It is horrible how the most horrible things are excused and romanticized by our culture. For instance, look for synonyms we have for violence in our vocabularies: it goes without saying that you will see brutality, cruelty, attack, destructiveness, bloodshed, and many other words that definitely indicate all seriousness of this concept. At the same time, violence also refers to disturbance, disorder, fuss, and even passion and power. In these cases, violence is regarded as something insignificant, unimportant, or even positive – like inner strength and self-determination.
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Our culture frequently excuses negative phenomena and promotes their positive image. For instance, in films, plays, cartoons, television skits, and jokes, alcohol is the source of entertainment, and drunk people are comic (Sanders 225). The same tendency may be observed in relation to violence as well. In other words, it is frequently represented as minor and non-dangerous. However, the worst thing is that this vision of violence is offered to children cultivating the idea: violence is fun. Look at Tom and Jerry – one of the most popular cartoons of the second half of the 20th century adored by millions of kids. What do we see there in general, from episode to episode? The cat is beaten, smashed, punched, kicked, bruised, whipped, hammered, smacked, spanked, and thumped.
In one episode, Tom is forced by a girl to play the role of a baby. In diaper and bonnet, he is bullied by a group of alley cats – they play Tom’s whiskers, smash its head with a hammer, and throw goldfish in its pants. In addition, their mockery is accompanied by dances, singing, and Jerry’s sincere laughing. The culmination of this horrible absurd is the punishment, which Tom receives from the girl who comes and pushes the cat to drink a full spoon of castor oil.
When I was a child, I loved this cartoon, and this violence in relation to Tom amused me. I am sure that a prevalent number of my peers loved this cartoon as well and laughed watching this and other episodes. We did not realize the seriousness of demonstrated cruelty as it had absolutely no consequences at all. Tom is bashed with a plank over the head or beaten by its owner, it swallows items or has a piece of glass in its paw – and there is only some redness and momentary throbbing. After several seconds, the cat is completely fine and ready to continue its struggle with a mouse. At the same time, Jerry, who supported and frequently initiated violence, was always regarded as a positive character.
In real life, violence is not funny, comic, and insignificant. When a husband comes home drunk and aggressive, his wife and kids do not laugh, thinking it is funny. When bullying adolescents try to put the head of their classmates in a school closet’s toilet bowl – a poor boy is not dancing or singing with delight. If he comes home in a wet t-shirt and his ignoring mother punishes him for clothes instead of being understanding and calming – it is not a reason for people’s amusement. In real life, violence always has immeasurably severe consequences – it breaks people’s lives, fills their hearts with pain or hate in response. No matter how much mass media tries to excuse brutality and other dangerous things and no matter how language will try to smooth the genuine meaning of violence – it will not reduce people’s suffering.
Sanders, Scott Russell. “Under the Influence.” Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction, 2nd ed., edited by Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz, Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2014, pp. 223- 239