Kids don’t get to watch eye gougings anymore reader Bobster, always the helpful tipster, sent me a link to an article at entitled Blood, Guts, and Entertainment: A sanguine take on sanguinary diversions. A great read, as most Reason articles are. The writer, Justin Pete, is reviewing the book Savage Pastimes: A Cultural History of Violent Entertainment in which the author argues, “that violent entertainment is good, indeed necessary—a way to sublimate the vestigial primal urges left over from our hunter-gatherer days” and “our popular culture may be saturated with synthetic gore, but at least we don’t spend our leisure time watching real people have their eyes put out, their limbs pulverized, their sex organs amputated and their flesh torn to pieces with red-hot pincers.” Interesting claims, to say the least. While I don’t necessarily agree that we have “primal urges” to “sublimate,” I do think exploring violence in our culture (especially in the past) is a starting point to refute the hand wringing that goes on now. It seems that a lot of people decrying violence in the media ignore history, much to their convenience.

Justin sites example after example from the book of violence in past entertainment, in order to dispel the myth that “things were so much better (simpler, purer, cleaner, take your pick) before.” The idea that movies like Natural Born Killers couldn’t have been made in 1939 (the year of The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind) is simply a fallacy:

Such a simplistic worldview conveniently forgets that 1939 also brought such films as Death Rides the Range, Six-Gun Rhythm, and The Man They Could Not Hang, advertised with the tagline, “Boris Karloff dares you to see this holocaust of horror!”

But, in the end, the conclusion that violence in the media is not directly responsible for violence of the partakers is never breached in the book. It’s a shame. We’ve said it here before, but no one seems to listen. Just because we enjoy violence in our games (or movies or books) doesn’t mean we wish to participate in it. Being entertained is enough for us. But, as Justin says

… the tweaking [Schechter] delivers to the world’s Chicken Littles —those like Gov. Blagojevich, who writes on that “when kids play, they should play like children, not like gangland assassins”—is overdue. If violent entertainment is anything, it is a mirror held up to a violent culture. Eliminating these cultural reflections won’t do anything to alter the master image.


  1. I try not to overthink it much. I play violent games for the same reason I gawk at car accidents or tune into news reports about tiger maulings. Blood and media is older than Shakespeare … a LOT older than him. Sometimes it makes me wonder if the some the churchgoing crowd quick to condemn Grand Theft Auto have actually studied their Bible much.

    Unfortunately, this simple fact is why it’s hard to beat the politicos at their game. They’re waving video games around because they are spectacle, and then people can act all astonished that they were even interested in it in the first place. How many people do you know condemn gaping at car wrecks? Most? How many gape at car wrecks? Probably all.

    Senators like Clinton and Schumer, and local politicians like Demuzio and Blagojevich … they know they aren’t fixing any real problems. That would cost money (money Illinois definately doesn’t have right now). But they are getting free PR.

  2. Unfortunately, this simple fact is why it’s hard to beat the politicos at their game.

    I would hope this isn’t true, but I’ve noticed anytime bad news comes out involving teenagers and violence, I cringe, waiting for the blame game to start.

    We need to do our part to not sensationalize the issue, too, I guess. Maybe posting so much of this can be a bad thing.

  3. Well, I don’t think pointing at a public statement from a lawyer or politician and declaring it inane is sensational though 🙂 So as long as don’t drip blogs with gore, we should be OK.

  4. I can’t believe I just read three comments on this web page and didn’t get to shoot anyone or beat somebody up! Not to mention the total lack of T&A.

    I don’t feel entertained at all.


  1. […] Yeah, heard that one before, too. Unfortunately, the one we hear the most is this: In sum, the debate over video-game regulation is being driven by myths and misperceptions. Policymakers and critics should consider the facts before moving forward with efforts to regulate the gaming industry, especially since such rules could have profound First Amendment implications as well. […]

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