"We do not believe there is anything sexist or violent about the World Wrestling Federation. I think it's unfair of you to insinuate it when there are so many shows and so many different movies, and so many different social problems that really do contribute to violence in this country." -- UPN president Dean Valentine in 1999 after a 7-year-old child in Dallas killed his little brother with a "clothesline" maneuver he had seen on a wrestling show. One fact should not be in dispute: TV is violent! Guns, shootings, murders, hitting, punching, slapping, screaming, kicking, stabbing, explosions, car chases, car smashes, disasters and death are shown daily throughout TV programming. Most violence is not even in nightly news programs and nearly all of the violence on television is fake. TV presents violent acts through acting -- with fake guns and fake blood. For adults, televised violence is probably not a big deal. When a character is killed off a TV show one week, we know the same actor will reappear the next week on another show on a different network. 1. Violence Drives the Storyline.
Violence is always involved. The fictional programs on television require a crime, murder or fist-fight to develop plot and story. A study released by the Center for Media and Public Affairs in June 1999 states that though television shows a lot of violence, it rarely shows its outcome. "We found that despite the high volume of televised violence, viewers rarely see it causing adverse effects," states the report. The report found serious acts of violence -- murder, rape, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon -- occurred once every four minutes on the major TV networks. However, it notes that "no physical harm was shown three quarters (75 percent) of the time violence occurred on broadcast series and over two-thirds (68 percent) of the time it occurred on cable programs. A mere 7 percent of violent acts on broadcast shows and 4 percent on cable resulted in fatalities." The CMPA report notes that in its study, "serious violence was more likely to have tangible consequences, but a majority of even these more brutal acts had no direct harmful results. Fifty-nine percent of acts of serious violence on broadcast series and 54 percent on cable lacked negative consequences." Only in rare instances, about 10%, did violence result in some type of mental distress for the victim or another character. "Thus, fully 90 percent of violent acts on broadcast and 87 percent on cable proved psychologically painless," says the report. The current trend in TV programs is to not only permit the police to commit justifiable violence, but criminals as well. "HBO’s The Sopranos, [is] the beginning of a new trend celebrating what’s called the 'criminal protagonist,' in this case a murderous crime boss we can learn to love," says L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Parents Television Council. "Entertainment producers and critics alike love 'moral complexity,' but what they’re sowing is moral confusion. They think good and evil, black and white, is so old hat. Let’s coat everyone and everything with a lovely shade of gray – as the red blood flows." Bozell's group is not against TV, but has serious problems with the amount of violence currently shown on the networks. The PTC has also lead many campaigns against advertisers to try and reduce the revenue streams to violent programs. "Imagine my shock – and the shock of millions of others – coming across FX’s wicked-cop series The Shield . . . the show ended with 'criminal protagonist' Vic Mackey gratuitously shoving a man’s face into an electric burner. Watch the melting flesh as Fox counts the advertising dollars." On TV today, it's not even that "bad" characters go unpunished, but that "good" characters are justified in being bad. Sure, the cops on Miami Vice had to be violent to get the criminals, the A-Team was always "wrongly accused" and Buck Rogers didn't ever do a bad thing with a laser gun. The idea...
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