Art and violence

Could art influence people in such a way that they start shooting each other? Do we absorb the violence we see in movies and video games? Do we try to apply what we see in the real world?


It really is fascinating to see that some people believe that we can’t really discern what’s real from what’s not, that we don’t understand that the general convention of art is that it’s not true. As close as art and the real life are, we know art only mimics real life. And it does show for a reason. To transmit a message.

Now that’s the closest to being true anyone who feels that violence in art instigates to violence will ever be. Art, in all its forms, has the ability to transmit a message to an audience. The better the art, the more receptive the audience. But most people are just missing the point.

As long as you UNDERSTAND and ACKNOWLEDGE that any fictional universe (in a movie, a video game, a book, etc.) is inherently DIFFERENT than the real world, everything’s fine.

When you can’t tell the difference anymore, that’s when you’ve got a problem.

Simply put, some people have issues. And I strongly believe that those people see what they want to see. It’s one hell of a coping mechanism… they blame something (or someone) else for their own choices. Not that a guy who walks into a school and starts shooting people is completely capable of understanding what his own choices mean. Or the effect they have on others.

It’s also one of the oldest and most persistent of illusions. That we are not responsible for our actions.

But the truth is, people kill other people. Not ideas, ideals, subliminal messages, or video games. And, once again, I have to agree with Roger Ebert. News coverage depict our world. It’s not made belief what we’re seeing on our TV screens. Now, that’s real; it happened.

The convention no longer exists.

What we see on TV, what we are told is news, that’s what influences people. And it’s not a call to action, like most people would say about violent movies. I don’t think a news anchor ever said, “some guy killed 20 people in a shopping mall today. You should do the same.”

A good analogy might be that of martial arts training. You acquire a certain set of skills that make you quite dangerous. If you get good at it, you can easily kill a man. You could use those skills to do a lot of harm. More so, the way you acquire those skills is equally fascinating.

You learn to fight by fighting.

But it doesn’t make you into a violent person. On the contrary. The best fighters, the ones who could do some serious harm, are the ones who are incredibly calm in real life.

Because there’s this convention. The gym it’s not the same as real life. They’re two distinct worlds. You don’t use the skills you acquired in the ring, just because you understand that different principles apply. You understand social rules, laws, and you even have a general understanding of what human rights mean.

If you’re mentally stable, you understand those rules and conventions anyhow. No matter what type of movies you watch. No matter how many times you’ve read Lolita, you still not a pedophile. Maybe because you genuinely like people, or maybe because you’re afraid of what might happen if you do break those rules and start shooting people with a machine gun.

It doesn’t really matter, as long as you obey the rules.

Now, that’s another interesting thing. Because a lot of people think that if a video game, where you can kill people, doesn’t punish you for doing so, or even rewards you, then it means that that video game is telling people that it’s okay to kill, that they won’t get punished.

Try reading the last sentence out loud.

Basically, anyone who thinks that is saying that people are stupid animals. Or worse, actually. If we can’t understand the difference between the real world and a video game, we’re just wasting our time on this planet, actually. But most of us don’t mix the two up. We never do.

Most of us understand how this world works.

So we’re really talking about mentally unstable people. The ones who don’t understand the most basic of concepts.

Those who intend to do harm will do so regardless of what movies they watch, or video games they play. They do so because they want to.

In the end, we’re the only ones responsible for our actions. Whether we like to admit it or not, we always have a choice. We can see as much as we want, we can understand as little as we like. We’re always as free as we want. The only thing that keeps this world from breaking apart is that some think about the consequences. Or care about them. Or are just afraid of them.


8 thoughts on “Art and violence

  1. I think I got lost somewhere…as your thesis statement kind of morphed into something else…but I got your drift. I respectfully disagree…of you were talking about art in all forms. Not all art is in your face with a message….some is. Let’s take television. Years ago (I’m old) we had television shows (sounds corny – we loved them) like Leave it to Beaver, the Donna Reed Show, etc. that taught the public about the consequences of their actions and the now “unrealistic” view of the American family. While no one went out of their way to mimic these shows….we were lead to believe that these were examples of how family worked, children learned lessons, parents were gentle but firm, fathers worked and moms stayed home. Today we have television that isn’t so subtle, it is “in your face” commentary on the real world and which politicizes cultural issues, in essence forcing societal change..if that doesn’t work we have late night “comedians” who speak from on high belittling those who disagree with their social platform……television is not just entertainment and it wouldn’t be there at all if advertising didn’t support it…all of the messages sent through television are with the permission of big business and a tacit acknowledgement of agreement. Which – getting way off track here – lends credence to the fact that Elon Musk doesn’t advertise Tesla’s on television…..he believes odds are good we are living in the Matrix…in which case, nothing really matters.


  2. Heh, a good chunk of my blog is about this issue.

    I agree with all you wrote, and I’m glad you used the martial art example because the issue of context and purpose, of socially bounded behavior, is always ignored. We are not passive robots.

    People always forget we do things with a purpose in mind, we expect something, and that something can’t be ignored when we talk about media influence. If you play to have fun, that’s the purpose, and it doesn’t make much sense to become brainwashed when your whole mindset was one of playfulness and frivolity. It’s like expecting that someone will become a crazy lunatic who sacrifices virgins because he read a book about Aztec religion and mythology. It doesn’t make sense; the human mind doesn’t work like that.

    On the other hand, people do watch the news to reinforce their beliefs, to reinforces their prejudices about certain groups of people and so on. That’s way more dangerous than playing the virtual version of a shooting gallery or snowball fight (which is what many video games are.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think precisely one of the problems is that we have become more of a “world village”. At one time, say in England around 1600 – a time when the frontiers of people’s imagination and knowledge were expanding very fast – people might just about hear of something that happened in Germany or the Netherlands last week; something that happened around the Mediterranean or on the eastern edges of the Americas, much later; and something more distant, not at all. For a literate Londoner of that time, a massacre in Germany seemed quite close, was happening to quite similar people and mattered. Now we hear of massacres and small wars all the time from all over the world, much of it in societies we barely understand unless we’re experts or from those parts, and we are insensitised.


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