Batman Rises and the Colorado Shootings: Hollywood Should be Ashamed

Category: Weekly Columns

No, I don’t blame Hollywood or The Dark Knight for the Colorado shootings. But, I do blame Hollywood for the deterioration of its product, the resulting desensitization of our kids, and the overall lack of concern for what it produces and the impact it has on our souls.

The recent tragedy in Aurora, Colorado in which a young man, dressed in full protective gear, wrought havoc, death, and mayhem on an innocent movie crowd is no accident. He was a lover of The Joker, the “star” of the second Dark Knight movie, portrayed by the late Heath Ledger. He was a lover of violent role-playing video games. He chose the new Batman Rises movie crowd as his target; he didn’t choose the latest Pixar movie.

I worked in the entertainment business for a quarter century. My forte was the now largely defunct “Movie of the Week.” We suffered our own run of poor taste when so many of the television movies were ripped-from-the-headlines true murder films. The first writing I ever did was my effort to put a halt to that shameful period of television with “Murders of the Week.” It was later reprinted in the Daily Variety and I like to think it led to the considerable lessening of production of those movies.

The Hollywood my parents grew up with and that I grew up with was quite different than today’s movie world. My parents lived through World War II, when not only did Hollywood contribute wonderful movies glorifying the sacrifices of our men and women in the armed forces, but also made films about sacrifices on the home front. These films helped bolster a scared nation. After the war, Hollywood continued making such moves, with “The Best Years of Our Lives” deservedly earning a Best Picture Oscar in 1946.

I grew up with adventure films that starred such late greats as Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, Gregory Peck and so many others. “The Great Escape” was truly awesome to me though the more likely word we used then was either “cool” or “groovy.” “The Guns of Navarone, “The Dirty Dozen,” and so many other films of that era informed my idea of heroes and villains.

Many years later, Quentin Tarantino came along and wrote and/or directed movies with unmitigated violence and any lack of honor, at least the honor I learned in my life. I’ve only seen one film of his, so I can only judge from afar, and the one I did see -“Inglorious Bastards” – had some value, in my opinion. Oliver Stone came along and tried to change history with his movies, starting with his anti-war depictions in “Platoon,” continuing with his totally fictional “JFK,” and others. Ironically, he made a truly good movie about 9/11 – “World Trade Center” in 2006 – but much damage to the soul of America had already been done by his work.

When the original “Psycho” came out in 1960, it was hailed as the scariest movie ever. And it was pretty darn scary. The infamous shower scene, however, was in black and white and did not show a single explicit shot of violence. It was brilliantly directed by the late Alfred Hitchcock and masterfully scored by Bernard Herrman to a chilling effect.

Today’s horror films try to out-do each other with extreme gore. The “Saw” series is just one example. The excesses portrayed in these films induce nightmares, desensitize feelings, and create a culture in which violence seems okay to portray and even to laugh at. Sorry, I don’t think it’s funny.

Does Hollywood care? Some say Hollywood only cares about money. But, if that were true why do they still make so many R-rated movies when their box office performance is invariably less than the moderately rated films. This is a contradiction in reality that Hollywood chooses to ignore to pacify the stars, filmmakers, and studio execs that like the R-rated films and think that they are expanding “their art.” Read Michael Medved’s “Hollywood Vs. America” for ample evidence of the fiscal failure of R-rated movies!

Now, let’s look at the video games. I’m old enough to remember Atari’s first video game, Pong. It was a simple competition of “hitting” a virtual ball back and forth. Nobody had to die, and it was a lot of fun. Today’s video games often try to out-do one another with gore, blood, and violence. The very successful “Grand Theft Auto” video game series took this even further by demonizing the police and giving the player more points when they killed police and innocents. Hooray for Hollywood. Hooray for the Gaming Industry.

Where do we parents come into this discussion? How many parents give in to their children’s pleas to go to the latest PG-13 or R-rated movie before their children are anywhere close to mature enough to see them? What about the games and Internet access allowed to many kids?

Do you think the Colorado shooter, was watching the Discovery Channel, renting Pixar movies, and playing Mario Brother’s video games? I’m sure he avoided all those excessively violent horror movies, so many of which had sequel after sequel. The same goes for the Columbine killers. Their favorite music was The Four Seasons, wasn’t it? No, I think it was Patti Page.

I haven’t even touched on the lack of responsibility within the music industry, which completely shares Hollywood, and the Gaming industry’s lack of soul.

To paint these industries as the bad guys with one brush stroke is too simple. This is a complicated societal problem that has grown over time during my generation – the boomers. The solution isn’t simple either. But, maybe if these industries thought about their 5-year-old boys and girls a little more, they might choose to make a Batman movie with slightly less gore, skip the horror movies altogether, and maybe strive to create stories that enrich, educate, and inspire.

  • Lara Kulpa

    I don’t agree that Hollywood or the gaming industry or the music industry can be blamed for violent events like this. There have been violent killers since the dawn of time, before the entertainment industry ever existed. Likewise, millions of people watch violent movies, play violent games, etc. and do not become serial killers or even desensitized to violence (check out the Penn & Teller Bullsh*t episode about this, it’s extremely informative). Parents certainly need to be diligent when monitoring the entertainment their kids see, but even they can’t be blamed. Some people are just sick. This shooter may have drawn inspiration from the Joker, but I fully believe that if Batman didn’t exist, it would have been something else with the same result.

    (Erm…not sure why Disqus is showing up as a comment from Lara Kulpa. This comment is from Allison Boyer – @allison_boyer)

    • Bruce Sallan

      Lara, it shows up as from you. I don’t think Batman is to blame, but I do strongly believe we’ve gone in the wrong direction with our entertainment. Instead of uplifting us, it brings us DOWN. It wasn’t always so. Of course there are crazies that will do things no matter what “entertainment” they see…

      • Amy Jussel

        Bruce, I like the macro statement about “deterioration of product” as it seems you’re dancing on the fringe of something larger than
        the usual blame game behavioral convo of copycat/mirroring/desensitization to violence…Wonder if you’re submitting a larger, question about media “choice” (or lack thereof) in terms of what gets ‘put out there’ time and again (industry/tactical prefs for raunch/rape/realityTV etc/negative over positive by sheer volume/proliferation… w/little regard to strategic/long term impact of how it lands in our culture until there’s a mess to mop up.)

        It’s kinda like I argued here on the new Bratzillaz/Monster
        High dolls about ‘choice’ in the toy aisles when the media/mktg begins to ALL look the same…darkness over light…more and more hyper-sexualized craptastic cues to kids as young as 6–> which get ‘normalized’ (pornification/productization as fashionista-femme-forward?) Not exactly a productive ‘girlpower’ statement imo…

        I’ve had some fascinating convos in the causal vs corollary threads w/multiple
        arguments much like you’re getting here (e.g. esp comments from
        videogame fans when ManHunt2 was touting the realism of its ‘murder
        simulation’ w/the rating controversy—> or about the ‘normalization’ of
        bloody gimmicks w/Red Cross tie-ins to Saw3 which added a disturbing
        legit cred that was irksome>> so it seems you’re alluding to a systemic overhaul’ rather than any one aspect or genre…much like we say at Shaping Youth, that it’s about changing the channel of influence to a different frequency altogether…

        As one comment said, cruddy parenting may have enabled the 6y.o. who ‘should’ve been sleeping’ to attend the show, but let’s also use media literacy to drill down into who’s undermining those same parents with complicity in terms of industry’s “manufactured
        need” pumping out toy product tie-ins w/coolness cache, creating a perfect storm of ‘age compression marketing’ and lousy parenting decisions collide in these media mashups.

        ALL adults (in and out of the industry sphere) need a good shoulder-shake on the accountability/awareness media literacy front to OWN the interconnected of decision making.

        Seems it’s usually during bonfires like this that media amps a ‘violence’ convo which rarely trace to initial sparks. Folks end
        up fixating on minutiae (e.g. flaming film-parents-character-The Joker etc) w/out seeing smoldering
        embers in the larger landscape that’s brought to us as “entertainment.”

        • Bruce Sallan

          TYVM Amy for such a thoughtful response rather than a knee-jerk attack (on me). You raise such excellent questions!

          My intent was exactly how you responded, “you’re dancing on the fringe of something larger than the usual blame game.” 

          Why aren’t others getting the same thing? What do we all bring to that which we bring? Our own agendas? 

          Is this why there is so little reasonable political discourse these days? Is this why we see so many “Attack” ads versus platforms!

          And, YES, I am submitting a question about “media choice” – or lack thereof!

  • Ted Rubin

    Hear, hear Bruce… definitely in your camp on this one. Yes, as Lara points out there always have been, and always will be sick people. But by desensitizing our youth, enpowering role models without conscience or honor, and making these movies, games, and music in such vast quantities and elevating them to star level, we most certainly provide a platform for such atrocities to become a more prominent part of our culture. Thanks for a thoughtful post Bruce. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      TY Ted…I want this discussion to continue. We’re actually going to talk about this – sort of – at #DadChat this coming Thursday. Please share this column as the discussion is important! TYVM …

  • Jason Konopinski

    I can’t disagree with your thesis more, Bruce. My parents took the time to explain the difference between fictional violence (as portrayed in video games and film) and what exists in reality. Evil exists in the world. People are violent, ugly, and cruel to one another. The canon of Western literature is filled with gore and brutality, and I’m not convinced that we are somehow desensitiving ourselves to graphic portrayals of violence. I’ve read comic books and played video games (some of which were quite violent) since I was a child and I’m certainly a well-adjusted member of society. 

    Hollywood and the entertainment industry isn’t without sin, but this reasoning is dangerous and doesn’t address the real issues. The young man responsible for this attack is clearly mentally ill, and that’s what we should be discussing. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thx for your comment Jason. Some key things you said…”My parents took the time to explain the difference between fictional violence…” Very happy that occurred AND that you had such caring parents. Do you think every child does? Heck, the Bible is filled with lots violence but there is a HUGE difference between reading it — especially in the context of classic literature and playing a morally bankrupt video game or regularly going to graphic horror films. 

      Disagreement is healthy…especially when expressed with the respect you showed in your comment. Thank you!

      • Jason Konopinski

        Certainly there’s a wide variety of childhood experiences in understanding violence. I think I was less than ten years when I saw Alien with my parents (at home). Scared the snot out of me. As far as violent video games? Well, the industry has addressed this through ratings system. Are there specific titles that you consider to be “morally bankrupt”? 

        I’m not willing to make any kind of causal claims about exposure to fictional violence and real world incidence of violence. As Allison pointed out above, Penn & Teller discussed this in an episode that is worth checking out. 

        • Bruce Sallan

          I don’t think I’ve been casual. THIS is an opinion piece not a news story, though most news is opinion these days. I spent 25 years in the trenches of Hollywood so I do approach this with a degree of real life experience. As for examples of “morally bankrupt” video games, I already referenced GTA…and stand by that belief!

          • Aaron Gouveia

            I think Jason wrote “causal.”

  • Aaron Gouveia

    I not only disagree with this post, I’m personally offended by it.

    The title of this post references the Colorado shooting and then asks “Should Hollywood Be Ashamed?” You start by saying you don’t blame Hollywood. And then you devote 90% of the remaining space to blaming Hollywood. So I find it extraordinarily disingenuous for starters.

    But the most troubling part of this is the implication that if Holmes had grown up with the Discovery Channel and Pixar while listening to The Beatles, this whole thing could’ve been avoided. Forget the fact that that statement can’t ever be proved, it’s just ludicrous. And more than a little ironic given The Beatles influence on Charles Manson. Not sure that was the best example.

    Watching a Quentin Tarantino film does not make most people want to go rip someone’s ear off, nor does a Saw movie compel budding serial killers to discover new methods of torture. These are movies — many of them very good movies. They might not be your taste and that’s fine, but don’t assume that because you don’t enjoy them that they’re tearing at the fabric of humanity.

    Holmes was a sick individual. And the questions we should be asking are how did he get access to so many weapons? Did he have access to the necessary mental health professionals who could’ve helped him? Or perhaps we just need to consider that he was a nutcase, who was going to self-destruct and cause violence no matter what. But instead we’re assuming movies and video games make us killers and (not you but many others) asking why children were even at the movie in the first place. As if they somehow deserved what they got because they went to a midnight showing with their parents.

    Pretty disappointing.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Wow, “personally offended” by my opinion? I had no idea I mattered that much to you, Aaron! Good point, though on the Beatles reference…I think I may change that, thanks to you!

      And, in NO WAY did I say OR imply that ANY of the victims got what they deserved. Sorry, I’m personally offended by that because that is an accusation that is wrong and wrong-headed!

      • Aaron Gouveia

        Bruce: I didn’t say that you did say that about the victims. That’s why I wrote “not you but many others” so you wouldn’t think I was saying that.

        • Bruce Sallan

          Thx for clarifying…it’s just a very heated comment you posted on something we could easily debate with less rancor!

          • Aaron Gouveia

            I guess another difference between us is that you consider this rancor. There’s no name-calling or personal attacks, just differences of opinion. Is it heated? Yup. I’m pretty passionate on several topics related to this shooting. But I don’t see anything wrong with that.

          • Ted Rubin

            I think you are both taking this too personally. It is a discussion and a topic that is timely and important. I believe you both make good points in many respects with regard to the atrocity and horror of the event. Offended and rancor are both strong strong words that probably can be left out of this conversation in order to allow all points of view to be freely spoken. Now let’s play nice boys 🙂

          • Bruce Sallan

            Gee Ted, why the name-calling, rancor and offense! I really like you, I do…just kidding! Not about liking you – as you know I do – but about the name-calling and such!

            Well said, Ted. I think Aaron and Jason are expressing good points and Aaron has already got me thinking more on the subject. It’s clear that we as a society must look inward when things like this occur. I also really respect Michele Price’s comment…let the discussion continue!

            It wouldn’t hurt if Hollywood did pay a bit more attention to the amount of gore it produces, especially when the HARD evidence proves that R-rated films average far less box office than their less-violent, less-graphic cousins!

  • Michele Price

    Ok, for one we know nothing about the perpetrator, so assumptions on who he was are that, assumptions.  While what he did was horrific – we need to ask some critical thinking questions as to how an unemployed student could afford to invest in thousands of dollars of military equipment.

    I agree with Bruce that movies have gone over board in finding sick ways to portray a story.  Alfred Hitchcock was a perfect example of delivering suspense without the unnecessary gore.  That same gore causes people to become desensitized to violence.

    Yes we have had sickos for centuries, BUT we have had more in our lifetime because of mass communication spreading these ideas much easier.

    We have to take responsibility for the things we put in our own minds and I have long said we need to be careful of the bloody gore we accept as entertainment.  Our brains operate off the software we give them.  I think it is too easy to NOT take responsibility for books, movies and music because that allows us to not accept any responsibility for the problem.

    There is quite a bit of evidence that our minds have a far more powerful effect on our body than we first thought and more evidence comes from this each year.  It is coming from studying diseases and how we can see structural changes even on water molecules when we speak specific words over them.

    Never found attacking each other to be the answer either. Have watched families who lost family members to tragedy find great solace in forgiving the aggressor and real change happened for all involved.

    It is never easy for us to look inside and ask the tough questions, which is why we still have these issues.  Let’s start asking questions about what we can do VS who to blame.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Very well said, Michele…and much appreciated. This is NOT a simple issue, without a doubt!

    • The Real Matt Daddy

      It’s not difficult for a student to get a credit card (or more than one!) with a $10,000 limit. At least it wasn’t when I was in school. 

      • Bruce Sallan

        I thought ALL credit was a bit harder to come by these days? Regardless, the amount of guns and ammo he evidently acquired should have raised a darn bright and big red flag somewhere!

        • Alyse Cranson

          I’ve been reading the tweets,and thoroughly agree,the entertainment industry definitely influence,always has.Didn’t live in the era,but watch old movies. Back then smoking was made to seem glamorous. Influence has always been there the only thing that has changed, is the content. I was glad to see you mention the weapons he owned. Purchasing assault rifles or mass amounts of any weapons, and ammo should definitely raise red flags, and should be reported.Something I read here and didn’t agree with was blaming the parents of the children who were injured,and or died. Agree ‘R’ rated movies are not for children, but I’m sure the parents thought they would be asleep. I’m sure they didn’t expect someone to come in, and start shooting. They must be devastated. Pray for them,and all those affected. Thanks Bruce for being brave enough to bring this up, and taking a lot of flack. 

          • Bruce Sallan

            Thx for weighing in Alyse! “Flack” is the right word…lol! Much more than I expected given I was just expressing an opinion.

            The smoking analogy is so RIGHT ON…wish I’d thought of it when I wrote this. Of course, what we see, read, and listen to influences us. Yipes, how many people that are being so angry about this post want to be considered an “influencer” themselves? 

  • @BrickWade

    I see both sides of this argument. While it’s not Hollywoods job to parent our kids, the acceptable standards of entertainment have certainly loosened from generation to generation.

    With the shooting being still so fresh and such a sensitive subject, I respect you Bruce for putting your opinion out there. While maybe the title of the piece was strongly worded I appreciate reading your post and gaining insight into your perspective.

    The CO incident creates a lot of questions: could the shooters mental health been improved to reduce his violent drive? What role do his family and peers play in this? And where did he get the resources to pull this off? Did he get the idea through entertainment (movies, video games)?

    Theres more to this story – and subject – for sure. Will make for a spirited #dadchat.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Yes, Brick…Thank you, and we are going to tackle this topic – in part – at #DadChat this Thursday!

  • Scott Regalado

    We often look for answers when tragedy strikes. Sometimes the answer is simply “crazy”. You can’t always find a fix to the problems of the world. There will always be good and evil. That is life. Accept it.

    • Bruce Sallan

      I couldn’t agree more, Scott…but do you EVER see the msm saying something is “evil?” 

      msm = mainstream media

  • The Real Matt Daddy

    Interesting post, Bruce. Although, I tend to disagree that Hollywood needs to shoulder any responsibility for the way people consume their product.  If there were not a demand for such things, they would not get made.  And if they didn’t sell, there wouldn’t be sequels (e.g. – see “John Carter”) And statistically, we’re talking about one in several million people who went nuts – and there’s probably a good chance he would have been nuts without being interested in these Batman movies.

    How many others go nuts from their losses in the financial market?  How many go nuts from some sort of harassment?  How many go nuts from the stress of a divorce/custody battle?  I think the main culprit in the decline of my generation (and the upcoming generation’s) lack of concern for human life stems from a lack of family structure and family values.  My parents taught me right from wrong, good from evil, bad from good, and that all life, human and non-human, is to be respected.  

    I feel that I am able to consume ANY media with a good head on my shoulders and react in a way that is reasonable and acceptable to society.  I don’t choose to put that sort of thing in my brain, but if I wanted to watch the entire SAW series in marathon form, I could, and I wouldn’t turn into a serial killer.  The tragedy is that this gentleman was sick, and those around him were not able to get him the help he obviously needed.  I know you’re viewing these events through your Boomer lenses, and waxing nostalgic about an industry that you watched change after you handed it over to the next generation, but sometimes, crazy is just crazy, evil is just evil, and sickness is just sickness.  Parents must do the best they can to teach their children right from wrong and that all life should be respected.    

    • Zach Rosenberg

      I agree. I think it all comes back to family. I played Mortal Kombat (all of them! The latest one is EX-CELL-ENT). I watched the most violent movies. I’ve listened to the most violent and womanizing music. Now, it’s all passe because that stuff HAS desensitized me. But I haven’t gone on any shooting rampages because my parents were always the safety lock on my sanity. They gave me the right tools to cope with life – and when things were going wrong – I’d talk it out, not blow my top and gun someone down (even if I wanted to!).

      I hate it when the answer is as simple as “it was the parents”, because it’s too easy, too obvious, and we’d love to blame media for poisoning our kids. But as it often is, the answer was the parents. That kid just didn’t talk to his parents enough and the parents weren’t in his face enough.

      • Bruce Sallan

        TY Zach for affirming the IMPORT of parents guiding our kids through the entertainment morass!

      • Lillith_csks

        ” my parents were always the safety lock on my sanity”

        See this is what I am trying to say also…. there was a baby and a 6 years old in that theater. Who took those kids there HOLLYWOOD?

        Great response Zach.

        • Bruce Sallan

          Those parents were idiots but they didn’t deserve what happened and no one would argue that. We MUST realize that the nuclear family is NO MORE. For the first time in U.S. history there are more single/mixed marriage households than traditional first-marriage families. That is unprecedented. Our schools, media, and Hollywood present a very problematic set of values – OR lack of values, I would suggest!

        • Zach Rosenberg


    • Bruce Sallan

      I don’t believe movies turn people into killers. But, I do believe that they influence people. Did we EVER have these kind of events before? Was there ever the epidemic of bullying at schools or people killing others in the workplace? When people lost money in the stock market in 1929, they jumped out of buildings – took their own lives, not those of others. This is a relatively new thing. I believe what we see and what we consume does impact our heart and soul. Rap music, violent video games, HBO movies and series, and many of Hollywood’s R-rated films simply degrade us all…

      • The JackB

        Hi Bruce,

        I think we had  incidents of bullying and all sorts of crazy stuff but that we didn’t hear about them like we do today. 

        Are there more today than in the past? I don’t know. We would have to check the stats somehow and compare, but I don’t believe that movies are the problem.

        • Bruce Sallan

          Thx for sharing your thoughts, JB…this one seems to be quite a heated debate – I hope for the betterment of all of us!

  • Joe Alcala

    Having family, and friends in Aurora, and living less than an hour away — allows me to have a bit of a different perspective here. In addition to having two teenage boys who are seduced daily by the ‘Make Money at Any Cost Mavens & Moguls of Hollywood’. I am of the opinion that children learn what they are taught, exposed to, and live. The inurement (desensitization) is systematic, and has a built-in element of cognitive coping strategies. It is in essence respondent conditioning whether watching Barney & Friends, or the latest Franchise Blockbuster. At the risk of sounding pessimistic, the saddest fact is there is an un-spoken, taboo appetite for violence in America, and abroad, and Hollywood, as well as the “Big Six” Monolithic Media Corporations know, and capitalize on this. For one to say that the “Entertainment Industry” has no part in molding our Cultural Society, more importantly our Children is just plain absurdity.

    • Bruce Sallan

      TY Joe. I’m beginning to feel like a whistle-blower for what is SO obvious and clear (to me)! Why the blowback? All that matters is whether it is affecting a small portion of people and, if so, then it sure as hell ain’t a good thing!

  • eleanor lee

    Good article. My thoughts also. 


    • Bruce Sallan

      Thx so much, Eleanor!

  • Heidi C.

    Bruce- Great article!
    I think that philosophically it’s easier to NOT blame Hollywood because of the affect on kids from violence in movies than prove it. It’s great that there are SOME parents out there that do take the time to explain the difference between real and fake violence to their kids but there are a lot of parents who don’t and the reality is that most kids are getting very de-sensitized to violence. And some kinds don’t know how to process it either. There are stats that show how many murders a kid sees before they are 18 and honestly, HOW do we know that the mass shootings over the last decade aren’t related? Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. 

    I think, like your first commenter said, that this is just a horrible tragedy. That there is good and evil. Maybe there are answers, but most likely we will never know what happened in this man’s mind to make him snap like this. 

    But, regardless, I think it’s healthy to closely monitor what your child sees and hears (as well as ourselves). “you are what you eat” and if all you fill yourself with is negative, that is what you will become.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thx for your comment Heidi…I”m NOT afraid to call evil – EVIL! I fear too many people live their lives being Politically Correct. AGAIN, I am NOT explicitly blaming Hollywood or the Batman movie for this shooting, this CRAZY person…I am asking – okay declaring – that Hollywood has made us all less sensitive to the tragedy of violence, its affects on the victims AND their families, and just inundated us with images we just don’t need in our brain! And, to what purpose? More people attended movies “in the good ol’ days” when Shirley Temple was a star!

  • Bill Draeger

    You write “But, maybe if these industries thought about their 5-year-old boys and girls a little more, they might choose to make a Batman movie with slightly less gore…”  So, do you mean Hollywood should only make G rated movies?  You know that wouldn’t work.  The latest Batman is rated PG-13 which is probably as tame as you can get and still make it enjoyable for adult viewing. I believe movie violence (especially that in a PG-13 film) should not be dialed back because of one nut case in a population of over 300 million.  Better security at theaters might be in order, however. Perhaps instead of calling for less violence in movies, you should ask Hollywood  to share some of their earnings to ensure this. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      I do think Hollywood should “dial back” the violence. To what purpose does it serve!

  • Nathan (@braindad)

    I remember feeling very strongly about anything that even came close to censorship when I was 15, like those labels they started slapping on records after Prince put “Darling Nikki” on Purple Rain. Now that just seems academic. I am telling you that I am a big action/thriller fan on Netflix. I seem to be seeking a thrill, a heist, action of some sort … It could easily be done with as much violence as the old John Wayne movies. I watch what’s on but I don’t let my kids do that. I’m of the opinion that if my kids shouldn’t be doing it, I might be better off without it myself. Just don’t touch my records.

    • Bruce Sallan

      I promise not to touch your records. BTW, what is a “record?”

  • Trey Burley

    Strong post sir. 

    I don’t think that these industries are the cause of violent acts, but they do help in the mind’s eye of a criminal or fame seeker-excuse or justify violent acts or things against the norm of society.  Factor in that many of those suspectible to doing these acts come from families that are not intact or don’t have strong foundations and that’s the root of the problem.

    If kids in the inner city listened to Bach instead of the ganster rapper of the week would there be less crime in that area?  Almost certainly.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thx Trey. I expected some blowback from this, but not as strong as its been. Let the games continue…I mean the debate!

  • Donnaturnley

    Great article, and I agree with everything you wrote. The sad thing is that we may not see the impact of this movie and ensuing violence for years to come. Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. While movies like Batman desensitize society to violence, we seem to be addressing and combatting it in other ways, such as with anti-bullying campaigns.

    One last thing: how can society continue to support the legal purchase of assault rifles? The continual harm caused by them is impossible to defend.

    • Bruce Sallan

      TY Donna. I’m a bit stunned at the blowback. What if I’m right?

      • Donnaturnley

        Bruce, I firmly believe that if those of us in society, who abhor extreme violence in movies and other venues, continue to look the other way, our souls collectively begin to whither and die.

        • Bruce Sallan

          We agree Donna. My point also extends to ALL those kids who are either parentless, have single parents who cannot spend the time they want to with their kid(s), or parents who just abdicate their jobs. As a society, we should strive to present the best in us vs. pander to the worst which is largely what Hollywood does – with MANY exceptions, of course!

          • Donnaturnley

            Yes, I agree. Violence begets violence, and to some degree we are all responsible. For example, by discussing the violence in the movie, we are promoting it and encouraging Hollywood to make more.

          • Bruce Sallan

            But, we must discuss these things. Isn’t it our job as parents and people to TRY and make the world a better place, Donna?

  • Lillith_csks

    Hollywood is “responsible” for degrading & desensitizing our
    kids/ppl, that is as saying that the CO shooting culprit is the gun. As if the
    gun grew legs and went on a rampage…. Plus not to mention AMONG the audience
    watching this VIOLENT movie in the MIDDLE of the NIGHT there was a BABY and a 6
    year old girl.. those kids should have been in bed sleeping!! Who’s fault was
    that the 6 years old died in the middle of the night and the last she heard of
    this world was violence coming out from the large movie SCREEN and from a LUNATIC…..
    Hollywood??? Unfortunaly NO … I feel for the Mom & Dad losing a child is
    so terrible but why wasn’t that kid in bed sleeping?

    have a rating for Parents benefits, again why was a baby & a 6 years old
    there, my curfew even at 17 was 11 PM…. This Tragedy happened at 1am.

    We can
    surely wash our hands and put Hollywood on trial for desensitizing &
    degrading kids/ppl, but at the same time then let’s put GUNS on trial for the
    CO shootings.

    I despise
    Hollywood, I am very selective on the movies I watch, I also very selective on
    the actor/actresses. I don’t want my $$$ to go to evil causes.

    So until
    the DEMAND is there the Supply will be there also. and Let’s not forget while
    we are pointing fingers, 4 points right back at us.

    • Bruce Sallan

      There’s a reason we have ten fingers – we can do a lot of pointing. Lillith, you and I really agree much more than not!

    • audaciouslady

      The baby died? I didn’t know that. 

      • Lillith_csks

        The news reported there was a baby but nothing happened to the baby. the 6 years old little girl died there, her name Veronica Moser-Sullivan….. 

        • Bruce Sallan

          Whoever died, it’s tragic. This whole thing seems to have brought out BIG EMOTIONS in everyone. I’m stunned at the reaction to this post from so-called “friends” who have publicly attacked my opinion as if I were advocating hatred, evil, rather than just expressing MY opinion. Holy Cow…since when is having an opinion you disagree with worthy of such harshness? Oh yeah, it’s a political year – we’re seeing it every day, aren’t we! I just expected more of some people…

          Disagreement is how we learn. Just attacking those you disagree with accomplishes nothing. I was clear in this column that I believe Hollywood shares some responsibility for the way many of us – and our kids – perceive the world. To deny that continued inundation of ugly, violent images doesn’t impact us is to hide your head in the sand1

          • Lillith_csks

            I believe my debate with you was pretty civilized.  I respect everyone’s opinion, the beauty of our Country. I vehemently disagree with you on Hollywood.  If we the ppl choose not to watch anymore trash, Hollywood will be force to make better movies, & so on.  The choice is ours if you dicide to have Hollywood & TV as our kids’ nannys then we got anything coming.

          • Bruce Sallan

            I agree! YOU were cool and there is nothing wrong with disagreement…TY for contributing to a worthwhile debate, Lillith!

  • Brian

    I’m another well adjusted American male who has seen his fair share of violent movies (I like many Tarantino films) and plays video games ranging from Mario Kart to things like God of War.  If I’m playing something like God of War I usually wait until nap time or bed time so my 2 year doesn’t see it.  He’s too young to understand such things now, but I won’t have problem in the future if he plays the same games and watches the same movies as I do.

    It’s all about parental responsibility for me.  I can no more blame the entertainment industry for these kinds of tragedies than I can the fast food industry for making people overweight.

    This YouTube clip refers to music, but I really like the way Dee Snider handled himself during the PMRC hearings of the 80s.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Brian, I agree. But, in our present society where parental presence is lacking and many kids don’t have parents at all, or have parents who are barely there, society takes on a bigger role in forming their thinking. Hollywood used to present America as a special place and it was easy to know the Good Guys from the Bad Guys. We could trust our news to tell the truth vs advance an agenda. It’s harder today and while it’s flip to simply blame Hollywood, as some are suggesting I’m doing, it is even more flip to negate my arguments! What if I’m right?

      • Brian

        I’ll start by saying I don’t have the all the answers, but the greater societal problem is that there are too many blamers and takers. Hopefully we can find a way to tip the scales back towards personal and parental responsibility. As soon as I heard about this tragedy some of my first thoughts were to watch for the media, etc to starting looking for blame and looking for more gun control laws, and look where we are. It’s predictable. Maybe, just maybe, sometimes you’ve just got a total nut job on your hands. That’s hard to stop.

        A bigger problem would be the ongoing awful murder rates, especially of young people by young people in places like Chicago. These singular incidents have happened before. I just heard about the Bath, Michigan massacre the other day. A man bombed a school I believe it was killing a few dozen people. In 1927. Not a lot of violent films in those days.

        People like the man who committed this atrocity might be attracted to certain things in the entertainment industry, but I can’t believe the those things are the root cause of their evil.

        My opinion on the first two movies in this Batman series are that they are two of the best movies I’ve ever seen. There is violence, but no gore like you’d seen in a modern B horror movie. What Batman is and really always has been is a study of the dual nature of man. These movies talk about becoming an idea that is greater than yourself. About making sacrifices of yourself for the greater good. In my opinion they are truly fine pieces of cinema, and I can’t wait to see the final installment.

        • Bruce Sallan

          I sure as hell don’t have the answers either, Brian…but I’m asking the questions! And, clearly, so are you!

  • Ruhani Rabin

    There is a old saying “Don’t blame the floor when you don’t know how to dance”. 

    Point being, I like all sort of Violent Games and Movies. They in fact gets my brain rolling better and I get to understand the sweeter side of life by understanding the depth of the dark side. Like @openid-82310:disqus said, it is all about responsibility of parenthood and how they teach values to their children. And a huge impact comes from the surrounding peoples. Having said all that – there will always be Psycho and Insane people.. For them – they make the reason when they can’t blame it on anyone 🙂

    But sadly you aren’t right. (Yep the “Even If” doesn’t work either.. life is not math and it is unpredictable)

    2 different people can get to the same IQ in school results but one might turn on the dark side while other on the bright side. Just a simple variable can set everything from off from it’s original course of destinations. 

    ‘Nuf said.

    • Bruce Sallan

      You mean it wasn’t the floor’s fault when I stepped on my wife’s toes? “Nuff said?” – guess we’re both Stan Lee fans. But, isn’t there a difference between the comic books I grew up with and the way they, movies, music, and television is today? How can the volume of all that violence, sex, language NOT have some impact on vulnerable people? And, with less and less parents really BEING THERE, isn’t it a recipe for disaster?

      • Ruhani Rabin

        We are all hypocrites one way or another. Turn on your tv and watch cartoon network for the most innocent cartoon for today. That also includes violence. In US you can buy guns – legally. Point being, it was voted and selected by people. No? 

        • Bruce Sallan

          RR, it’s not about being a hypocrite…it’s about striving to do the best we can for humanity, to help others, to do good…is Hollywood doing good or just doing? Do ANY corporations have any moral concerns for the most part? Yes, there are those that care some – it seems – but then we learn more about the backroom dealings and it becomes all suspect. We are human beings and I believe our JOB on this earth is to make it a better place. I don’t think Hollywood has been helping much in that regard in recent years and this is NOT just a “let’s remember the good ol’ days rant!”

          • Ruhani Rabin

            Helping much? They are helping – it’s up to us how we look at it. I just don’t think we are doing that. I’ve learned quite a lot life lessons about value of people and opinions – from movies like Dirty Harry – Sin City – 
            Shoot ‘Em Up . At the end all of those gore violence is all about humanity, injustice and people’s lives tangled with it. Some people choose not to look at it. That is not the movie’s problem.

            I just don’t think this topic has any worth because the root cause lies within the society itself – and us.

            If you expect to see “The Notebook” type of movies only – I would say that is never a solution. And the choice is entirely up to you. 

          • Bruce Sallan

            No value, RR? Look at the dialogue we’re having after “knowing” each other and seeing each other’s work for quite a while. THIS is important to talk about – it’s NOT important that you or I are “right” – lol, or “left…”

  • audaciouslady

    The problem here is that parents aren’t doing their job. I have seen every scary movie since I was under 10 years of age. It’s about parents talking to their kids and spending time with them. Most of the scary movies were with my parents or friends with my parents. We spoke about how that was a crazy movie. We understood it was a movie. 
    I wanted to touch upon something. Mario Brother’s is violent. Disney is one of the most violent channels on tv. We just never think about that. Cartoon Network? Violent. Loony Toons ? Violent. Think of the poor coyote! Evil Road Runner? I think the problem I do have is when violence is to cause mean things toward others. Like when they say YOU ARE THE CRIMINAL! Really? What the heck is that? Why are parents ALLOWING their money to go toward games where the child is the criminal one? Why can’t they be the ones that protect society from harm? 

    • Bruce Sallan

      It seems there’s one consensus with all these comments – that it is up to parents to teach our children what violence means. That the context is everything. I agree. However, the role of parent has been so diminished and the SAHP is more and more rare in these recessionary times. Let’s – as I’ve said repeatedly in my comment replies – not forget how many kids have LITTLE or NO parental supervision, how in some communities there’s hardly a dad in sight and the moms are worked to death just to put food on the table. So, who’s the babysitter? The Internet, Video Games, and TV. THAT is why I’m so pissed off at Hollywood. They could balance their content with a bit more positive role models and inspiration rather than just build on whatever popular trend is selling.

      And, as noted in my column, IF making money was the primary concern they’d stop making R-rated movies altogether since they under-perform – overall – PG and PG-13 films! NO ONE has countered that argument yet, including you @HowToBeADad aka my friend Charlie! What say you to that?

  • Joann Woolley

    After seeing that last Batman movie I knew I did not want to see this one – the evil portrayed are clearly crazy – why we want to hype up crazy or sickos in Hollywood is beyond me. If the thought of there possibly being a someone out there that could behave the way those on the screen do upset me, of course it would easy to see it would be if not upsetting to my children who are still learning about how the world works, but in the least of NO BENEFIT to their young minds. I’ve always been an advocate of things having value. Is this type of movie of value? If it is, I’d like to know what value does it really add to someone’s life. Pictures do more to our brain than written words, we process them differently – I don’t know the science behind that – but that seems like a not so far fetched claim, right? I wish the movie theatre had done their due diligence and not allowed the children to this movie per the rating. Sometimes as parents we do not make the best choices for our children, whether that be exposing them to particular media, how to handle discipline, the foods they have to choose from, and that is why we have certain things in place to provide some safety measures. Yes, the ratings for movies are a safety measure – one that is not taken seriously enough and the only ones who can enforce it is the theatre staff. Violent video games will not be allowed in my house. We’ve learned early that the nature of video games, much like casino slots are addictive in nature with our 5 year old son. The other 2 kids do just fine playing and we come to turn it off, but his tendancy to be upset and have to complete a level or keep playing for another 10 minutes, gave us a clear signal that we will have to closely monitor gaming in our house. Much like the debate in vaccines where Jenny McCarthy advocates that some of our children have weakere systems and can’t handle the toxins in the vaccines…. where others do just fine. Well, some of us do handle violence via media with no serious consequences, but others are affected by them in a heavier way. In such a way in fact that it should call our attention to protecting everyone. Let me use a perhaps far reaching analogy… sexual harrassment – there are varying degrees – but we came to a conclusion that no matter the degree, in order to provide for happy and healthy work places that none of it would be tolerated. Through healthy debates like this and anecdotal evidence perhaps we will as a society come to a conclusion that to create a more peaceful and safe world we need precautions, laws, safegaurds in place for good reason. Nobody’s life would be worse off for the movies to have less violence, I don’t think anyone’s life is better off with the violence in movies, oh wait, the almighty dollar lining the pockets of the Hollywood moguls that can afford psychotherapy. Ah, and that point then leads me to think this is related to healthcare… but I could go on and on connecting the issues so I’ll stop here.

    • Bruce Sallan

      TY Joann…I’m feeling pretty beat up right now. Love this line of yours, :”…some of us do handle violence via media with no serious consequences, but others are affected by them in a heavier way” and so much more in your thoughtful comment. Much appreciated…and needed at the moment! lol…

      Oh, this one is great too (from you), “Nobody’s life would be worse off for the movies to have less violence, I don’t think anyone’s life is better off with the violence in movies…”

      • Joann Woolley

         In discussion with my husband, he sees that the main issue is tighter gun control – there are all kinds of things that could be pointed to as what should have been done. We live in Rancho Penasquitos where the shooter is from and the church that his family attended is literally down the street from us. Seeing the news trucks in their parking lot today made me feel sad for his family, especially. They must be in turmoil thinking what caused this. My heart breaks for each of the famiies who have lost a loved one and those who were there and will always have those vivid memories of tragedy striking.
        Creating a space for dialogue is a good thing.

        • Bruce Sallan

          Tighter gun control is one thing – which I agree with. But, extreme gun control does one thing: keeps guns out of OUR hands and puts them in the hands of the criminals ONLY (and police)! NG.

          Wow, you are bringing some VERY personal first-hand knowledge of the CO shooter to this discussion. Please keep us informed and PLEASE come to #DadChat this Thursday as we’re discussing how to discuss these sort of things with our kids:

  • Todd Frazier

    To think that exposure to increasingly violent content over time has no effect on a person is ignorance. I won’t go so far as to say “shame on you Hollywood”, but what they’re putting out there for the masses to consume does have an impact, more than many of us are willing to admit. Think about the rush you feel when you see a crushing football hit, take out that bunker in MW3, or  listen to Metallica’s “One”. I’m sure petting puppies isn’t the first thing that comes to mind after that. The fact of the matter is that what you take in is what you will eventually put out – those of us who are “well adjusted” may do so with a curse word, a sour mood, and the like. Those who have mental issues may go to extremes, as evidenced by this tragic event. 

    That being said, blame should not be placed anywhere except on the shooter. Ultimately, he is the one who chose to make this horrific decision.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Nicely put, Todd…thanks for making your points in such a civil manner. 

  • Amberr Meadows

    I have noticed the deterioration of movies over the years myself, and I carefully filter what my 6-yr-old watches and listens to. Some movies have pointed violence (I am a Tarantino fan), but others, like the Saw series are just plain disturbing. I watch no gory horror movies and don’t allow them in my home. If they give me nightmares, they would do the same for my child. I’m not sure if the tragedy could have been avoided in Colorado, because the guy was clearly a nutjob, but one has to wonder how much of a role Hollywood and gory gamification played into this. Maybe we are a desensitized culture, and that’s just sad and tragic in itself. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      TY…my older son often extolled the virtues of the SAW series…that is how effective Hollywood has been in selling some of their vile movies!

  • Linda Bernstein

    Mostly I agree with you, Bruce. I think that we have all become desensitized to violence because of movies – but I wrote an article last year where the experts all said we cannot prove a link between watching violent video games and violent behavior. And I think that the young man was having a psychotic break. He was exactly at the right age for onset of schizophrenia. He went from being a star student in college to flunking out of his neuroscience PhD program, where he was studying the RNA-snippet connection to mental illness. That is also typical behavior in schizophrenics who are smart – they realize what’s happening to them and want to know more. (And Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel describes this well.) But I also blame a society that has normalized adolescent behavior — going to a midnight show dressed in costume. And I blame CO and 48 of the 50 states for their lax gun laws. This guy had really easy access to guns. They were all legally purchased. I believe Americans have the right to bear arms (and people in bathing suits have the right to bare arms), but I think the industry needs more regulation and oversight. Much more. More people who own guns do harm to themselves or others than they do protecting themselves or their families. Now that I’ve written this comment, I’ll get spammed.

    • Bruce Sallan

      TY Linda for the comment. Whenever “experts” are quoted, I feel much the same as I do about polls and “studies.” Suspicious. I assert our own common sense has more value and my CS says that repeatedly seeing ugly, violent images is BAD for our souls. I also feel, as you do, that this particular guy was a goner regardless, whether it turns out to be psychosis or otherwise. Someone about to go over the edge will find the excuse, whether it’s a song, a movie, or tv. What I really care more about is the majority of us and our kids, who won’t go crazy and shoot up a movie theater, but may just lose some perspective and sensitivity in their lives!

      You won’t get spammed…because your comment was wise and heartfelt – and MUCH appreciated (by me)!

      • Linda Bernstein

         Sometimes I’m a journalist and I speak with experts who have done studies, and these people are recognized as experts. I would think that violent video games, etc. cause people to act violently. It seems to make sense. But all the kinds of studies they devise – nothing so far is conclusive. They know that when people watch violence, their heart rate goes up and certain areas of the brain get active. They know that if people watch a lot of violence, the effects begin to lessen, suggesting that people get inured. However, they can’t definitely make the link between violence on screen, etc., and violent behavior. I would think it would be a slam dunk, but it isn’t. Still, when our movie industry doles out violence to children, and people do things like go to midnight shows which are major parties; when we don’t heed the call when someone is not acting normally (someone goes from being an A+ super student to flunking out and no one notices?) — I’m afraid that there’s a lot that goes on in our society that makes things like this possible.

        • Bruce Sallan

          Linda, all I can add is “Yes” and thank you for such a smart addition to this ongoing discussion.

        • David Weber

          I agree in principle with many of the points Bruce (below) and Linda are examining here.  Please keep in mind that in the kind of research I think that the two of you are thinking about, the following axiom holds true: “Correlation does not mean causation.”  The experts you are referring to are technically correct when they say they can’t find some “missing link” that with great certainty predicts that, in this case, watching a great deal of violence will lead to violent behavior.  They CAN say there is a correlation between “x” and “y” and that correlation may be strong but it falls short of acceptability to say that “x” CAUSES “y.”    Their error is in not having made it clear to the general public the distinction between correlation and causation.  I oinw that any number of them would have no problem agreeing that for some number of people, watching a certain amount of violence is going to have an impact on their thoughts, perceptions, feelings and actions.

          Also, you are dismissing experts to broadly and haughtily.  It is true that some researchers are divorced from the kind of living that most of the rest of us experience.  They know only know the laboratory, the studio, the research world.  They may or may not produce thoughtful, systematically generated research; and that research may or may not be found by later research to be inaccurate.  But some of it has held up.  There are also some number of researchers who known as  “engaged,” meaning they tack between the world of theory and rigor on one hand, and on the other, with the world as the rest of us experience it. 

          Whether you like it or not, your lives unfold as a result of choices you make that originated in information gathered and made sensible by researchers.  For example, the love languages material that Bruce has written warmly about in the past has its roots in well established research in social psychology and interpersonal communication.

          So Bruce and Linda,  the question I have is, who exactly are the kinds of experts that you are dismissing?  How does an expert “qualify” to be in that group dismissed by you?

          • Bruce Sallan

            DW, @wordwhacker aka Linda has a serious academic background, fyi. BTW, to be clear David, it was me much more than Linda that was “dismissing” the experts. I assert that studies usually confirm what common sense tells us and that when they don’t, they are usually biased! YES, a big broad generalization…I know it, but that’s simply MY OPINION!

          • Linda Bernstein

             Bruce, maybe, though, sometimes we need to base our opinion on facts. It is my opinion that violence viewed by kids causes violent behavior, but I know it is not yet considered “fact” by the experts.

          • Bruce Sallan

            Can everything be “factualized” Linda (I know that isn’t a real word)?

          • Linda Bernstein

             This is what factualized means, according to the Urban Dictionary “To mislead by seeming to give proof to an unproven theory or conjecture. Factualization
            is usually accomplished by highlighting the portions of a theory that
            align with the desired outcome of the factualization while omitting
            and/or downplaying the portions of the theory that do not.”

            That seems to be what many people do in blog comments.

            Lots of things can be studied and facts can be ascertained. Will we ever know if there is a causation between violence young people watch and their behavior? I don’t know. I know that people are trying like all heck to determine one way or another. Meanwhile, I can have an opinion, but I realize my opinion is an opinion. I present it as an opinion. I can even defend and back it up with some empirical evidence. But I also know it’s still an opinion.

            If we all paid closer attention to facts instead of chasing after “intuitions,” I think we might have a saner, more rational world.

            But people like to argue about things they don’t really know about. That’s what I don’t like – the surety with which they express their opinions without any basis in fact.

            This guy, the shooter in Aurora, he’s a mystery. It’s my opinion that mental illness was probably the catalyst, but that he lived in a state where he could by many guns and ammo legally over a short period of time, that we live in a society where we are so used to publicity stunts that some people in the audience thought that was what was happening, that no one who knew him, no neighbor said to someone, “this guy is strange already but he’s acting weirder,” — all that to me is a more likely “cause” of the tragedy than violent video games. But I could be wrong. We still know little about him and his life. I hope we all take away lessons from this so that it can’t happen elsewhere. If I had a teen who was likely to see this movie (and actually my daughter will probably see it this week in the small town where she lives), I would be prepared to advocate for metal detectors outside movie theaters for a while and would not go nutso about giving up civil rights. I’d be more scared about copy-cat crimes.

            That is all Bruce.

          • Linda Bernstein

             I think you completely misunderstood my comment. I am not a crack-pot commenter who has no idea what she has saying. I am a PhD journalist with 30 years of writing experience. I write about science frequently, so I certainly know about the difference between correlation and causation. I recently wrote two articles that are, unfortunately for my SEO, unavailable online and are by subscription only, for magazines now owned by Weekly Reader Corp. One was on schizophrenia in  young people; the other about violent video games causing violent behavior in young people. For the second, relevant here, the experts were leading psychologists and brain researchers at leading universities. I interviewed a few who were convinced that their research “proved” a causation or lack of it. Most of the experts with whom I spoke, and those who are taken most seriously by their fellow-scientists and other experts, though, fell in the middle saying that we can see a correlation, but we cannot connect the dots to a causation. What I was saying to Bruce was that as a lay person I feel, duh, there should be a causation, but so far there isn’t.

            When I interview someone and call him an expert, the person has written many peer-reviewed articles in his or her field. That person is also recognized by others in his or her field, won honors, been a speaker, etc. I am not dismissing these people. I have respect for most of them. I am just saying that as a lay person, I would think it would be easier to prove causation, but it isn’t. It’s even pretty hard to show correlation.

            Bruce is being a good blog host here and polite. Thank you Bruce.

          • Bruce Sallan

            Just doing my best to get the fact straight, Ma’am!

    • Bill Draeger

      Blaming guns for killing people is like blaming forks for obesity. It’s the humans who use these tools. Period.

      • Jericha Senyak

         Yeah, I’m pretty sure he woulda hurt EXACTLY THE SAME NUMBER OF PEOPLE with, you know, a knife.

        • Melissa Stewart

          He could have hurt more with a truckload of fertilizer. I don’t believe I should be able to walk into Walmart and walk out with an Uzi but this is a heated debate with many arguments/sides/points…

  • Mindy Trotta

    Bruce, I believe that Hollywood has some obligation when it comes to violence on the screen, but I honestly cannot say how much of a moral obligation it is. To dump all the blame on Hollywood is copping out. There are so many factors involved here–Hollywood is just a very, very small part of it. Parents are the ones who should early on be the moral compasses of their children. Society shoulders part of the blame as well. Teachers, doctors, clergy, let’s point a finger at everyone,shall we? But we can’t really. This young man is obviously very ill–mentally ill, and I don’t think he would have acted any differently regardless of what film it was. After all, he really didn’t even see the film since the bloodbath occurred very early on. Did someone drop the ball with this guy? Perhaps, but we don’t know where or when his illness began. Should a red flag have been sent out when he purchased, not just the guns, but all of the heavy-duty artillery gear? Who in the civilian sector buys things like that? This was an horrific incident, and only in the days and weeks to come, as more is learned about the shooter and his history will we be able to look back and discern where and why he fell through the cracks. Most likely, we will never really know it all.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Mindy, most corporations have NO moral compass, good or bad, other than self-interest. They are morally unconcerned with the exception of occasionally supporting a cause that an owner believes in and usually that effort is VERY self-serving. My story is NOT about the CO shooter, who probably was on a destructive path regardless…it’s more about every kid that sees so much of this stuff and doesn’t understand or empathize with the pain of the human condition…or, worse, laughs at it as those kids did to that bus monitor back east!

      Thank you for adding such intelligence to this discussion!

  • Janet

    Culture is the sum of humanity, which makes us all responsible for the outcome. Your piece inspired people to talk and think about this. When people push back, I think it’s because they don’t want to take responsibility. We are all in this together, a part of the solution, or the problem. Choosing to be a part of the solution requires work, and sometimes something even scarier…change. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      YES! Janet you have summed it up QUITE WELL! Thank you…

  • Pingback: Tragedy, the Media and Our Kids at #DadChat with @GinaSchreck | #Dadchat | A Dad's Point Of View |

  • David Weber

    I agree with much of what Bruce has written here.  In my opinion, one big piece of evidence that media products (movies, t.v. shows, etc.) have marked impact on viewers is that billions of dollars per year are spent researching, developing, producing and broadcasting t.v. commercials…if media artifacts had little or no impact on thought and behavior, the entire advertising industry and its institutional practices would not be what it is.  

    I do take question some of the comments about the movies of the WW2 era.  Hollywood and the U.S. government operated in close harmony to do everything from producing excellent training films, to producing propaganda films for distribution offshore, and for consumption on these shores, high-profile feature films and documentaries that were essentially propaganda.  That “our cause was just” takes some of the sting out of the fact that audiences were confronted with few portrayals of complex and troubling features of political and sociocultural realities on the home front.  Nor do those movies, except on rare occasions, portray beyond the familiar somber realities of dirt, death and injury, the complexities of the experience of the WW2 battlefront.

    The Best Years of Our Lives was not really a movie in that vein.  One reason that the movie is, in my opinion, a wonderful one is that (prior to its formulaic, although uplifting, “happy ending”) it addresses some of ambivalent, troubling aspects of total war that rock a society that committed itself to such an endeavor.  I have read some reviews of the movie published during its release.  The thrust of them is that the movie is the first one that more or less “tells the truth” to the audience about the war that audience members, at home or overseas, actually experienced.  

    • Bruce Sallan

      TY Professor Weber. I have learned that you do not sugar-coat your comments of my writing, though you ALWAYS write them with respect. This feedback is heartening to read and much appreciated. Enjoy your stint in Vietnam…take a lot of photos!

  • Gina Schreck

    A very good and thought-provoking post indeed! I wish the answers were simple and that parenting our kids was easy.  Evil does exist in our world and good parenting, a better Hollywood, and the complete annihilation of weapons will not stop it.  As a parent of four kids, one who survived the shootings at Columbine, I do know that I can teach my kids that taking life is wrong, that consuming media that supports positive messages is better than the alternative and that it is my job to protect and teach my kids about these things at the appropriate ages.  Kids cannot process violence or fantasy the way adults can, and even when a movie, video game or album is rated PG-13 it does not mean MY 13 year old. The folks who rate media have even become desensitized to vulgar language and violent situations…in my opinion.  These things lead to the lack of respect for authority and desensitization of wrongful acts (how many 6 year olds watch Jersey shores or Survivor and parents find nothing wrong with that?)  It is MY responsibility to filter what they consume including the news and constant discussion around acts of violence after they happen.  WOW–even writing this makes me wonder how any of us survive parenting!  🙂

    • Bruce Sallan

      Such wisdom in your words, Gina. You should co-host #DadChat sometime soon…Wait! You are co-hosting it THIS THURSDAY:

      What you said in your comment about Hollywood/TV is mostly why I don’t watch much television anymore. I worked in the industry for 25 years and strived to make product that enriched rather than degraded our lives. It wasn’t always easy.

      Now, I just watch movies on Netflix – 50% of them foreign where the goal isn’t always the almighty bucky.

      TY for your supportive comments…some of them have been a bit harsh given I’m just expressing a non-violent opinion about violence…how ironic!

  • Deidre Drewes

    I’m going to agree to disagree on this. It’s not so much the violence portrayed in Hollywood, but rather the perceptions of the audience. Of the millions of people who have read the Batman comics and watched the films, one many crossed the line and committed a mass-murder. It’s obvious that the shooter was not in his right mind, making his perception of reality incredibly distorted. Also, it is the responsibility of the parents to teach their children at a young age the difference between right and wrong. That isn’t Hollywood’s responsibility. 

    Also, you mention Discovery Channel in the post. Let’s not forget that one of their top programs is about custom gun makers. No matter the medium or the message, the ultimate perception on an individual level cannot be prevented. During times like these we look for someone to blame. I think that Marilyn Manson’s response to Columbine sums it up best:

    • Bruce Sallan

      Deirdre, we actually agree much more than we disagree. TY for your thoughtful comment!

  • Deidre Drewes

    Also, I think the question should be raised as to why someone would bring their nine-year-old, six-year-old or three-month-old child to the midnight screening of Batman. It isn’t the fault of the parents that this madman open-fired on the theater, however, these young victims could have been spared had they not been present at a film that clearly wasn’t age-appropriate. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      That’s another question altogether but whatever lack of good sense they had in no way deserved the horror they faced!

  • Jennifer Weberman

    I have been following the comments on this blog post since the beginning and have enjoyed seeing the dialog unfold. I’m choosing not to give an opinion on the content (firstly because I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said – and said well – and secondly because typing out my complex thoughts and feelings on this would probably make my brain explode) but I do want to comment on the discussion.
    Bruce, I want to acknowledge your courage and strength of conviction in expressing yourself in this post. I believe that you were coming from a place of love for humanity and sadness in what you see as a harmful trajectory we are moving in. You have a commitment to good values and quality artistic expression and you perceive a loss of that in modern American cinema. I respect your integrity to stand up for what you believe in. I also want to acknowledge how well you have handled a heated debate. I do think that nearly every post from your friends and followers has been respectful and has moved the conversation forward. You have inspired a passionate debate and that is most writers aspire to do! Gandhi says that “honest disagreement is a good sign of progress”.
    I am looking forward to continuing the discussion on #DadChat.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thank you…I’m blushing, Dr. Weberman! It should be a great discussion at #DadChat this Thursday!

  • Jetts31

    I agree and I disagree.  I don’t think its Hollywood’s or the music industry’s job to police themselves.  When we start putting limits or governors on to creativity, we have the potential to lose that creativity.  Does Hollywood go too far in order to shock audiences or one up each other?  Absolutely.  Were there violent movies 30, 40, or 50 years ago?  I think there was.  It was shocking and sometimes gratuitous for the time.  Ask a 14 year old if he thinks the original Psycho was scary and he’ll probably laugh at you. 
    Yes we have been desensitized and yes we are shocked by Hollywood productions but no more than you were watching Psycho or the Exorcist or Jaws or anything else that was considered extreme at the time.
    And yet, all the violence, gore, harshness of language have to have had some sort of affect on us.  I don’t care what the experts say.  
    Its a slippery slope and one that could be argued for on either side.  I don’t know if Hollywood policing itself is the answer but then again, I don’t know that it isn’t the answer?

    • Bruce Sallan

      Seems we agree much more than not, Jimmy. Given the incredible impact Hollywood has on us and the related industries, I just would hope that their leaders would care a little bit more about the moral content of their product. I saw Jaws BEFORE it came out and was scared out of my pants (at a screening). BUT, the movies you reference were NOT degrading and dehumanizing. The R-rated horror films of today WORK to out-do one another in graphic gore. 

      The argument that the public decides by their purchase of a ticket is correct but leaves out ANY responsibility or moral care of the people behind these films. Why should they not care as much as clergy, teachers, or other leaders? Their work does move lives. 

      When I was in the television movie business, many of those films helped change thinking towards the positive as I explain in my column, “Murders of the Week:” And those movies were HUGELY successful.

      EVERY single Pixar movie has been a big hit – without resorting to anything ugly and mean-spirited.

      I remember when Hollywood tackled tough subjects like alcoholism in the “old days” and made a difference and made box office.

      It’s simply a choice THEY can make…

  • Roberto Silvestre

    Thanks for your valuable column, it hit me! always we need to supervise what are things who entered to our lives and changed our soul and our mind. I remember an experiment, it was made by Discovery Channel and it demonstrate that kids who play killing-role games, are less sensitive with human needs; for example to share something, to help somebody… and this is a clear example how far this it can be.

    I’m asking for your permission to translate it into spanish, I’m guatamalan and I’ll be glad to share your column, even comments from others.

    (I’m sorry if my english isn’t good)

    • Bruce Sallan

      With my gratitude Roberto – by all means, translate the column and publish it – just, please, give a link-back to And, your English is JUST fine!

      • Roberto Silvestre

         Thanks again!

  • Roberto Silvestre

    Thanks for your valuable column, it hit me! always we need to supervise what are things who entered to our lives and changed our soul and our mind; and the most important thing, in the mind and in the soul of our kids, they are easily  influenced; we have a blank page in each one, we will not write that page, but we have to influence positively to have a wonderful page. I remember an experiment, I saw at Discovery Channel and it demonstrates that kids who play killing-role games, are less sensitive with human needs; for example to share something, to help somebody… and this is a clear example how far this it can be.

    I’m asking for your permission to translate it into spanish, I’m
    guatamalan and I’ll be glad to share your column, even comments from

    (I’m sorry if my english isn’t good)

  • Sunny

    Can some people remember the old times? When children dont need tv? When children playing outside…have fun in the nature, with friends and with theyre own games? We live in a horrable time…when tv makes the children and people criminal. Who need to see how people going to be killed? This is not the world I with to my child! I want to show my child how to love, to care, to accept others…not how to killing people! We live in a sad sad world …but its on us to change it! Take your child in your arms, read a wonderful book with your child…let the magic work…not the devil side of people!

    This is what I think….I wished more people would think like this….*Sunny*

    • Bruce Sallan

      What is “playing outside” Sunny? Just kidding, of course. I wish parents REQUIRED equal time outside with time on “screens!”

      LOVE your comment, Sunny! TY so very much…

  • VoogDesigns

    I will try to keep this brief. There are some that have an attitude that “anything goes” and just do what “feels good” regardless of how their actions may impact others and without any responsibility or accountability.

    The focus of this article is on Hollywood, and “regulation” is a slippery slope in our wonderful country that is the beacon of freedom. But with freedom comes a responsibility with how we use it.

    Looking within ourselves, my question would be, “How do the movies that Bruce references in his column better society?” Do we really think that exposing kids to stimuli like this is beneficial for society? What we listen to, read, and watch can all have an impact on our thinking and actions. In other words, “what goes in, comes out”, unless you have a “filter”. A moral compass, which is different for everyone. An extreme example would be sitting someone in front of a TV and only watching violence, and another only watching nature. I would love to have someone provide links to actual studies done on this issue. What are the results?

    As loving parents, we decide what and when we choose to expose our kids to certain stimuli, and everyone is different. And of course there are exceptions to how kids turn out. But rather than psycho-analyze this very complicated issue, I am in agreement with Bruce that violent stimuli does not better our society. There was a time when an “E-Ticket Ride” was enough give people a thrill…

    • Bruce Sallan

      So true…I remember those “E-Ticket Ride” days when doing the Matterhorn was plenty of thrills!

  • TimMiller2011

    Well, a couple of things here.  For one, the film is Dark Knight Rises, not Batman Rises, 2nd, the Joker was in the Dark Knight which was the 2nd film in the franchise, not the first “dark knight movie” Batman Begins was the first where he battled the Scarecrow and the League of Shadows. Just wanted to get that part out of the way.

    Your blog is interesting and you make some good points. Yet I think you paint the past with some rose colored glasses.  Many of the war movies that came out during that time were little more than political propaganda. As much as I enjoyed The Sands of Iwo Jima an The Green Berets, they in no way capture the true horrors of war. Saving Private Ryan on the other hand, a “modern” hollywood movie captured it perfectly. First time I saw it in the theatre, I felt like I was right there on the beach with those men. I had an uncle who was at Omaha Beach and all he said it was hell on earth, and never said anything more about it. After watching that, I got exactly what he meant. 

    Movies like Platoon and Full Metal Jacket, while maybe not as realistic on the combat scenes, they capture well the madness and chaos that surrounded the war and how it effected the men there.Those are also “modern” films.

    I was surprised you used Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson as examples of wholesome films. Charles Bronson was in the Death Wish movies, films where he was a vigilante….as Batman is, except he would just shoot the bad guys. In the first Death Wish, the rape scene of his wife an daughter is rather graphic, at least for the time period in which is was made. 

    While Steve McQueen’s movies may not have been as graphic or violent, his movies Bullitt and The Hunter have some of the longest and most intense car chases in movie history. 

    In the meantime, Warner Bros announced yesterday they would be donating a substantial amount of money to help the victims. They won’t disclose the amount, but at least they are willing to help even though this was in no way their fault. 

    I’ve followed Batman since I was 5 years old. I read the comic books, watched the old show, the old movie franchise and now this one. I have never nor have my friends at any time had any desire to shoot up a theatre full of people. This shooter, if he is in fact mentally ill, then I’d say we as a society should be ashamed, including our insurance companies and our government for the way they have treated the mentally ill in this country. It is a real disease, a serious illness that effects millions of people. Since traeatment for some conditions is so expensive, many can’t afford it and go untreated, then this goes unnoticed. 

    So I think blame or shaming at Hollywood is misguided. Whenever these things happen, we want to find someone to blame it on, but ultimtately it falls to the shooter and the shooter alone.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Tim, I knew the right title, but chose to use Batman as the more general reference…but I do appreciate the correction AND your thoughtful comments. I’ve already corrected (before your comment?) that it was the second Dark Knight movie in which The Joker was introduced.

      Yes, I was looking at those movies with “rose-colored glasses” but I’d prefer that sort of “propaganda” than the dehumanization of today’s movies. I completely agree about how much better “Saving Private Ryan” portrayed the HORROR of war and, in that case, the violence IMO was no gratuitous but served the movie and the public very well indeed. 

      Touche on the Charles Bronson reference…for me, I was referring mostly to his earlier work but you made a good point, regardless!

      I’ll take a “Bullitt” or “The French Connection” – also from that era – ANY day over today’s graphic depictions!

      Warners is scrambling to cover their asses! The trailer they had scheduled to play with The Dark Knight Rises actually had a scene of gangsters shooting indiscriminately in a theater!

      Where I get even more heated is to always think that someone who does such a crime as this is “mentally ill.” Sometimes there is just EVIL out there. I don’t know if this guy had mental problems or not. We’ll maybe find out. But, evil exists and we’ve seen in throughout history. Was Hitler, Stalin, or Saddam Hussein crazy? I don’t think so. Just evil. PURE EVIL!

      • TimMiller2011

        I was a corrections officer for 6 yrs and worked as a tech in a psychiatric hospital. for 5 yrs. so when I refer to mentally ill…i mean from a clinical standpoint. there is such a disease as schizophrenia and bipolar. sometimes people with these diseases o horribe things if untreated. i don’t know this mans status…but in the early 80s you can see the direct correlation of the closure of mental institutions and the booms in homelessNess and jail over crowding

        • Bruce Sallan

          Especially in California, sadly!

    • russbonchu

       Tim, on one hand, I agree with you that the shooter is indeed the final culpable party here, and we have way too much “I did this because I am [blank],” rather than taking personal responsibility. However the information that we consume does have an effect on us, and the younger the age we consume the information, often times the greater the effect. Children especially are drawn to new things and expanded ways of thinking whether they are good or bad. When we allow them to take this information in, it changes their perceptions and begins to molds them in ways that can lead to serious problems. I think we need to take a hard look at our entertainment industry and ask them for some entertainment that we can be proud to consume.

      By the way, if you are looking for some good wholesome movies, I recommend those put out by the Kendrick Brothers such as Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Flywheel, and Courageous. Truly inspiring films.

      • Bruce Sallan

        Well said, Russ…TYVM! 

  • TimMiller2011

    Ok, so where did my comment go?

    • TimMiller2011

      oops, now I see it, not used to this format lol

  • Susan Kay Wyatt

    Great post. I could never watch gory stuff and my daughter never will either. I am a huge Batman Fan but the Joker that Heath portrayed in the way he played it was my least favorite. If they went even farther with this one, I may have to skip it. In fact, yes I will NOT be going to see this film.  At the end of the day we are all responsible for what we watch and what our children watch on TV or at the movies.  I see children who are desensitized and it really upsets me at the core of my being.  Truly understanding human development and what is appropriate and not is key.  I grew up watching old musicals and it shaped my “Pollyanna” view of life which I love living in!  Having a great relationship with our children takes time and effort.  Some times my daughter puts up walls when I try to get all up in her business.  Those times when it is really important, I forge ahead.  I tell her I won’t drop the subject until we discuss her feelings fully because I love her and my job is to get her where she needs to go so that she can live her dreams.  Everything we watch becomes a part of who we are.  Those choices should be made carefully.  

    • Bruce Sallan

      I had NO desire to see that film before…TY Susan for adding to this spirited debate! Let’s get together with the new Blu-Ray of “Singin’ In the Rain” and have a great time, Susan!

  • Reb_Scott

    In over 35 years of being a clergy person, I’ve never observed any decent substitute for the transmission of values that an engaged parent/s and extended family can provide. It is our responsibility as parents to not simply monitor our kids’ exposure to the media, but to be in constant dialogue with them about the images and ideas to which they are exposed. When we abdicate these critically important roles, we are quite literally asking for trouble. An engaged parent who comes to these conversations with their kids with an open mind and open heart has the best chance of guiding their kids to a healthy and responsible adulthood.

    • Bruce Sallan

      TY Rabbi Scott for your RIGHT-ON-THE-MONEY thoughts…yep, it’s up to us parents in the end to give our kids values and show them the way!

  • Patrick C.

    From my perspective, the killer had some combination of book-smarts, vanity and 0 social intelligence.  His book smarts took him to a challenging path where risk of total failure was ever present.  He reached a critical point in his adult formation and faced no future.  At this point it was either suicide or go crazy and do something that stops the world in its tracks.  Vanity pushed him to the latter.  We’ve always had stories of killers throughout history, so these hollywood films of today are no different.  Manson gained inspiration in the Rock n’ Roll we consider benign classics today.  I would focus on the 0 social intelligence.  We still have not heard anyone come forward saying he was a good friend or she was his ex-girlfriend.  These fundamental social norms are often the anchors holding us from the abyss.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Well put, Patrick. No, we don’t know yet enough about this killer, but I suspect your thoughts will turn our largely correct. Time will tell…

  • danperezfilms

    Pointing the finger at movies and music for society’s ills? Really? It’s a pretty tired move…

    • Bruce Sallan

      Dan, I’m just asking! Don’t you think there is SOME correlation between how kids/people behave and what they watch, read, listen to?

  • Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    I agree with you, Bruce. I recently spoke with a police officer who said that violent video games had desensitized people so much that he sees young men who are surprised that they killed people when they hit them in the head with a baseball bat. Game Over doesn’t mean a reset.

    My husband and I just watched The Best Years of Our Lives, a true classic.

    Important post, Bruce. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

    • Bruce Sallan

      Great quote: “Game Over doesn’t mean a reset!” – TY so much for contributing to the dialogue Carolyn…and please come to #DadChat Thursday when we’re going to continue this discussion:

      • Carolyn Nicander Mohr

        I would love to participate in that #DadChat as I do have strong feelings on this but I will be on a plane over the Atlantic and most likely won’t have Internet access. If I do, I will be there!

        • Bruce Sallan

          If you can’t, we’ll post the transcript and I’m SURE there will be post-chat discussion for quite a while!

          • Carolyn Nicander Mohr

            Great, I will definitely check on this when I return.

          • Bruce Sallan

            Carolyn, it was a BIG night. 21 Million impressions and a very heated, good discussion. Here’s the transcript:

          • Carolyn Nicander Mohr

            Excellent. I’m glad it went so well! Thanks for the transcript, Bruce. I’ll be reading it with great interest.

          • Bruce Sallan

            I hope you’ll be able to join us tomorrow when we’ll be talking THE TRUTH at #DadChat!

  • Spider

    Hi ,

     I seriously feel that this article talks about things without proof. All it says that violence is increasing in movie and people are desensitized. Really? The worst violence that ever happened was in the period of 1940-45 in Nazi Germany and there were really no violent video games to make murderers out of children( or violent hollywood movies) , who were born 20-30 years back.
     Nobody for example goes crazy in India and start shooting people because they are desensitized and watch Dark Night. Infact Bollywood had its fair share of violent movies ( often copies of Hollywood ) but really no murder was reported because of it. Yes sometimes it may happen that a loony would take inspiration from a movie and make a theft and murder someone but then it can happen because of comics or teachings from religions which are more influential than a movie.
    A person with born deposition to kill someone can  take motivation from anything. In India there is a strong backlash against people being gay. Do you know that it is blamed on your culture? A person watching a gay character in a movie / serial can “catch” the lifestyle of being gay. Can we even believe this thing? Where do we stop if we start on these lines?
    I have seen many parents here say on TV, my son became gay because he studied in USA, where he “caught” homosexuality. Incredible isn’t it.
    Easy availability of arms because of credit made it easy for the person to shoot people. That he used a movie to demonstrate his urge really does not have anything on movie. Read this quote

    “That’s an isolated act by a madman. They asked him what his favorite movies were. You know what he answered? Star Wars and Dumb and Dumber.
    Now which one of those do you think caused him to go out with an
    automatic weapon and off a bunch of people? This guy was into Star Wars and Dumb and Dumber.”Read more at

    Time to rethink the proposition may be?

    • Bruce Sallan

      Hey Spider, ever heard of Leni Riefenstahl, the “talented” German director during the Nazi years – who made the PROPAGANDA that helped feed the Nazi evil? Or the total control of media that occurred in that time in Germany and in EVERY totalitarian regime throughout modern history!

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  • Debra Usher

    There is no question in my mind that our children and society are highly influenced by Hollywood, but I think that it is also our choice whether to be influenced or not.  It’s also up to the parents to help their kids distinguish between fantasy and reality. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      Succinct and TO THE POINT, Ms. Usher….thx for adding to this discussion!

  • Melissa Stewart

    I will be going to see the movie with my entire family. I will not let the actions of one twisted individual changed that.

    I do agree with the points on desensitization and violence. I have 4 sons ages 19 and up. They grew up on dinosaurs, comic books, and all the other stuff boys gravitate to. They also grew up with a close family, rules, love, church, and values. They watched too many movies to count including the original Batman movies and countless others but they never watched slasher movies, R rated flicks, or even certain movies until they were older. I monitored what they watched. I talked to them about right and wrong. We can’t predict the future but I’ve laid a solid foundation. I don’t pretend to know what led up to, caused, influenced, or medical condition may have prompted the Colorado shootings but no matter, he is guilty of unthinkable crimes against innocent people and I pray he will be punished accordingly.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Melissa, I sure hope you know that I wasn’t suggesting boycotting the movie. I don’t hold IT responsible, but I do ask if Hollywood is affecting ALL of us with their graphic portrayals of violence…I hope you’ll join us at #DadChat tomorrow when we will be continuing this discussion!

  • Jason

    Wow. I’m struggling to figure out you can say that we should just show Pixar movies and only play Pong. You have to be over 16 to buy certain games like Grand Theft Auto. However when something of this calibur happens we blame Batman, comic book, video games, or movies. If the guy was captured and he said that he liked watching old westerns, should be ban them?

    People tend to generalize when it comes to these mediums be it either comic books, movies, or video games based on their “this used to be great when I was young” thoughts. Pac-man should be better for everyone, let’s just have them play that. Or perhaps, it was a newer book that caused someone to do this, let’s ban them. Better yet, let’s just do away with them.

    I have played video games from Pong to Super Mario to Grand Theft Auto. I know many people who have, yet have not gone over the edge on a killing spree. I have watched dozens of movies and read comic book since I was six.

    Just because someone played a role playing game or watched a Batman movie doesn’t mean that it is Hollywood or the medium in general’s fault. Perhaps we should look at making sure that we as parents are doing what we can and monitoring our kids. This wasn’t a kid though, he is an adult and probably had some mental illness. Your thoughts are that we should just play kid friendly games and kid friendly movies. Do I agree that Saw is a bit much, yea, but I don’t watch it and won’t take my daughter to it.

    Perhaps you should take some time, get into the present, and look at some comic books, and video games. Portal-puzzle game for adults and kids, Mass Effect-role playing game about you saving the universe, Strangers in Paradise-comic book dealing with complex relationships and issues.

    Stop asking us to go back to the 40’s. Look towards the great comics that have been produced in the past 75 years. Look how much video games have progressed and realize that video games have rating systems. Stop blaming movies, video games, and comics and blame the people.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Jason, WHERE did I say we should only watch Pixar movies and/or just play Pong? I’m suggesting the amount of graphic violence Hollywood produces (and the gaming industry) is dulling the senses of many. Of course this act was that of ONE crazy, evil, young man…but to deny that Hollywood (and the gaming industry and the music industry) isn’t affecting our souls is to deny reality.

      • Jason

        Bruce, everything affects us, however you suggest that everything was rosier in years past and is shown with what you grew up with. At that time I’m sure you also grew up with Star Trek who had Kirk romancing women or shooting at alien races. I’m sure at some point all of the B-moview of Attack of the Giant Ants or Godzilla with wanton destruction influenced some people in those years as well. It’s not as if you didn’t have violent movies.

        Has it gotten more violent or graphic, sure. I’m sure that the movies of the 60’s horrified people of the 20’s who grew up with Charlie Chaplin, as they didn’t show much if anything there. As parents we have to be proactive with our kids. However calling Hollywood irresponsible and citing video games and comic books as springboards for people isn’t right. If we are going to cater to the 1% of people who might go crazy because they see a movie, then why have movies. I have a friend who thought that if he didn’t pray for people on the news they would go to hell. When he overslept one day for the news, made him a bit off.

        Should we not show the news then? On that off chance?

        On the other end of the spectrum we have people who won’t show their kids any kind of television without it being Bible related. I knew a couple at church who did this and had a lot of trouble just relating to people, and shying away at everthing.

        What we don’t need is people people telling us what we can and can’t watch. There are ratings for movies and games, and even comic books. As parents we are there to know our kids, help guide them, and if they are mature enough at 16 to watch a rated R movie, that is what we are here for as parents.

        To shame an industry telling a story based off of comics is short sighted. Perhaps instead of looking at the negative aspects of this shooting at a comic based movie, look at the great stories coming out of comics.

        Barbra Gorden, shot and put into a wheelchair, however since then has been an inspiration for disabled people.

        Wally West-Flash, his uncle died saving the world, and his struggle to be good enough, to be worthy of his uncles name.

        Stop looking at the negative. As parents we need to be there as parents for our kids. Stop pawning the blame off on video games, the Bible, or whatever the hook of the week is.

        • Bruce Sallan

          Jason, if you read me regularly, you’d know I often cite the positive, encourage the best in people, and don’t rant on and on about the negative. I come from 25 years in showbiz and I do believe there is little moral concern for the impact of what is made these days. More so than in the past. I do NOT glorify the past – mine or that of my parents – but to not look at these issues is to hide your head in the sand. 

          Tonight at #DadChat we’re going to discuss HOW to talk about these things with our kids.

          Today on my radio show there was unanimity of belief that it is inconceivable that the proliferation of such negative images is not having a negative affects on all of us. Listen here:

          And, by all means bring your viewpoint to #DadChat tonight from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m., PT.

  • smackeditor

    I agree 100%, Bruce. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to turn around a societal problem like this. You worked in the business and tried to make an impact; do you feel you accomplished anything? We can all only act for ourselves, but the trend toward more shocking entertainment has been going on for a hundred years or more. How much farther can it possibly go?  We’ll find out.

    • Bruce Sallan

      I actually do believe if more of us cared like you do and I did when I had a little “power” in the television business, we can make a difference! Thx much for the comment AND support, Eric!

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  • Jennifer

    Very well-written article Bruce, thanks. It’s hard to view the whole thing in such an “even” manner at such an emotional time. I have really mixed feelings about the role Hollywood plays in tragedies like this, because I am a strong believer in personal responsibility.

    Having said that, I – like you – long for the day when life was simpler. (Makes me sound so much like my father!) I saw a Leave it to Beaver re-run was on TV the other day and thought to myself ~ those were the days! Although my kids don’t watch TV other than the occasional movie, I still find it sad that I couldn’t turn on prime time TV in front of them if I wanted to because of how inappropriate it is. I find society’s standards to be slipping and I don’t see how that can be a good thing.

    As for the not-for-prime-time violent stuff, I’ve seen it, and in fact used to be a fan of such movies. And, I get the argument that “I didn’t go out and dress up like the Joker and kill people,” but it’s just not that simple. As you acknowledge, the movie didn’t make him do it. But, it’s hard to ignore the number of movies that serve as “inspiration” for this kind of stuff (Natural Born Killers and that Queen Latifah movie about the bank robbery come to mind). Was this guy crazy before Batman? Yes. Would he have done this without the stamp of social acceptance provided in his crazy mind by the movie? I’m not sure we can answer that, which is one reason I say it’s time to re-evaluate what’s put out there.

    I know there is demand and they are filling the demand, but they are also fueling it. And, if they would give it a rest on the violence, we’d all find other healthier and more productive things to do. You can’t get around the fact that people didn’t used to do all of the crazy stuff they do now. Are movies 100% responsible? No. But, even if they are 1% (and I would argue that it’s more than that), that’s too much. How can you sleep at night knowing you have ANY level of responsibility in even one person’s death?

    I know the movie makers don’t see it that way, no one seems to want to take responsibility for anything anymore. But, if you fill the world up with good stuff, it’s going to be a better place. And if you fill it up with bad stuff, it can’t help but be worse off.

    • Bruce Sallan

      So glad you commented with such care and thought, Jennifer. It defies COMMON SENSE to say that Hollywood is not affecting us…THAT is my point, not anything about this one KILLER…