99. Violence in Media

I’d like to do a little reality check with you. When I started teaching and parenting, there seemed to be a big movement to de-emphasize violence in our culture. I thought it was the dawning of the age of Aquarius. There was a group in Newton called “Action for Children’s Television,” and articles and books written about the effect of violence in the media on child development. I thought we were headed for a time when our concern for children would take its place in the sun, and media violence would stop.
What happened? There is more media violence now than I can remember from the days when we worked to eliminate it. Children are bombarded with violence on television, in the movies (which can be purchased and watched over and over at home), and they play video games that were our worst nightmare. They make the violence I remember protesting seem relatively docile.
I wrote a letter to Bill Bixby in 1976. I asked him to consider refusing to be part of “The Incredible Hulk.” I told him about a child in my second grade class who threw an incredible temper tantrum, kicking and throwing his fists around. This child, a devotee of the Hulk, said, afterward, “I am powerful when I am angry.” I answered, “You are more powerful when you control yourself.” Bill Bixby seemed like a gentle person who cared about children. I remembered his role in the series “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.” I asked for a final episode of “The Incredible Hulk” in which David Banner learns to control his temper, and stops turning into a monster when he gets angry. I didn’t get a letter back from Mr. Bixby.
I am a pacifist, but my objection to violence in the media goes beyond my pacifism. I know and respect people who are not pacificists. They consider war and other forms of violence an occasional regrettable necessity. As a pacifist, I, of course, take issue with that position, but most of the violence children see in the media is not even presented as an occasional regrettable necessity. It is presented as the good life, and it is made to appeal to children. It’s scary.

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