Laughing At Pain Essay

955 words - 4 pages

One of my favorite shows growing up was Tom and Jerry. Every time Tom got hit by a pan or crushed by bowling ball or burned on a stove I couldn’t help but laugh, never thinking about the violence behind Jerry’s actions. Shows like Tom and Jerry emphasize humor, one of America’s most valued virtues, but also expose children to aggression at a young age. This slapstick comedy has long been a part of children’s entertainment and society in general. Popular culture exposes children to humorous violence that desensitizes children and increases bullying and aggression.
Popular TV shows and movies consistently contain violent humor that desensitizes children to violence. Tom and Jerry is a perfect example of this violent form of children’s humor. In the cartoon, Tom Cat and Jerry Mouse constantly chase and assault each other while drawing laughs from the audience. In one episode, after Tom attempts to murder Jerry with a stick of dynamite, Jerry retaliates by plugging Tom’s tail into an electrical socket and electrocuting him. By combining violence and humor, this show leads children to connect violence, a destructive behavior, with humor. This connection “can desensitize [children] or lead them to believe that violence is more prevalent — and acceptable — in real life than it really is” (Associated Press). This violent humor is also evident in movies. In the film Home Alone, a boy uses everything from paint cans to BB guns to defend his home from two burglars. In one scene, the boy drops bricks on the burglars from the roof of a building while the audience laughs (Home Alone). This movie encourages children to laugh at the pain of others and even shows children that violence can be comedic. In fact, immediately after viewing a violent movie, people are less likely to intervene in a violent dispute (Bushman and Anderson). In movies and TV shows aimed at children, the combination of violence and humor is consistent and leads to a blurred boundary between what is funny and what is harmful.
This exposure to violence does more than just desensitize; it increases bullying and other negative behavior in children. Video games are perhaps the most notorious form of violent entertainment for children. Extremely violent video games like “Grand Theft Auto” or “Mortal Kombat” positively reinforce illegal and downright brutal behavior. When immersed in “Mortal Kombat”, players “experience an increase in the physiological signs of aggression” including “blood pressure and heart rate” (Layton). These physical effects of violence are then rewarded by advancing in the game. This reward is “a main component of classical conditioning” which trains children’s brains to repeat a behavior that is rewarded (Layton). This disproves any claims that the link between violence in media and real violence is only a correlation. Violent acts in a movie or on TV “increase the likelihood that viewers will emulate the aggressive...

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