Hypothesis: TV Has Role To Play In Nation's Cult Of Violence

TV and the violence prevalent in many of its shows has a role to play in contributing to the cult of violence in this country. 

This is a hypothesis of this TV Blog. It is based on a consideration of the ways in which television presents, promotes and sells itself.

From this process of consideration, a question takes shape: What is the relationship, if any, between the preponderance of extreme violence on scores of TV shows today and the medium’s power to influence?

Who in the TV business can deny that the medium is an influential force in America? Hasn’t this power been the driving force of the TV business since its birth?



Of course it has. TV’s powers of persuasion are the reason why the world’s largest marketers spend billions on it.

So, if television is the world’s most influential medium on the planet for selling goods and services -- as TV sales departments have long insisted (and probably correctly too) -- then doesn’t it stand to reason that the ultra-violent content TV presents may exert some influence over other behaviors too, at least in the minds of those few who are predisposed to be influenced in this way?

And speaking of influence, almost everyone agrees these days that a handful of opinionated evening talk shows on three cable news channels -- right, left or in-between -- exert such a strong influence on their partisan audiences that they are as responsible as any other social factors for the country’s deep political and philosophical divisions.

Having said all that, this TV Blog is in no way suggesting that TV and its influencing powers are the sole or root cause of the epidemic of violent mass shootings in this country or the day-to-day gun violence afflicting cities.

The TV Blog claims no expertise in the area of aberrant human behavior and its cause, but at the same time, it doesn’t take the experience or observation skills of a TV columnist to see that our society is awash in violent media and that TV plays a part in this onslaught.

Today, images of extreme violence made more realistic than ever thanks to advances in film, video, audio and special effects technology are the lifeblood of hundreds of movies, video games and the subject of this blog, TV shows. All are consumed by millions.

Where the TV business is concerned, the networks and streaming services never seem to undertake any sort of self-examination when it comes to the violent shows they produce and present.

They just keep them coming. The photo above was not chosen necessarily to single out “Squid Game” as any more or less violent than a hundred other shows.

Instead, the photo was chosen simply because it was so easy to find on the website Netflix maintains for TV columnists and reporters to have access to publicity assets such as show photos.

As such, this photo was posted there for use in TV columns and stories -- i.e., to promote “Squid Game,” at least in part, on the basis of its violence.

In light of recent events, nothing more really needs to be said about this image of mass violence from one of the most widely watched TV shows of the past year.

4 comments about "Hypothesis: TV Has Role To Play In Nation's Cult Of Violence".
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  1. David Scardino from TV & Film Content Development, June 6, 2022 at 10:46 a.m.

    Bravo, Adam...!

  2. Leo Kivijarv from PQ Media, June 6, 2022 at 4:43 p.m.

    Unfortunately, I can't agree with you on this hypothesis. To put this into perpective, I did my master's thesis on media violence in the 1970s. Complaints about media violence have been ongoing for more than a century, with complaints about the early silent films, the first comic books, action radio theater of the 1930s, then television and now videogames. One has to ask, how did we have people like Billy the Kid and Jesse James, before there was media other than newspapers, magazines, books, and direct mail? There are a multple theories on media violence, but the one you are alluding to in this blog is based on Bandura's "Imitation" theory, in which he used the infamous "Bobo" doll experiments. For those unaware of the "Bobo" doll experiments, Dr. Bandura had two sets of chidren watch films - one set of children watched a nature film, the other set watched a film with an adult pummeling a 4-foot blow-up clown doll nicknamed Bobo. After the movie, the children were ushered into a room with many toys and those who watched the Bobo doll film immediately ran over to the Bobo doll and starting beating it up. Those children who watched the nature film didn't touch the Bobo doll. However, a few years a later another researcher added a second varialbe - she put the children into the room with the toys first and when the Bobo doll film ended, most of the children went back to playing with toys they were enjoying before the film. As for study, I attempted to find out if behaviorally-maladjusted children liked "aggressive" athletes they saw on television (such as Jack Tatum, Oakland Raider's "assassin," tennis bad boy, John McNeroe, etc.). When I compared them with children in a parochial school, I found the latter like the aggressive stars more. One principal explained, that the behaviorally maljusted kids didn't watch TV because they were outside doing mischief. In most instances, children are taught that violence is wrong. The grey line occurs when parents (or other influential mentors like grandparents, teachers, coaches, etc.) don't actively teach children right from wrong and violent media content becomes one of many triggers that might lead a child to consumer more violent content than others. However, there is no imitation in mass shootings. One final thing to consider - if TV has a role to play in the nation's cult of violence, why doesn't Japan have more mass killings than the U.S., given they watch more television than we do?   

  3. Ben B from Retired, June 6, 2022 at 11:30 p.m.

    I don't believe studies that claim violence on TV is the reason for mass shootings from watchdog groups like The PTC. Blaming Hollywood videos games etc is low hanging fruit if you ask me, all you hear is every generation that TV shows have more violence which is no worse than what it was in the 80s, 90's, etc in my opinion I know I'm not going to change minds about violence in entertainment.

  4. John MacLane from Private, June 7, 2022 at 11:08 a.m.

    Oh good, it's the same tired "popular entertainment is to blame" opinion that gets trotted out after every tragic shooting event. You can't even call this a hypothesis because you lack evidence - this is just a lazy smokescreen that ignores the true issues of how easy it is to get a gun in America and the appalling state of access to mental healthcare.

    The next time a mass shooting occurs - and there will be a next time, knowing this country - maybe consider not posting this waste of text again.

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