For almost 15 years, fans of The Real Housewives franchise have reveled in the explosive verbal and physical brawls that take place on screen. Pair that with the constant barrage of political rants on Twitter and viral violent YouTube videos, and one might wonder how much our hearts and minds are being altered by the images and language around us.
It is a question that Emily Edwards tackles in her new book “Graphic Violence: Illustrated Theories about Violence, Popular Media, and Our Social Lives” (Routledge/2019). The book is part scholarship, part graphic novel. Edwards explores the causes and effects of violence in the media and how both media producers and consumers can learn to interact more critically with violent visual content.
Edwards, a professor in the department of media studies at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, joins host Frank Stasio at the Triad Stage to talk about how fake news, social media and entertainment lend themselves to social unrest and how media, disgust and violence have played in to the creation of public policy in North Carolina.
On the myth that violent video games cause violent behavior:
With the last shooting, people keep talking about the newest medium which is video games. If video games were causing violence, when video games were really coming out and saturating the marketplace [in the 90s] you would expect for violence to increase … Actually in the 90s violence started going down — social violence went down.
On our interest in blood and gore:
Sociobiology says we’re wired to pay attention. Some people are actually seeking out the horror movie, and there’s a lot of reasons for that. But we’re wired to tune in. It’s like the wreck on the highway — we’re wired to look at that. Some of it is just preservation. The thinking is when we were a more ancient animal that noticing and paying attention to a dead animal … Was a sign that there was some danger in the environment.
On George Gerbner’s research and the ‘Mean World’ hypothesis:
He counted the number of times a violent incident happened on television, and then he compared that to violence in the real world. And what he noticed is this big discrepancy. People are getting killed and hurt and maimed and shoved and pushed a lot more on television than they are in the real world. He then started to look at people who watched a lot of television, and he noticed that their perception of the world they lived in was not a very positive one. They were fearful.
On hypermasculinity and muscle dysmorphia:
We have known for a long time that media have been bad about images of women and girls. We know the damage there. You have to be beautiful. You have to look a certain way. Well it’s equally bad for men. You have to be tough. You have to be strong. And there’s been some damage done with young men trying to achieve this body that is impossible to achieve.