Desensitization

August 2013 015

Have you ever walked into a room with a horrible smell only to find that within a few moments you were barely aware of the noxious fumes? That my friend is the art of desensitization. If we are around something horrible long enough it will eventually cease to bother us. I am very much afraid that is exactly what is happening with violence.

I was watching a rather violent movie the other day and I found myself becoming more sensitive to the violence. It wasn’t just that I was looking away at the nasty bits but I was physically starting to feel ill. Perhaps it is my age as I am now over 50. Have I become overly sensitive? But I think there might be another explanation. I am not as bothered by violence as I once was as a child. It is that thought that is making me ill.

It is the amount of violence all around us that is worrying me. When I was young we had Bugs Bunny who did not look like an actual rabbit doing battle with Wile E Coyote who did not look like an actual coyote. They were cartoons. There were no gobs of blood and brain matter to tantalize the taste buds. Nowadays even the cartoons look like actual people. When someone is killed you see all the nasty bits. I worry about our children becoming desensitized to the violence. At a very young age they are seeing it in video games, one person shooting another and the result tends to be bonus points. Excuse me? Our cartoons are now called animation and are full of violence. There is violence in commercials and movies and of course the news. It appears that violence committed by children is on the rise.

In the movies the violence seems to be exaggerated. There is excess blood, brain matter and the ever popular detached limbs. When someone gets hit on the head with a hammer I would think that would be all it would take. One blow from a hammer you’re done. Not in the movies! It takes several more hammer blows, a chainsaw and a 40 foot drop to the pavement and there’s still a really good chance someone will get up and walk away. That is not reality. I’m afraid that is the reality our children are living in. I must say some adults as well but I digress. How can a child have the psychological wherewithal to realize that if you hit someone with a hammer in real life that could be it? I would like to be able to say that violence in any form is unacceptable, but that isn’t true. There is a time and place where violence is the only option. I may not like it, but that is the truth. It is the casual almost blasé violence that is everywhere in our entertainment that worries me.

When I was a child I didn’t see violence except in the cartoons. I knew it wasn’t real because the characters didn’t look real. Reality is taking over our fantasies and I question whether or not that is a good idea. I am not a psychiatrist. I am not a psychologist. I am not a behavioral analyst. I am not a child counselor. I’m just a woman with a question: do you feel safe out there?

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13 thoughts on “Desensitization

  1. scifihammy

    You are so right! Violence, particularly in movies, has become much worse over the years. Movies that in the past would be age restricted to 18 are now passed as PG. Kids become desensitised to it all. And like you say, probably think that you can take 6 bullets to the chest and be fine!
    In the real world violence has escalated too. We see it all the time in the news. It becomes less shocking through repetition – and it shouldn’t do! We should always be horrified by excessive mindless violence.

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  2. Jill Dunbar

    Pam; I think I feel safe (probably my age) these days, but I do hate to think of all the violence that the young, and not so young, are becoming blasé watching on TV, movies, newspapers, videos, etc.

    Desensitization, indeed!

    Peace, my friend. XO

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  3. Jack Flacco

    So true. And the level of violence is so outrageous that it crosses over to fantasy. Crazy how even a simple Drama can turn into a gorefest if there’s a murder that takes place. Blood splattering the wall is the norm nowadays, I guess.

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  4. Tournesol (Clr)

    Wonderful post Pam! I remember seeing a scary movie at the cinema in Mississauga with a friend I think only he and I were the only ones cringing with fear and closing our eyes! I Turned around and the kids were just eating their popcorn and some of them seemed do unaffected!! Kids who call are as young as 12 watching Criminal Minds. Now that is scary!!

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  5. Sunshine Jansen

    A really great, thoughtful post I can intimately relate to. My whole life, I’ve had a strong reaction to realistic violence — I can get so overwhelmed that I’m not only nauseous but I’ve actually fainted once or twice. I’ve often thought I should actively desensitize myself — just to talk about a film or TV show everybody else has been watching — but it’s just too hard on me. The standing joke with everyone I know is “You can’t watch that, it’s definitely not rated S!” But when I explain to people why this is, they may react at first with pity of a sort, but then they start to talk about how the violence is too over-the-top even for them.

    So… why are we watching the things that make this trend continue? My answer is to not watch, and read (most of the things I’d want to watch are based on books anyway) but I feel kind of in the minority there…

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