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.