Media censorship won't stop violence; good parenting can.
Shreyasi | 26 Feb 2011

Depicting on-screen violence is a way of minting money for producers. Merely by imposing censorship rules we can't rule it out. But by tutoring our children about realities of violence in media we can keep them safe and grounded.

TWENTY MINUTES into the first episode of Dexter, my mother started yelling at me to stop watching it. It was a really bad idea in the very first place to watch it with her in the house.
As you know, Dexter is a television series about this Dexter guy working as a blood spatter analyst with the Miami Police but the night has him moonlighting as a serial killer. Dexter’s brand of justice justifies killing people who deserve it, namely child molesters, druglords and other serial killers who the cops can never bring to justice.
Interesting as it may sound, the show has some of the most gruesome scenes ever seen on television, depicting blood, live dismemberment of victims and overall bloodcurdling violence. Within minutes, my mother and I started having a verbal fisticuff; her cinematic imagination had already bridged the gap between my being a normal 20-something girl and turning into a sociopath, going on a killing spree.
She wanted me to stop watching it as she found it disturbing. As usual I took up the cudgel against her; I told her that from a very impressionable age, I have grown up on a diet of Bollywood potboilers replete with rampant onscreen violence but I’ve turned out just fine, so why and how on earth should she suppose that watching Dexter is going to affect me NOW?
I’d like to think that I did have a point but mother, being a mother, went on to describe how violence depicted online has resulted in people losing the sense of fiction and reality of what they are seeing. And of course she is right.
When my brother and I were kids and used to fight over every small little issue (which was pretty much all the time), we used to fight in our own kiddy ways-punching each other with soft, pudgy arms, pulling each other’s hair, kicking and yelling with the parents dragging us apart. But we stopped at that.
And now surfing channels, I find one regional(if not national) news channel or another reporting how two kids had fought over something as trivial as a comic book or a bat and one kid had brought his father’s gun or the kitchen knife to the field and harmed(polite way of saying ‘killed’) the other.
Or how a teenager playing with a six year old girl on the rooftop had molested the latter. Or how a kid has brought a gun to school to show off and had hurt someone. Or how a group of friends had robbed a bank or kidnapped a classmate and demanded ransom. Or picked up a fight and shed blood for nothing. Or simply got gloriously sloshed and banged their car against another car or something.
I wonder what sort of perverse sense of humor justifies their idea of fun. Is it the hope of getting a shot at being media luminaries? Their dreams for obtaining their
own fifteen minutes of onscreen limelight lead them on to do something this sick?
If you are young and simply want to be accepted, one way of doing it is to hang out with the cool crowd and conform, without even thinking about the consequences. You have to be cool and confident and what cooler role model can you find than the hero who brandishes a gun, rides the coolest cars, with the hottest woman beside, fights off baddies like it’s all a cakewalk with awesomely cool rock music playing in the background, even if what he actually does is desensitize you to real-life violence.
To be fair, it all looks really amazing. The media is creating an image of the cool confident men and women and basically sends out the subliminal message that one who can emulate them can be successful. You have films with celebrities glorifying war, mindless violence, use of alcohol, marijuana, drugs, promiscuous sexual activities etc; the makers of this film try every possible innovative marketing gimmick to promote them and people are easily fooled by the glitz and glamour into believing that this is all reality; this is how life should be like.
Even really small kids like the pre-schoolers aren’t spared. When I was small, I had grown up watching Tom and Jerry show and Scooby Doo but now I see my nephews and nieces thriving on manga and anime where the violence downplayed by layers of slapstick humor. But it’s violence nevertheless and if later my nephew wants to push his neighbor off the balcony because that’s how his favorite character on television has fun, I cannot really blame him right?
The point of this rambling discourse is that only media censorship can do nothing to curb the menace of the media minting money by spawning an atmosphere of falsehood and graphic violence. Attempts at censorship will involve a bunch of narrow-minded moralists and will precipitate the same kind of stupid political aggression we saw during the screening of stellar films like Fire or Salaam Bombay thereby threatening the ethos of freedom of speech.
Instead, we need the parents and school to take responsibilities in tutoring the children so that the latter never loses his/her sense of reality. I know it works because I have first-hand experience of it from my parents. Even now, when I (secretly) watch shows like Dexter or films with portrayal of graphic violence, I am firmly grounded.
Let’s face it, the kids aren’t going to give up playing violent video games or watch films glorifying wars, serial killers, people doing drugs etc. The more you ban these shows, the more restrictions you impose, the more your kid will rebel. But by educating him/her to look at things from different perspectives and not just the one shown on television, you can actually help him/her be a responsible mature adult.
Dexter won’t stop killing. I won’t stop watching. But I know where to draw the line. And that’s what counts.