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SMG's Cosmo Article on Violence

On television, I slay vampires. In movies, I've been killed by psycho stalkers. And in one, I was the psycho stalker. As a result, I'm often asked if I believe that violence on TV and in films encourages violent behavior. The answer to that is tricky.

I've thought about it a lot lately as we approach the one-year anniversary of the April 20 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. I was in Europe at the time of the shootings and was constantly questioned as to how this could happen -- as if by just being an American I somehow had more insight or understanding into the senselessness of the tragedy. Of course, I did not.

When I returned home, I was shocked to find the finger of blame being pointed at the entertainment industry. President Clinton declared programs like Buffy to be a bad influence on the country's youth.

Because of all the negative attention, not one but two episodes of my show were preempted (they aired at later dates to critical acclaim). In the first episode, entitled "Earshot," Buffy is cursed with the power to read minds. She hears the voice of a tortured student who she believes is going to attempt to kill his classmates. She stops this student by convincing him that he is not alone in his feelings of isolation, he is actually united with his peers in the pain and struggle of adolescence. She explains that the jocks who beat him up and the cheerleaders who ignore him are just as scared as he is.

The fact that this episode was scheduled to air the week after the Columbine incident and that the story line so closely parallels the supposed motives of the real murderers is chilling. However, we were not only acknowledging the problem of social cliques but also demonstrating that the solution is reaching out to people who are different from you.

The second postponed episode was about the graduating class banding together to fight a greater evil. More precisely, thestudents used medieval weapons to destroy a 100-foot computer-generated snake. Not very realistic, don't you agree?

I've always felt that, as an entertainer, my job is to tell a story and make people feel things, which may not always mean taking the moral high ground. If a teenager can't discern right from wrong or fiction from reality, I'm pretty confident that it has little to do with whether he or she watches Buffy or plays aggressive video games and more to do with the fact that society has failed to teach him or her how to make those distinctions. It is my belief that our true life lessons come from our parents and teachers -- these are the people who have the most opportunity and power to shape young minds. In the bigger scheme of things, the role they play is much more influential than the one I carry out on TV.

The Usual
The Usual

Random Quotage:

I seem to be having a slight case of nudity here.
But you're not a rat. So call it an upside.
-Buffy and Oz (Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered)

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