It is generally accepted that the influence of television and movie violence in adults is transient. Which is why, as young adults, we did not turn into Govinda-like boors after watching all those rubbish David Dhawan film
But, there can be perceptible changes in behavior. Once after watching an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”, my wife enquired about my weekend plans. I replied, “I don’t believe I need to verbally enunciate what I have already put up on Google Calendar, shared with you multiple times over.” I am still regretting this “Sheldon Cooper speak” two months later.
We just finished watching both seasons of “Game of Thrones” (GOT). It is as violent as violence can get, with routine decapitations, face slicings and gut spills. The violence is often for its own sake and the actors routinely say things like “killing is the sweetest thing there is”. Lead characters die without warning and people plunge swords into each other at the slightest provocation. While the sex and frontal nudity are the reason we don’t allow our children to view GOT, what is alarming is the depth of the violence. It shakes you! When I meditate in the morning, vivid visions of some of the recently dead characters interfere with my ability to focus…the sexual scenes make no difference at all!
If this is the kind of effect, violence has on me as an adult, imagine what happens to children when they are exposed to violence on television, in films or in video games for prolonged periods of time. Obviously, if the violence is comic and non-real, as in Tom and Jerry cartoons, the children are able to make out the difference. But when the violence is real, it affects emotional and psychological growth and there is a strong likelihood of adverse short-term and more importantly, long-term effects on their psyche, which are known to be permanent and difficult to reverse.
The majority of those exposed to such violence, children or adults, however learn to live balanced non-violent lives. In a few though, depending on a bunch of other cultural, environmental, ethnic, genetic and peer factors, this exposure to screen violence, short term or long-term, may just about be the tipping point that can lead a person to commit acts of aggression and violence against others.
How else does one explain an Adam Lanza shooting 20 children in a school without any provocation? Or four men in a bus raping a woman and then inserting a rod through her vagina into her intestines? There has to be something extremely fundamentally wrong with such people…these are sociopaths who can commit such horrendous acts without any significant remorse.
Many sociopaths live among us. The vast majority of them are able to, despite their lack of a moral or social conscience, live non-violent, reasonably gainful lives. A few of these sociopaths / psychopaths however spiral completely out of control. And it is these individuals who are time and again, responsible for the shootings, rapes and other terrible acts of violence that shock us out of our somnolence. And somewhere in all this perhaps, violence on screen plays a small, but significant role.
Subliminal influences! We take television and films so much for granted. Our kids watch all kinds of trash on television and the big screen irrespective of the censor board status. Perhaps, both as parents and as responsible individuals in society we should become stricter about restricting access to serious violence on screen.
And lastly…violent sociopaths can never be reinstated in society. In which case, the obvious thing to do perhaps is to not have them living at all!