What Are the Effects of Violence in Popular Media?

By Nicolas Quiroga

Violence in popular culture has been a high point of contention for many years, but it seems like today, no matter where we turn, we are confronted with images of mass violence, protests, and vitriolic exchanges between figures in popular culture, even in our own political landscape. In times of mass violence, media and society have often raised the following question: “What role do forms of popular media, like film and video games, play in acts of real violence?” Others, more broadly, have stressed that if we become a more violent society, images of violence will continue to make their way into the media we consume. While any correlation between violence and popular culture is still unclear, it is hard to ignore the presence of violence in so many forms of pop culture.

A recent study in the American Psychological Association showed that at least 90% of U.S. children play some kind of video game and that more than 85% of video games contain some sort of violence. This statistic is an unsettling one considering how most children in the United States alone could be exposed to forms of violence at an early age.

When asked whether violent pop culture could affect the way a person thinks, a freshman student at Fair Lawn High School said that it could be possible.

“I think so, because people see their mentors up there, like they could have a favorite actor and he’s in something that creates violence and is a terrible person.”

The recent release of the movie Joker has spurred another major discussion about violence in pop culture because of the belief that the film could inspire its viewers to be as violent as its protagonist, played by Joaquin Phoenix. The film depicts the story of one troubled man who, after numerous hardships, turns towards violence and becomes the infamous Batman villain, The Joker.

The release of the film also sparked many to recall the 2012 tragedy of the screening of the Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, in which a shooter entered a theater in Aurora, Colorado and killed 12 people as well as injuring 70 others.

Another major point of contention surrounding violence in pop culture and media comes with the advent of streaming services. Within the past five years, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and most recently, Disney +, have arisen as an easier way to view and enjoy movies and television. However, these services, as some have begun to point out, have also made it easier for young viewers to access hundreds of movies and shows, which are often unrestricted based on age unless certain parameters are set by parents and guardians.

When asked about whether or not age restrictions should be placed on streaming services, Fair Lawn High School guidance counselor, Kara Popadics, spoke to some of the issues with existing parental controls.

“I think so...I know a lot of them do have the age restrictions where parents can put in codes for the children, but I think sometimes what happens is people younger are often more tech-savvy and can figure that out, but I do think it would definitely help [to have them]” Popadics said.

In addition to film, there has been no shortage of controversy over violence in video games as well. Since 1992, video games such as Doom and Wolfenstein have caused media outrage due to their intense depictions of violence.

When asked about whether a videogame could spur violence in its players, a student at Fair Lawn High School responded with an observation.

“...they probably over-visualize, like, [they] emphasize so much on the gore of shooting,” the student.

Another student at Fair Lawn High School responded with skepticism.

 “I don’t think that there is any connection between violence and videogames...if you’re watching a movie or playing a video game, you would want it to be as realistic as possible. Most video games, like Call of Duty, present these crazy situations, but in truth, [reality] doesn’t work that way.”  

Thumbnail Credit: Warner Brothers

Header Credit: id Software 

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