Violence in the Media

by Lovell Mahan-Moutaw

George Lucas is talking to Katie Couric on the Today show.

It is a few weeks before Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace will be released and she has been talking about how NBC will air that interview over several days. Today, they are airing the part of the interview that concerns what George Lucas thinks about what is known alternately as the Littleton Shooting, the Denver Tragedy or the Columbine Massacre.

Lucas is not taken aback by talking about this. He seems, in fact, quite prepared to talk about it and he has the answer. But before giving the answer, he wonders with frank disbelief why people are asking so many questions.

The answer, according to George Lucas, is: parents need to take more time in how they raise their children.

Of course, George Lucas isn't going to blame the media for this crisis or the ones before it. It would be, and pardon the violence in the expression, cutting off his nose to spite his face.

Pardon the violence in the expression...

It's a scary disclaimer.

It is also scary that the season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, something that has been building for weeks and months, something for which thousands of fans have been waiting, has been canceled in the wake of the Colorado and Georgia tragedies. The finale would include high school students attacking the mayor during graduation ceremonies after he turns into a serpent-shaped demon.

How many serpent-shaped demon mayors are out there?

Don't we know the difference?

Do our children?

And, if they don't, why the hell don't they?

As much as I was looking forward to Buffy's final adventure in high school, I have to say, as a Denver resident, that I'm not shocked nor too upset about the cancellation of the finale. In fact, I think it takes a great deal of courage to do so and shows a shocking sensitivity.

With that said, I don't think canceling Buffy will make a bit of difference, mainly because I agree with George Lucas wholeheartedly. Anvils falling on roadrunners in Warner Bros. cartoons, Keanu Reeves shooting at alien images in The Matrix and Buffy kickboxing a serpent mayor do not make children open fire on their classmates.

What does?

That is the question that could heal a lot of suffering. Opinions are worth what they cost to get them. However, being here in this community, working in a hospital that was the recipient of gunshot victims, it is a time where I feel that opinions are like breathing, as necessary as air. When we don't care, then what will become of us? And if we talk about it enough, we might just come up with some solutions. Kids are dying, we don't really have a choice but to find solutions. But then again, it has been happening for a long time, just ask the kids in the urban wasteland.

So, what is my opinion? My opinion is that it is laughable to ascribe responsibility to the media for it's violent images when it comes to teen angst gone wrong. I feel that when mass murders happen, it isn't Leonardo DiCaprio in The Basketball Diaries that is prompting it to happen.

Oh, there are so many excuses to be made: Guns, violence in the media, peer pressure, peer antagonism, drugs, gangs, hormones, angst, levels of responsibility and respect for other people.

Who has control in all of the above? Parents.

They can keep guns away from their kids or be aware enough to teach their children the fundamentals of not only handling a gun but respecting it.

They can keep their children away from violent images by disallowing them to go to films or watch television that provides these images.

They can talk to their children or simply be aware of clues and moods that can give great insight into whether kids are being mistreated at school or being pressured in to things they don't want or don't understand, or are picking up friends that cannot be trusted, or being controlled by hormones or angst that growing up can cause.

And it goes without saying that parents are very much responsible for teaching their children to respect the other inhabitants of this planet and to be responsible for themselves and their actions.

Not being a parent, how do I know parents can do this?

Because I had one that did.

And I had one that didn't.

The former wasn't my friend, she was my Mom. She had to work but she busted her ass to get to practices, games, recitals, to read through homework and teach life lessons and talk and listen. She rarely went to movies or out with the girls, she had made the decision to have children and that means giving up huge portions of your life to raise those children to be the best they can be.

By the time I could stay up past 9:00 at night and see some violence or sexually charged situations, I had been molded into a human being that could handle those things. I could handle it without the screw that was never quite tightened in my head jiggling and falling away, taking with it my responsibility to be a thoughtful citizen of this world.

I'm not so far away from being a kid that I don't recall trying to rebel and doing things I shouldn't do. I'm also not so far away from it that I don't recall the humiliation of getting caught (most of the time, since my Mother paid attention) and learning my lesson.

I did learn my lesson. What lessons are learned today? I have several friends who are teachers or work with children. They tell me stories about busy parents that pay extra for day-care-into-night-care because they cannot get away from their jobs. Parents that, when told their children cannot socialize properly, say, "That is not my problem, that is your problem." Parents who cannot be bothered to make conferences.

I know all about bad seeds, rebellion, how wily kids can be. I also know you cannot hide five guns and eighty pipe bombs in your underwear drawer all the while you are authoring a bile-spewing, hatred-filled web page unless someone, namely your parents, is not paying attention.

So if Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold got their ideas from The Matrix and acted on them, well, you'd have to do a lot of talking to convince me of that. There is something else going on and someone should notice. Angst and disillusionment and hormones and media cannot cause the kind of brutal chaos that we have been treated to in past years, not even all mixed together. This happens because kids feel these things and see these things and have nowhere to turn to process these things, and many have no basis of common decency.

They should have somewhere to turn, someone to trust, someone wise enough to advise or smart enough just to listen or strong enough to be a good example.

It may even make a bad seed form a flower. But mostly, hopefully, it will save our kids from the war zone that was once our schools.

So, if you decide to be a parent, then be one. Don't make a child and force the rest of us to deal with it. If you need your movies and your manicures and your BMWs, please think again. When your kid (or someone else's) does something vile, don't point at Arnold Schwarzanegger - learn what kind of donut your son likes, or what boy your daughter likes, or what grades they are getting and what kind of teachers and friends they have. If you care, it stands to reason that they will care.

And that's what we need a little bit more of, kids that give a damn, about their lives and about the lives of others.

Lovell Mahan-Moutaw

CineScene, 1999