The Effect of Violence

If the result of seeing a film in which there is a lot of violence is that the viewer’s compassion is aroused, then perhaps that depiction of violence would be justified. But if the accumulation of violent images leads to indifference, than I think it is not.

His Holiness The Dalai Lama
Ethics for the New Millennium

There is so much talk today about how violence on TV, in movies, and in video games effects children. Every time a child commits a crime, the news launches another attack on media in general, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they also broadcast a lot of violent images themselves. HH The Dalai Lama’s quote above got me thinking about what effects violence really has on us.

Take Natural Born Killers (NBK), for example. Several people have admitted that watching that movie inspired them to go on their own killing sprees. I haven’t seen NBK, mostly because I don’t find violent movies entertaining. (Okay, I thought Fight Club was really good, but there was more to it then just violence. The ending was certainly unexpected.)

But what about movies like Schindler’s List? There is no doubt that it was a violent movie. Years later, there are some scenes I still cannot get out of my head, like the pile of bodies with the girl in the red coat. But I think the violence in Schindler’s List had a much different effect on people then the violence in NBK. Both movies show how casual murder can be, but Schindler’s List arouses compassion, both for the victims and the perpetrators, while the reaction of many people to the violence in NBK is either indifference or excitement.