Media Violence and Adolescents
A "hot topic" of discussions today is the issue of violence in the media. After reading about the subject, I am convinced that media violence negatively affects the viewer. The most susceptible are the young.
John Grisham wrote a powerful essay called "Unnatural Killers." Since the writing of the essay, it has caught some flak from reviewers in light of his novel A Time to Kill. In this novel, the "good guy" kills. The points he made in his essay, however, are still valid. "Unnatural Killers" tells the dramatic story of Sarah Edmondson and Benjamin Darras's killing spree. Sarah and Ben killed one person and seriously injured another. Sarah testifies that the inspiration for this horrible act was a movie, "Natural Born Killers" (Grisham 346). Grisham describes the movie:
...a repulsive story of two mindless young lovers, Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis), who blaze their way across the Southwest, killing everything in their path while becoming famous. According to the script, they indiscriminately kill fifty-two people before they are caught. It seems like many more. Then they manage to kill at least fifty more as they escape from prison. They free themselves, have children, and are at last seen happily rambling down the highway in a Winnebago (346-347).
According to Sarah, "Ben loved 'Natural Born Killers,' and as they drove to Memphis he spoke openly of killing people, randomly, just like Mickey spoke to Mallory" (Grisham 347). Clearly, if Sarah's testimony is true, the movie had a deep and negative impact on Ben Darras. "Natural Born Killers" has inspired many other copycat acts. A 14-year old boy in Texas told police that he "wanted to be famous like the natural born killers" (The Freedom Forum). "In 1995 after watching the movie 19 times, four people in their twenties from Georgia are accused of killing a truck driver" (The Freedom Forum). And a killer from Massachusetts told his girlfriend that he and the other killers are "natural born killers" (The Freedom Forum).
We cannot blame the media for all of society's problems, as Madeline Levine says in "Media and the Adolescent" (357), but to say that media has no effect on teenagers would be absurd. Levine pointed out that, "Children who watch 'Sesame Street' can increase their cognitive skills; those who watch 'Mr. Rogers' have been shown to exhibit more compassionate behavior" (357). I have heard no arguments against this fact. Why then, should we believe the claims of those who say that violent influences have no impact? Teenagers who depend on the television for information might easily be misguided. The world shown on the screen is often unrealistic. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno says, "Only if we provide appropriate guidance can we expect our young people to understand that not everything on the screen has a place on the street corner..." (Center for...