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Violence, Then and Now

November 27, 2000

Rick Mitchell claims our media have always been violent and wonders why commentators refuse to address the point (Letters, Nov. 20). As an occasional pontificator on media violence, I'll be glad to tackle Mitchell's argument. Basically, his argument is nonsense, as a cursory glance at the evidence demonstrates.

Movies: R-rated movies didn't even exist until the 1960s. Before then, a typical "violent" film featured John Wayne shooting desperadoes bloodlessly or Bambi's mother dying off-screen. Today, on-screen violence includes explicit rape, torture, dismemberment and decapitation. There's no comparison.

TV and radio: Then, a typical "violent" show was "The Shadow," "The Lone Ranger" or "Dragnet." Today, you can see execution-style murders every hour of the day, and even talk shows (Howard Stern, Jerry Springer) promote "shock" and confrontation. There's no comparison.

Comic books: Then, a typical "violent" comic showed Captain America slugging a handful of Nazis or Superman wrapping a steel bar around Lex Luthor. Today, Sabretooth disembowels his opponents and the Punisher intentionally lights criminals on fire. There's no comparison.

Video games: Oops, ultra-violent and misogynist video games didn't exist before the 1970s. There's obviously no comparison here.

Rap: Oops, ultra-violent and misogynist music didn't exist before the 1970s. There's obviously no comparison here either.

Is the picture clear? Commentators haven't addressed Mitchell's argument because there's little or nothing to address. In no way does a spooky radio show or World War II newsreel compare to a slasher movie or video game with piles of blood-soaked casualties.


Culver City

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