Food For Thought

Is Violence Just A Natural Part of Life? 

by John E. Bonfadini, Ed.D.,
Contributing Columnist
Professor Emeritus, George Mason University

John E. Bonfadini
John E. Bonfadini

Violence just seems like a natural part of life in our culture. Society may oppose violence in its raw, criminal form, but we certainly embrace violence for entertainment value. Every Sunday this fall millions of Americans will sit in front of a television and watch grown men do violence to one another on a football field. The NFL could eliminate violence and its potential for injury by changing the game to flag football, but nobody would watch.

On a recent sports talk show, one player commented that at the end of each game most players tell opponents to “stay healthy.” He inferred that players play the game according to the rules and don’t want to hurt other players. Fans often want to see players for the opposing team hurt —not injured for life, but hurt. Boxing is another example of violent entertainment. Fans don’t want to see a boxer killed, but enjoy seeing him or her get bashed around the ring, eventually hitting the canvas with a thud.

During a recent hockey match, a player was viciously attacked resulting in serious injuries, including a broken neck. Some people said they were outraged by the brutality of the offending player’s actions, but the fights are what many hockey fans want to see — fights and bodies smashing into backboards.  It’s all part of the entertainment value. Society shouldn’t be outraged by sports figures getting life-threatening injuries. It’s part of the job.

Violence in the Media

Violence is a major part of the movie and television industries, as well. When television became commercially available, my family was one of the first in our neighborhood to own a set. The kids on my hill came to my house every Saturday to watch old reruns of the Cisco Kid, Hopalong Cassidy, and Roy Rogers. There was plenty of violence in those movies — maybe not as graphic as the violence in movies today, but violence nonetheless. Watching these shows never made me want to get my dad’s guns and imitate Cisco by shooting someone. I knew what I saw on television wasn’t the “real world.” And the Lone Ranger never shot anyone. Somehow he always managed to shoot the gun out of the outlaw’s hand with that silver bullet. In the real world, guns shot at people cause major injuries, including death.

Most of my ideas for articles come from my own experiences. This article also had its roots in a facet of my life. Last month I was watching a DVD with my granddaughter Rachel while she was being nebulized for CF. The movie was an adaptation of Scooby-Doo, who most of us know as a lovable dog. I thought the movie would be something like Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, or the Road Runner.

Well, Scooby-Doo has changed. The violence on this DVD would rival Schwarzenegger’s Terminator movies. In addition to the violence, the young ladies’ attire was rather provocative. You wouldn’t see that much cleavage in many adult-oriented magazines. I began to generalize about the DVD. Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and the Road Runner were very violent. No one got killed, but there was a lot of violence. Even most fairy tales and Disney movies contain an element of violence. Violence just seems to be everywhere. In fact, we seem to enjoy watching violence. One of my favorite comedy acts, the Three Stooges, is full of faux violence.

My wife and I saw two movies last month. One was The Passion of the Christ. Those who have seen the movie know the violence that the movie contains. The priest at St. Paul’s church in Tampa said the movie would make us realize that the crucifixion of Christ was a very violent act that’s not appreciated when Christians view the crucifix in church. He certainly was right. I’m not sure how I feel about the violent portrayal of Christ’s death in the movie. I did think that too many young children were viewing the movie, although I understand the significance of Christ’s crucifixion in the Christian community.

One of the movies my son gave us to watch was a movie called Bad Boys II. If you want to see violence and vulgarity, this is a movie to watch. I purchased my wife a portable DVD player so she could keep entertained while I did the driving on long trips. We took the Amtrak auto train going to Florida this past trip so we both could watch movies to pass time. The violence in the various scenes of Bad Boys II used modern weapons, but the over-emphasis of violent acts made it all seem as fictional as Bugs Bunny being shot at by Elmer Fudd. I became immune to the shooting. It wasn’t real. It was just entertainment. I knew I’d see the actors in another movie next year.  The most important thing is I realized the difference between real violence and violence used for entertainment.

Violence in the Real World

When real violence — like wars and murders shown on the news — becomes entertainment, then we as a society have a problem. Seeking to eliminate violence as a part of entertainment is unrealistic. Teaching the difference between entertainment and real life is an attainable goal. A civilized society will establish acceptable laws to punish individuals who cross the line in committing violent acts with the intent to do harm in real life. Football violence and Terminator movies will probably always exist. Viewers and parents have the right not to purchase a ticket or to use the on-off switch. I hope I’ll get to heaven but I’m afraid my punishment before entering the gates will be to watch Bad Boys II for an extended period of time. I also hope Saint Peter doesn’t use the off switch if he sees me at the entrance gate. 

What’s Your View?

Obviously, there are at least two sides to every issue. Do you have a different view? This column is meant to provoke thought, so keep sending comments. Each one is read with the utmost interest. Send e-mail to:, or send written responses to the editor.  Mail will be forwarded to the author.




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