Deeper meaning in entertainment media violence?

Dave Pollard at How to Save the World¹ writes a post questioning society’s attraction to violent entertainment media, he asks:

“What’s going on here? Why, when we could be going to movies or plunking down in front of the TV to laugh with people, to be charmed and delighted by funny characters delivering clever lines, are we instead going to laugh at people who behave offensively, who act ridiculously, and who insult and demean others? Why, when we could be uplifted by stories of courage and indomitable human spirit, do we instead choose to see stories of unimaginable brutality, anguish, relentless horror and suffering, often without resolution or redemption? Why, rather than piquing our imaginations with what they don’t show, do today’s popular films use grisly hyper-realistic graphics and special effects that leave nothing to the imagination? We’re still coy about the depiction of sex in films, so why are we so blatant and vulgar in the depiction of extreme violence?”

I presume the attraction of violent entertainment is simply as a metaphor for our lives. The metaphor speaks to the non-physically violent raping that all of our minds have been subjected to year in and year out, from birth to death, by powerful corporatists intent on subjecting us to: their minds and their rule and their daily pick-pocketing; surely a kinder and gentler form of warfare.

While we may not have been violently murdered, the invisible butterfly wings we were all given at birth, and for some of us which were eloquently described in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, particularly the phrase about the un-alienability of each of our respective pursuits of Happiness, have been sliced away from many of us in a way similar to a violent murder, and arguably more cruelly than to simply have killed us quickly and to have been done with the matter.

Since great masses of people are hosts to a few powerful parasites, and since killing the hosts typically kills the parasites, the parasites seek the opposite, extending our lives so they can continue in their ways. Like the metaphor of vampire, the parasite seeks to suck our blood without actually killing us — but altering us — so that they can receive sustenance from each of us everyday, and so they can live their powerful lives of darkness and power, an ability which is multiplied exponentially with more hosts.

When one thinks about the metaphor of violence with this pattern, one may realize that coyness surrounding sex in movies serves the same metaphor. Sex, as fundamentally a reproductive act when performed between heterosexuals, simply perpetuates the aforementioned parasite-host relationship from one generation to the next, so coyness regarding sex could be reflective of a communal sub-conscious desire to not reproduce, even when, at the individual level, one’s own body signals powerful reinforcements and one’s mind rationalizes that it is only through reproduction that survival is guaranteed. But that guarantee is really nothing more than a promise to the potential child-to-be that they, too, will be subjected to the same, or perhaps improved, parasitical methods that ultimately lead to a denial of Happiness, and therefore reproduction represents little more than a passing of parasite-host misery from one generation to the next.

I presume that a population that loves violent metaphors has experienced great psychological warfare wreaked against it. As metaphor, it is familiar.


11 thoughts on “Deeper meaning in entertainment media violence?

  1. Aparrently in our percieved realty of “seperation” the emotional connectiveness we feel is stronger emotionally to us when presented negatively (I.E. violence, degradation/abuse of our fellow man,ad infimum) vs that which appeals to us in a more positive light (love, gratitude, helpfulness etc).
    This can simultaneously be observed in politics via the mainstream use of “negative campaining” or in a “tear the other guy down-no holds barred” style of politics. Also, in an ego driven society, a sense of superiority (arguably a false sense)is commonly felt whle watching violence directed at others as the viewer can imagine this is his world he’s viewing and he’s in control of the scene presented on the screen in front of him. In a reality where our perceptions divide everything into a good (positive) or bad (negative)experiences, the negative experiences usually carry the greatest emotional charge for us something Hollywood would readily cater to.
    As to corporate sponsorship, I would conclude that they too are a reflection of the above mentioned reality as they are comprised of people too (and therefore subject to the same pitfalls). The solution would be to cater to positive emotions that carry a greater weight than the negative opposite. Interestly those positive emotions often correlate with the sureal or outward worldy realm if you will (Amadeus, E.T.,Close encounters or the Third Kind, Raiders of the lost ark). While alll contain some violence the overall emotional content was positive. SO it appears you must escape this world’s reality in order to bring to it something of a positive experience……a most daunting task indeed>

  2. Hi Roger. Yes, there are a few movies, some that have little to no violence, fewer still that have no surreal elements requiring a suspension of disbelief, but that possess the basic elements of story: a desire, a problem to be overcome to satisfy that desire, then the finding of a solution to that problem.

    By the way, I think that the perception of negativity as stronger than positivity is simply a matter of sensitization to punishment (training) when we are young. This sensitization often seems repeated with the next generation, leading to a cycle of punishment, passed from generation to generation, that never ends.

    You wrote: “The solution would be to cater to positive emotions that carry a greater weight than the negative opposite.”

    Just as we have been trained with punishment of various kinds, either severely or mildly: we have also been trained to attenuate, put off, or even deny some pleasures.

    This begins to explain the perception of negativity as emotionally stronger than positivity.

  3. Cosmic fate?? As an interesting side note a movie lacking pronounced violence, negativity etc is due to hit theaters this Friday….”conversations with God”. I would assume if the response to this movie is overwhelming you will see a shifting tide towards uplifting, moraly driven cinema coming out of Hollywood, and as an answer to the primary “why’s?” pondered above….. Simply profits!

  4. Any time “God” is mentioned, even in a title, an element of surrealism enters the plot. The connection of the surreal with real “profits” is therefore curious.

    My brief numerical simulations have shown that the existence of hierarchy, in the context of my rationale regarding negativity versus positivity, seems to be a necessary precondition of such manipulations. The simulation assumes that punishments flow down, rewards tend to flow up, and starts from a point of equality where punishments and rewards are equally distributed. Eventually, those at the top end up with no punishments and all rewards (primarily a rewarding place becomes part of their worldview), and those at the bottom end up with no rewards and all of the punishments (primarily a punishing place becomes part of their worldview).

    Here’s a mathematician’s PDF titled The Roots of Unfairness: the Black Swan in Arts and Literature. Check out the last page, his numerical simulation, it is somewhat similar. In fact the whole document is an interesting read: the URL itself carries meaning within the document’s theme.

    With regards to your earlier point that since corporations are composed of people, they should be subject to similar flaws … the logic breaks down when one realizes that corporations are not run by the people that compose them, but in reality and most cases, only by a few at the top. The simulation suggests the people at the top would have a different worldview from the masses or the workers that compose them.

    We created an architecture that was very control oriented…,” Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling said. “His crimes have imposed on hundreds if not thousands a life sentence of poverty,” U.S. District Judge Sim Lake said as he sentenced Skilling.

    Anyway, as far as civilizations are concerned, a severe imbalance of income and wealth are a known cause for their fall, at least according to Durants’ The Story of Civilization. Perhaps the recent preponderance of violence in some movies is a modern day metaphor of the silent canary in a mineshaft.

  5. The correlation I had in mind when comparing “corporation’s” mental compositions to that of an individual’s in society was in reference to the heightened emotional charge that negativy holds as a predominant roll over positivity. In contrast to the above posting I was asserting that corporations have a complementary not contrasting views to public at large. Enron would be a supporting example. Assumming negative connoctations with corporations in general would be another example. The exception would be for example praising Microsoft for the betterment of mankind through availible technology for the masses and the charitable output of one Bill Gates, or complementing Wallmart for the untold thousands of jobs created. However, again to point, the negative aspects of what these company’s are doing “wrong” or “negativity” are driving most viewpoints as witnessed by these postings.
    (by the way, how do I spell check on these postings? I have a Negative disposition to dictionaries too.)

  6. No, there is no spell check. However, the great news, which I was thinking about making a post in regards to, is that FireFox 2.0 now has spelling built in. When you type in a text box area, any misspelled words are underlined in red! Currently, on this weblog, once you press the submit button, you have no ability to make any corrections.

    Roger, if you want me to correct spelling in a particular post of yours, make the corrections and email them to me, I get email from the “Contact” button on the left hand menu.

    I edit my posts extensively after posting, though I try not to do so after others have started commenting (as unusual as comments are on this blog), as that then tends to break the ‘chain of thoughts’ others have replied to. I guess that is one advantage to having your own weblog and using trackbacks to communicate with other bloggers.

    My assumption or perception is that our government has mostly all been bought and paid for by what are essentially greedy businessmen/women, and the lawmakers seem to allow it legislatively, perhaps because it’s good for them, or perhaps they have little choice and have become enslaved to money themselves to get elected. This has been an issue since I was a teenager, it was written about back then many times in newspapers, but curiously, though legislators seem to keep trying incrementally, it never seems to get fully fixed.

    Every once in awhile a few greedy bribers are caught and convicted. My perception is that it’s the tip of the iceberg. Have you read about Jack Abramoff?

    This is part of my ire regarding corporate welfare that started, I believe, preponderantly by Lincoln to win the Civil War, which I’ve written about or mentioned with a link previously. It seems legislators pass out corporate welfare: then corporations, I’ve read, today donate back to re-election campaigns using sophisticated legal manipulations, perhaps such as donating in employees’ names. Perhaps the instigating order is reversed, but the generalized process seems to have been going on for so long now that who started it is irrelevant.

    The greater danger is that a dynamic of corporatism can be created, perhaps without even most realizing it, when government and private business start handing money back and forth to each other. The people that get shortchanged by this are citizens, even small business people, and their freedoms and their representation pale next to the sums of money involved. It’s only to common citizens that the dregs of capitalism are reserved (such as minimum wage, or less than is required to live on in many areas), and the small businessperson who risks everything to get possibly nothing in return except expenses, but if you’re some huge company, it seems there is often a government sponsored ‘bail-out’ plan offered up. “Cosmic fate?”

    It seems to always have been this way in one form or another, so far as I can tell from reading and thinking.

    Did you have any thoughts about the mathematician’s PDF?

    You wrote:

    “In contrast to the above posting I was asserting that corporations have a complementary not contrasting views to public at large.”

    You’re certainly free to disagree with me: I offered a possible rationale or underlying reason for why the perception you noted of negativity being emotionally stronger than positivity exists. That portion of what you wrote I agreed with, because I’ve also noted it. What I wrote in response are only my own ideas, drawing upon everything I remembered ever being exposed to as well as experiencing.

    Perhaps it is solely as you answered, simply “Cosmic fate”.

    You continued:

    “Enron would be a supporting example.”

    Here I have no idea what on earth you are saying. Feel free to explain.

    You wrote:

    “Assumming negative connoctations with corporations in general would be another example.”

    Skilling’s and Lay’s convictions are not assumptions, though Lay’s conviction was set aside, due to what others say seems a loophole in the law if there’s a death during a certain window of the legal process.

    Those aren’t the only corporate convictions. It is certainly true that we have a tradition of an assumption of innocence in the U.S., but rarely am I assumed to be who I am when I write a check at a corporation for a purchase, ID seems to usually be required, even if the checkout person recognizes me and has seen me many multiple times previously for identical information requests. Therefore, the assumption is that I’m lying to a corporation when writing them a check, until I prove otherwise: just like a machine—no more humanity.

    Perhaps it’s true, perhaps there are some good corporations, but shouldn’t we be as suspicious of them as they are of us?

    Google, I’ve read, seems to have some unusual management ideas, though now that they’ve sold out to investors who will undoubtedly pressure them to make ever more returns, this idealism they once possessed may easily be diluted.

    And by the way, the topic is getting rather far from “violent metaphors” in “entertainment media”, unless the three ring circus of corporate America is these days more like a skit from The Three Stooges of pounding each others’ heads with black kettles and pots.

    You wrote:

    “The exception would be for example praising Microsoft for the betterment of mankind through availible technology for the masses and the charitable output of one Bill Gates…”

    Hey, I hope Bill Gates’ philanthropy works out well, as well as Buffett’s; as a monopolist, Gates certainly cornered a market for a time, perhaps still, so I’m glad he is giving some of his wealth back to society. Perhaps Gates’ school reform will do something valuable for kids. How’s that working out? I haven’t read much about it lately.

    You wrote:

    “…or complementing Wallmart for the untold thousands of jobs created”

    If I had to shill, I’d much rather praise Costco. At least the last time I checked, Costco’s CEO keeps his salary down, relative to similar companies, and his employees’ wages up. It’s not one of the 300-500:1 typical ratios that seem so in vogue among the elite CEO gang, last time I read about it, anyway. All the superstores seem to have had a deleterious effect upon some citizens’ livings, such as the closing down of smaller shops that just didn’t have the mass-buying power and therefore couldn’t match prices. Most of Costco’s employees are happy, or seem to be, which could be a good sign if they’re not ordered to paste a smile on their face and pretend they feel great when they don’t.

    Far above you wrote:

    “As to corporate sponsorship, I would conclude….”

    One thing that I think you may be missing is the definition for the word I used above in my original post, the word is corporatist. “Corporation” and “corporatist” do not share all the same nuances. Dictionaries seem too brief to delineate the difference, at least that is true of my most frequently used unabridged dictionary (it’s a software product, not on paper), though there is much information online.

    In the briefest way I know to explain and based upon my best understanding, corporatism is a melding of government money (public) and corporate money (private) coupled with a melding of authority (hierarchical dominance) into a super entity.

    A real world example of this might be a law that requires corporations to act to police something, or report some customer data to the government without the need for the government to get a warrant from the Judicial Branch to access that information.

    Some of the historical leaders of the U.S. are quoted today regarding corporatism’s dangers, including Lincoln himself, whose quote, in hindsight, seems self-critical, potentially hypocritical. Maybe, if I don’t hear back from you, I’ll post some of the quotes when I have time to look for them.

    There is a rich history of corporatism and variations of it. Global corporatism is one of the new buzzwords.

  7. Please excuse any any confusion I might have imparted. I’m against time constraints when I post these responses. Apparently brevity breeds ambiguity. In getting back to the original thoughts posed by this posting “Deeper meaning in media Violence?” I was suggesting the lure of negativity and the “emotional charge” society receives from such is the underlying cause (and success) of media violence. When the corporate structure entered the topic I was making the point that negativity also influences its operations since corporations (or corpalists) are comprised of human beings(hence subject to the same power draw from negativity). I believe I was agreeing with you in more general terms suggesting as a whole (albeit from secretary to CEO)Corporations are, in unison with society, more-so influenced by negative aspects (Greed, Violence, Control/power over others etc.)than positive ones. That is why I stated “Enron would be a supporting example”. When I wrote “assuming negative connotations with corporations in general would be another example” I was implying that society as a whole “assumes” or “views” corporations in a negative light more readily than a positive one, again supporting this thesis. Perhaps even you and I have succumbed somewhat to negative charges and are “tangling egos” here, for that I apologize and will grant you the last word….ooops, strike grant,,,”request” you have the last word. ☺

  8. I see. Thanks for your comments and conversation. :) There’s no need to apologize for anything, if so, then I should apologize to you.

    Perhaps any ego entanglements you may have perceived serves the purpose of creating iterative communication until a point of understanding of the other’s view, not necessarily accepting that view internally in one’s own mind as absolute truth or absolute falsehood.

    And yes, Roger, I have no disagreement with your idea that we are all products, creations, or casualties of our entrenched system of synthetically-skewed negativity versus synthetically-skewed positivity. Of course you worded it somewhat differently.

    I think that the reason the topic itself appealed to me was the existence of a question regarding the degree to which the corporatist element of television controls the corporate element, and this goes to wondering if television is today’s opiate of the masses, served up by a government intent on manipulating our minds: or whether it is individual artists serving their metaphors of life up to many of us simultaneously, but primarily as one citizen to another one, with a corporation or several facilitating the exchange and transformation into mass media form.

    There was one paragraph you wrote above in your first comment that mentioned ego and how a viewer may perceive themselves as in control of a scene they watch. Perhaps there is something to this, as we are social animals, in possession of what are apparently called “mirror neurons.” While I don’t have the link at this exact moment, the phrase is assigned to the scientifically discovered phenomenon that when an animal watches another animal doing something, the first animal’s brain may fire the neurons associated with that activity, essentially mirroring that activity in their own brain.

    Metaphors are extremely powerful, I’ve been drawn to written ones since being a young child, but television serves images directly to people without them needing to engage their mind’s own imagination, images one’s mind might not choose to create with respect to the written word, and further, these images are in a medium that may appeal to people who don’t care to read, as well as those who do. On a few occasions I’ve closed a fiction author’s book when their writing created images in my mind that I found distasteful and repugnant, such as taking me deep into violence; but with television I may have continued watching the metaphor when it took my mind to similarly violent places.

    There is little doubt that our world is a dangerous and violent place, and in many ways the violence we may be served by some of these movies actually exists in similar fashion in other portions of the globe and even on certain city streets in neighborhoods we may avoid at night when alone, and unfortunately perhaps even within some of our own homes.

    If violence is something we truly wish to avoid communally as a group, then promoting peace and understanding would seem to be lacking in some movies today. Serving us images of violence that we not only accept, but pay for, a question forms regarding the ways we allow our minds to be altered and what the effects are therefrom.

    It seems the corporatist would wish us to be accepting of violence, otherwise we might seek to stop the violence: serving a pacified populace a daily dose of synthetic violence as entertainment may serve this purpose of creating acceptance.

    Pacified populace? Why then would the same corporatist seek to train us to be peaceful and non-violent under threat of punishment of law? Perhaps we’re being trained by violent images in movies to possess a double standard, for our minds to be programmed to not question hypocrisy.

    It seems the basic hypocrisy is the definition of: who are the outsiders deserving of violence, who are the insiders deserving of peace, and who gets to define the difference.

    This is hardly surprising under a system of hierarchical dominance such as seems to exist everywhere in the world, both in large pyramids of hierarchy such as governments, and small versions of hierarchy such as families, as well as all sorts of pyramids in between, such as corporations; what is surprising is that these systems continue from generation to generation even when the greatest mass of humans, those at the base of each pyramid, have their happiness and pleasures skewed downward by those above them.

    From this hierarchical dominance, all sorts of negative side effects flow, one of which is the need for the masses to escape from the dominant’s own synthetically-created reality, which goes directly back to the point which you originally made about the surreal, “SO it appears you must escape this world’s reality in order to bring to it something of a positive experience….”

    Frankly, it is quite sad.

  9. I’ve always been against all that violence in the media … however as long as it sells will never be able to do anything to stop it, will we?

  10. It’s been awhile since I wrote the above post and comment entries, but I don’t recall arguing that motion pictures and the stories they represent should be made illegal, merely pointed out some problems with them. However, how humans’ minds are “programmed” by pictures, both single frames and a series of frames comprising motion, is curious. It’s apparently been the study of extensive research; for but one example dealing with static or single photos, here’s an excerpt of a recent news item:

    ‘”It’s potentially a form of human engineering that could be applied to us against our knowledge and against our wishes, and we ought to be vigilant about it,” said UC Irvine psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, who designed the study.’

    Read more: “Fake Photos Alter Real Memories”

    When a society’s every ethic is judged by the money something earns, one that creates a byproduct of human problems primarily for the financial benefit of a few, we will be viewing a society that is no longer human.

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