Why is there often a link between mass shooters and violent video games? Is it causal? Circumstantial? Merely coincidental? Mike Jaccarino explored those looming questions recently in two articles for Fox News. He spoke with experts in the field who sought to connect the dots between real-life violence and the video game variety, assembling these insightful observations:
"More than any other media," said Bruce Bartholow, director of the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the University of Missouri, "these video games encourage active participation in violence. From a psychological perspective, video games are excellent teaching tools because they reward players for engaging in certain types of behavior. Unfortunately, in many popular video games, the behavior is violence."
Longtime video game researcher and Iowa State associate professor Douglas Gentile added, "I think it's the wrong question—whether there is a link between mass shootings and violent video game play. I understand people want to look for a culprit, but the truth of the matter is that there is never one cause. There is a cocktail of multiple causes coming together. And so no matter what single thing we focus on, whether it be violent video games, abuse as a child, doing drugs, being in a gang—not one of them is sufficient to cause aggression. But when you start putting them together, aggression becomes pretty predictable."
Dr. Michael Brody, who chairs the media committee for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, says that many soldiers he's talked with noted how closely today's games now resemble their wartime experiences. "More than one openly volunteered how they felt when they were going to Iraq they were going into a video game," he said. "I didn't ask them. They volunteered the comparison. And the military uses these games for simulation of real-life experiences. The games are very realistic, and that's the difference between them and TV and film. In games, you are using a mouse or a joystick and you are interacting with the content and that makes it much easier to internalize the violent actions that are going on."
Finally, the American Psychological Association notes, "When one combines all relevant empirical studies using meta-analytic techniques … five separate effects emerge with considerable consistency. Violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts and affect; increased physiological arousal and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior." [foxnews.com, 9/12-13/13]
"When you don't have that sense of responsibility and when you don't look at the actions of your characters … that's, I think, when it gets sort of exploitative," says Kurt Sutter, creator of the hyper-violent FX show Sons of Anarchy. "That's when it then just sort of crosses into violence for violence's sake and then I think you get into glamorizing the violence and the shooting and all that stuff—when there is no consequence for that stuff."
Calling on Sutter to live up to his statements in light of the series' gruesome Season 6 premiere, Time TV critic James Poniewozik writes, "I hope it's not just another plot twist to be one-upped by even bigger shockers. It would be a missed opportunity if, after a few weeks of horror at this scene, SoA moves on and forgets—even if the real world sometimes does just that." [time.com, 9/11/13]
"There is a little bit of profanity creep, particularly on the big broadcast networks." ―NPR's pop culture blogger Linda Holmes, noting that ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox don't allow f-words or s-words. "That said," Holmes continued, "these days words such as 'd‑‑k' and 'b‑‑ch'—which would've been found too vulgar just a decade ago—are bandied about even on Glee and other shows that draw younger audiences." [npr.org, 9/11/13]
J.K. Rowling has announced a new deal with Warner Bros. to create a series of films set in Harry Potter's wizarding world. It will be based on a 42-page booklet she wrote in 2001 titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Rowling will serve as screenwriter, a first for her. She said of the project, "Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for 17 years, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt's story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry's gets underway." [thedailybeast.com, 9/12/13]
"I was an adult when I was supposed to be a kid," says Miley Cyrus. "So now I'm an adult and I'm acting like a kid." Which may begin to explain why the video for her latest song, "Wrecking Ball," involves her riding said demolition apparatus in the nude, with strategic camera shots barely obscuring full exposure. Her reward for the shenanigan? In a record six days, the video topped the 100 million-views mark on YouTube, a feat that took her last, similarly controversial video, "We Can't Stop," 37 days to accomplish. [inagist.com, 9/15/13; au.ibtimes.com, 9/16/13; mtv.com, 9/11/13; hypable.com, 9/9/13; foxnews.com, 9/5-8/13 stats]
"If you've been watching pornography since you were 11 years old, do I really want you marrying my daughter?"
—actor Tony Danza, who stars in the forthcoming film Don Jon, which deals with the subject of pornography addiction and how it affects a young man's relationship with a woman he falls in love with [huffingtonpost.com, 9/12/13]
"He's got a religious passion, as well he should, we're in America. He's proud to be a Christian, what's wrong with that? And yet, with sports media and pop culture media, they make fun of his religion. Really? In America? If he was wearing a burqa, they wouldn't dare say anything. But if you're a Christian, you get to be picked on? What the h‑‑‑? The guy's got family values. I never saw the media picking on Michael Vick for torturing dogs. Or this other football player, who's alleged to have killed, committed murder. That's 'cool.' But a guy who's religious and has got family values isn't 'cool?' He's cool to me. … I think religion is good for mankind. Without the Ten Commandments—Jews gave you that—without that, there'd be chaos. Somebody had to say, 'Here are some good ideas: Don't steal, and don't kill.' Those are good ideas. That's called 'civilization.' There was once a time where those things weren't written down. You had chaos! We still have chaos, but there's a reference point. But those are good ideas. Honor thy father and thy mother. That's a good idea!"
—KISS bassist Gene Simmons. (Simmons and KISS frontman Paul Stanley are the owners of a new arena football league team in Los Angeles, and they're trying to woo Tebow to be their quarterback.) [radio.com, 9/13/13]
The makers of the forthcoming Christian film My Son say they're shocked it recently received an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. According to Fox News, "the church behind the movie is charging that the MPAA handed out the strict rating because of the film's religious message." In the words of director Jarod O'Flaherty, "First of all there's no [bad] language in the film at all. But when you compare the content that is [in] this film to even the mildest PG-13 action movies that are out there, the content of our film comes in as much less graphic … I don't know that they set out to do something bad towards our little movie. I think it's more of a reflection of how Hollywood views Jesus in general."
Responding to the controversy over the film's rating, the MPAA told Fox News, "The rating board is comprised of parents who work to give films the rating they believe a majority of American parents would give. Each rating is accompanied by a descriptor that offers parents more detail about why a film received a rating—in the case of My Son, the R rating is for some violence and drug use." [foxnews.com, 9/12/13]