With his new Academy-Award nominated, ultra-violent hit film, "Django Unchained" storming the theaters, Quentin Tarantino has become case-in-point when it comes to the prevalence of violence in entertainment. While much of the media debate has been on gun control, there is also the question of how much responsibility filmmakers (and audiences) have for the violence in our culture due to the popular entertainment pumped out and consumed by Hollywood and the video game industry.
Two recent columns have specifically hit Tarantino. The first pointed out the incredible success of Tarantino's films, while the second concludes that Tarantino IS at least a part of the problem. Author Jim Bennett concludes that art such as Tarantino's may not be the primary cause for psychopathic violence, but it surely influences behavior. His stance will likely be seen as semi-controversial, but it's a manufactured controversy.
We all know that what we watch and what we listen to affects behavior. That's why businesses advertise. It's why you smile at a happy song or bang your head to a rockin' tune. It's why Top Gun sold a LOT of sunglasses and why a beer company paid millions to have Daniel Craig as Bond drink their brand. What we take in, changes us. It does not control our actions, but it influences them.
Our culture once knew this. It's a biblical principle.
It doesn't mean that Tarantino is uniquely responsible for violence in our culture. And frankly, I don't think all violence in entertainment is evil (can you really say that if the death toll in Saw 4 were the same as the deaths seen in Saving Private Ryan that both films were equally prone to encourage social ills?)
But if we acknowledge the influence we acknowledge a moral responsibility-- maybe that's why we pretend there's NO influence.