in front of the television every week than they do on any other activity except sleeping (Muscari 31). Exposing children to violence can desensitize them to violence and cause them to act more aggressively.
To understand human attraction to violent entertainment, it is necessary to look not only at, but beyond, the mass media. Depictions of violence, bloodshed and death, are not new, and they certainly are not a product of the electronic age. Many cultures in history used violence as a form of entertainment. Interest in blood sports was as fervent in classical Greece and Rome as it is today. From Greek chariot races and Roman Gladiators to wrestling and Football games, crowds of spectators have gathered together to witness the mayhem and excitement elicited during such events. At one, time, even executions were public events, with crowds of people gathering together to witness the death of criminals, treating the event as a celebration (Guttman 7-11).
However, over time, social, religious, and medical changes made dying and death gradually withdraw from the public view. By the mid twentieth century, they became virtually invisible in most large metropolitan centers (Goldburg 28). People went to hospitals to die. The tradition of the family preparing the body for viewing and burial, laying it out in the parlor for viewing was taken over by undertakers. The funeral parlor replaced the home's private parlor, which was then rechristened the living room. Cemeteries were moved to the countryside. The dying and the dead were slowly fading from view (Goldburg 32-33).
Violent death as an organized spectacle – public executions – was also on its way out. But even as death receded, ever so quietly and slowly, from view, nineteenth century urban society remained fixated on it while attempting to restructure its responsibilities and keep the inevitable at a distance. Extended mourning rituals were often socially, rather than religiously,...