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Media Violence and Cartoons

Essay by   •  December 9, 2010  •  Essay  •  2,667 Words (11 Pages)  •  2,018 Views

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With the recent increase in violent crimes committed by children, adults have been looking for answers to what causes children to commit these acts. Researchers have performed formal studies, and other approaches have been taken to answer the question. Their ideas and perceptions have strayed far and wide, looking for a suitable answer; one such answer of the many they have uncovered is television, but especially television geared towards children: cartoons and animation. In recent years, animation has taken a more openly violent twist during the same time period that the unique and varied forms of Japanese animation have come to America; both have raised many parents' eyebrows as articles and media coverage portray both, but especially Japanese animation, in a harsh and unfair light, depicting all series and movies as violent and only fit for mature audiences. The adults' perception of animation varies greatly from the children's perception, as many factors, such as media depictions, personal opinions, and even the standards of cultures, come into play on the decision of what is suitable for younger viewers.

While it is not the first medium ever to reproduce violence for entertainment, television has certainly been the most notorious. However, television stations "do not air violence because they want to. They air it because that is what sells. The blame is upon ourselves for the large volume of violence, since they are merely responding to what we want" (Kim). This love for violence has filtered into nearly every television show aired currently. Virtually every television station airs shows, either live action or animated, that involve the characters fighting, arguing, or just acting in a malevolent way towards something or somebody else. The news always carries stories of what crimes have been committed during the day, daytime talk shows and soap operas often involve fighting and conflict, and even children's television is starting to take a more serious, mature twist in its presentations. Shows such as the live action series Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers have been called into question because of the numerous fight scenes and injuries that they depict; however, Power Rangers is one show that does provide a message to children at the end, informing them that the fighting is not real and that they should not imitate the Power Rangers.

Despite this warning, children do imitate their heroes, hoping to emulate them and be able to stand as strong and powerful as they do. Parents see the television as a babysitter of sorts and let their children sit in front of it, absorbing everything they see mindlessly, while the parents do chores or work they must complete that involves not having their children distract them. This is when children receive the full force of the violence in television; studies conducted have shown that children either imitate their heroes or let the actions of these heroes influence their later, more aggressive actions. A study conducted by Albert Bandura with several groups of children, each watching a different form of violence, agrees with this and suggests that the type of violence a child performs is shaped by the type that he or she sees on television; "a person displaying violence on film is as influential as one displaying it in real life....televised models are important sources of social behavior" (Bandura, 126). Television has a strong influence on children from a young age, especially if adults give them many opportunities to watch and do not step in to remind their children that this is all fantasy, or to change the channel should the material be entirely too violent for children's eyes.

Cartoons in America, generally aimed at children, also form a surprisingly large source of violence. Recently, more and more cartoons with violent themes have been released, but violence in animation has been around for decades. Perhaps the best-known examples of such violence are in the short Warner Brothers "Looney Tunes" cartoons, those that star Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Wile E. Coyote. These cartoons generally portray Bugs Bunny as the protagonist, finding quick and witty ways to save himself from the antagonistic Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, or whoever the villain of the moment may be; Daffy Duck has been seen as a competitor with Bugs and usually ends up on the losing side. If Wile E. Coyote is involved, the Road Runner always manages to best him, evading capture and leading to Wile's numerous falls off cliffs or collisions with them, due in part to the Road Runner and to Wile's faulty Acme products. These ways often involve violence, mainly guns or running off cliffs, but the violence is portrayed in a humorous manner that disguises its malignance, thus fooling children: "The cartoon "Zipping Along," featuring Warner Brothers' Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner, is a cartoon which contains 22 separate acts of violence, and is a mere 7 minutes in length" (Gulin). Children see and accept this violence without ever recognizing the truly violent content; "social audiences typically normalize the violent antics of Bugs Bunny, the Roadrunner, and other assorted cartoon characters. Because these characters execute violence within the animated lay frame of 'make-believe,' their attacks rarely are treated as heinous or deviant in kind" (Cerulo, 27-28). This acceptance has been present for over thirty years because Bugs Bunny and other Warner Brothers characters are seen as American icons, their cartoons thus, for the most part, unquestioned.

While a good number of cartoons do contain violence in them, many others do not but are mistaken to because of mislabeled stereotypes. These generally come about from people who, upon hearing rumors, immediately latch on to these rumors' messages instead of substantiating and proving them true first. Perception plays a big role in this; many people share the common flaw of developing an opinion on some subject based on untrue or biased information they receive and frequently holding stubbornly to it, however twisted or untrue their opinions are. This has occurred time and time again with cartoons, but recently this wave of conflicting opinions between adults and children has risen due to the rise in popularity of Japanese animation in America.

Japanese animation, also known as "Japanimation" or "anime," the Japanese word for cartoon, composes a major portion of the entertainment industry in Japan. It is a distinctive animation style, involving more detail and precision in making the human characters generally more realistic in appearance, behavior, and movement. In addition to the human characters, anime boasts a rather unique and rather large set of nonhuman characters, such as talking cats, aliens, high fantasy creatures such as elves and

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