Over the past several decades, a number of family organizations have contended that watching violent movies, television and playing violent video games affect people in a negative way. They claim that it gives troubled youth ideas to replicate in real life. Others say that the constant barrage of violence de-sensitizes them to the point that they don’t think of it as being violent anymore.
On the other side of the coin, you have the movie, television and video game industries claiming that all they do is provide entertainment and that it has virtually no effect on those that watch and play. When a report comes out that some teenager killed another while re-enacting a scene they saw in a movie or television program, the industry quickly turns the accusations saying it was the youth and not their products that led to the violence. They claim zero responsibility.
So let me ask the movie, television and video game industry a simple question:
“If watching 2 hours of violence in a movie has no influence on our behavior, then what is the logic behind a company spending $3.8 million on a 30 second Super Bowl commercial that is supposed to make us run out and buy their product?”
Television would not exist if not for advertising. When a major sponsor pulls their ads from a television show, the show most likely gets cancelled unless another advertiser can be found. TV commercials range from 10 seconds to a couple of minutes, with most running 30-60 seconds. Companies spend millions of dollars in developing, producing and airing those commercials with the expectations of generating enough sales to offset the huge cost.
These companies are gambling more money than most of us will ever see that there 30 second commercial will influence our behavior enough to want to buy their product. Yet, the television networks that air those commercials are run by the same people that claim their violent television programs and movies have absolutely no effect on the people watching. One of their primary sources of income comes from influencing people’s behavior in 30-26 seconds yet they deny that 1-2 hours of violence has no influence on us at all.
Doesn’t this seem to be a huge contradiction?
Allow me to use one of my favorite examples to demonstrate the way I see it. A 30-60 second commercial has a sudden influence that causes an immediate reaction. It’s like placing a frog in a pot of boiling water. The frog reacts instantly and jumps to safety. Watching a 1-2 hour violent movie de-sensitizes one to the danger, numbing their reaction senses. This is like placing the same frog in a pot of lukewarm water and then slowly turning the heat up. The frog is nice and comfortable at first and senses no danger. As the water slowly gets hotter, the frog doesn’t notice the change as its body adjusts to the higher temperatures. Eventually, the water comes to a boil and the frog stays in the water and dies because the heating took place over prolonged period of time.
Therefore, it would seem that violent movies, television programs and video games would have a greater harmful effect on people because it de-sensitizes them to the violence. Once numb to the horror of the violence, they find it amusing and set off to try it themselves without any sense of foreboding or concern.
So as you watch the Super Bowl commercials this weekend, think about how much they affect you. Then take a moment to think about how the violent programs, movies and games you enjoy affect you as well. You may be shocked to learn that you too, have been desensitized to some forms of violence and never realized it.