My own development would be sorely lacking without such tales. In my youth I was an awkward, overweight child with no social skills. In this vacuum of social input, I was instantly drawn to comic books. Spider-Man was by far my favorite. There was an appeal there in reading about the hero beating up his villains, and I admired this fictional character so much that I took to heart his credo: "With great power comes great responsibility." The violence that drew me in and thrilled me also inspired me.
Later, as a still awkward teenager, I fell in love with martial arts films. Again, the violence and action drew me in. In the fantastic athleticism of Bruce Lee, Yuen Biao, and Jackie Chan, I also discovered a sense of right and wrong, of honor and nobility. There was a moral code in these films imparted through the characters, not much different from the moral codes extant in Medieval tales of knights slaying dragons or in the stories of Wild West lawmen. Lacking a father figure in my own life, these characters (who were no doubt strong and in control of their lives) gave me something to aspire to, some sense of what a grown man should be and how he should i...
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...y purposeless. Comic books and fantasy films offer a way for these children to escape such stresses, if only for a small period of time. The heroes of such stories usually pummel their foes into complacency, and this can offer a feeling of empowerment to outcast youth, even if only vicariously, that they tend to not experience in their lives. For every bully that has ever picked on them, or every verbal abuse that they've received, they are able through such media to gain some measure of confidence back.
Like most issues, violence in the media is a complicated and gray issue. But put aside the knee-jerk reaction that incidents like Columbine and Helsinki engender, and it's easy to see how every child needs to slay a dragon, even if it’s just a virtual one.
Sipes, Richard G. "War, Sports and Aggression: An Empirical Test of Two Rival Theories." American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 75, No. 1. (Feb., 1973), pp. 64-86.
Lorenz, K. (1963) On Aggression. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, reprinted in 2012.
Block, Jerald J, MD. "Lessons From Columbine: Virtual and Real Rage." American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, Vol. 28, Issue 2. (Feb., 2007), pp. 3-25.
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