Violence on television leads to desensitized generation

Riley Schwengel


I think it’s fascinating how culture changes so dramatically over the decades and how the different mediums of art and entertainment follow different patterns between generations. One medium in particular, television, has undergone a radical transformation within the past couple decades. In the past, television was a safe form of entertainment; it was comforting to those who watched it and provided an escape from our hectic and unpredictable lives. Barring sports programs, the outcomes of shows in the past were predictable: good guys win, the boy and girl get together, the family overcomes challenges set before them, and the murderer always gets caught. But recently, we’ve seen movement away from these trends. Shows have become more unpredictable, more violent, and more sexualized. I believe that viewers have become so desensitized to the violence and sex they witness that the companies creating these shows have to keep increasing the shock value in order to gain audiences.

This desensitization has me worried, but my concerns are not the same as the ones that the talking heads on the news express. I don’t blame violent television for any sort of massacres or human tragedies, but I do wonder what sort of effect watching these shows may have on an individual. Consider the shows that we watched in the 90s and early 2000s, and then think of shows like “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones,” “Boardwalk Empire,” and “The Wire.” These shows probably would have been too shocking or offensive just 20 years ago, and now we are watching them regularly. I am not speaking as an opponent of these shows. I have seen every episode of all of the previously mentioned series, and marveled at the wonderful and engrossing plot lines they wove. But when I see a brutal rape scene or a child murdered and find that I have little emotional response other than interest in the show, I fear my normal human responses to such scenes have been dulled.

I remember the first time I watched “Game of Thrones,” which is probably my favorite show on television. The violence in the first episode shocked me and haunted me for a little while. But soon I was watching the show every weekend, and the senseless tragedies that they portrayed for my entertainment did little more than give me my adrenaline rush for the evening. Again, I do not believe that portrayal of violence causes violence, yet such easy and regular access to brutal images must have some negative effects on our minds. I worry quite a bit when I turn on the television and see scenes that should shake any human being to his or her core, but instead they are our main sources of entertainment. I just hope that, unlike Walter White and Jon Snow on television, we do not become so enveloped with the violence that we dismiss it as another piece of everyday life.

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