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Mass Murder in Newtown Renews Concern About Movie, Game Violence

December 23rd 2012

Sandy Hook Shooting

he shooting of 20 young children and seven adults has renewed discussions about gun control in the United States. Many say the availability of guns, however, is not the only factor that could trigger a deadly act. Though the industry disputes it, some experts say films glorifying violence and video games rewarding death can be equally lethal, especially in the hands of people with mental health issues.

When "The Dark Knight Rises" opened in July, the on-screen carnage served as the backdrop to a mass shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, theater. The shooter, James Holmes, 24, had dyed his hair red to resemble the Batman character, the Joker. Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 58.

Hollywood violence
Production of violent films continued after the massacre. ​​The graphic drama, "Killing Them Softly," about a hired gun with feelings, was released in late November.

The Hollywood premiere this week of Quentin Tarantino’s bloody western, "Django Unchained," was canceled out of respect for those killed in Connecticut. However, the movie will be released. Criminal defense attorney Rene Sandler said on-screen gunfights can inspire real-life shootings. “The perpetrator becomes a character, takes on the persona of an aggressive, violent individual or superhero," Sandler say, "and in Aurora, it’s a perfect example of just that.”

Video game carnage
But, even more than films, Sandlers thinks violent video games are at the core of brutal behavior, and believes they should be regulated. “I have seen clients who have engaged in that interactive video experience where they are killing, where they are using guns, where they are gaining points and winning given the more bodies that they amass," she says. "In this country, we can ban sugary drinks for children because it’s unhealthy. We have done nothing to stop violent video games for children and adults.”

While on-screen violence itself is not dangerous, Sandler says it can be "weaponized" in the hands of people with mental issues.

Mental health issues
Law enforcement authorities in the Connecticut shooting have said very little about the 20-year-old shooter Adam Lanza's mental health. But the elementary school attack has raised the issue and many are calling on society to be more vigilant. A game industry group calls any link between video games and violence a myth. Following the movie theater massacre in July, a movie industry mogul suggested a summit on violence and film, which has not yet occurred.

Still, an Oscar-nominated movie last year, "We Need to Talk About Kevin," eerily mirrors the Newtown shooting. The upper-class Kevin, 16, goes goes on a killing spree at his high school after murdering his family. The movie raised compelling issues about teen mental health, family breakdown and violence in American society.

Penelope Poulou writes for VOA News, from where this article is adapted.


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