Three months after the Vice President’s summit with leaders in the entertainment industry, four months after the horror of Newtown, someone in this administration is finally speaking up about the role media violence plays in contributing to real-world violence.
Last Friday in a House budget hearing, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, “I am concerned certainly about the pervasive culture of violence both throughout media, in the entertainment industry, in movies, on TV, in video games, but also on our street corners.”
It’s a striking admission in that up to now, the most this administration has been willing to commit to is additional research into the link between media violence and aggression.
But the chorus of voices proclaiming that Hollywood should not get a free pass is growing louder, and it is getting harder to ignore – especially given that Hollywood’s fixation on gore has only gotten worse.
For example, the most recent airing of Hannibal – the recently-debuted NBC drama that focuses on the cannibalistic serial killer made famous in The Silence of the Lambs – featured one scene of gruesome, graphic violence after another, and rated all of it as appropriate for a child of fourteen:
- Will fires his gun at target practice, he imagines the corpse of a serial killer Minnesota Shrike advancing on him.
- Will flashes back to a shootout. A corpse is shown on kitchen floor while a girl bleeds out from a knife wound to her neck.
- Will shows a photo slide to his class of a naked woman impaled on stag antlers.
- FBI agents remove decomposing female bodies from the forest.
- Will Graham imagines the dead bodies/corpses being buried in the forest, pictures himself burying corpse alive in a shallow grave. He keeps the body alive with a respirator in the mouth.
- A mutilated body reaches out and grabs Will, still alive.
- A man shoots Police Detective in the head, blood sprays on Freddie.
Nobody would seriously claim that watching scenes like these will inspire a spate of copy-cat killings, but to claim, as Hollywood does, that it has no impact whatsoever is self-serving and naïve. As Sebelius said in her testimony, “I think we have a culture of violence in this country that is alarming, it clearly has different impact on different people, but there’s no question that it does have at minimum a desensitization for a lot of developing minds about what the impact of violence is and certainly for someone who is disturbed may have an even more frightening impact.”