When I was younger, watching Saturday morning cartoons was the most important ritual of the weekend. Action, adventure, comedy, suspense even the dramatic flair of the characters attracted my youthful eyes. I drank in every scenario with blissful naivety— not realizing every time a Powerpuff girl struck a villain like Mojo Jojo or Tom and Jerry chased each other with hammers and hunger that there was a surprising lack of consequences. Unlike real life, animated cartoons ignore realistic outcomes of violence.
Violent cartoons presented with a comedic plot distort views of violence because they downplay the seriousness of aggression. Steven J. Kirsh notes in Children, Adolescents & Media Violence: a Critical Look at the Research that “the more violence deviates from reality, the less likely it is that the act of violence will be taken seriously by the viewer” (Kirsh, 162). Further in more realistic cartoons I think that that violence can influence aggressive behavior in children. Despite the inability for children to reenact the violence of episodes like Looney Tunes’ Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote, some children can still experience the act disinhibition [situation where a young person willingly acts out a previously learned aggressive behavior] (Kirsh, 168).
There are also some cartoons that for the most part are purely violent. An article from USA Today notes that unlike earlier cartoons, now characters are “caught in dark, powerful, oftentimes scary scenarios where there is hard violence.” I think the dilemma of exposure to these scenarios is that these shows can manipulate concepts of right and wrong to vulnerable young viewers. Personal experience has demonstrated to me that cartoons can have an effect on how young children sometimes deal with conflict. After a Batman- Pokémon- Clone Wars filled morning my younger cousin used to provoke his brother to mock fight in order to reenact those cartoons. Whether one boy was in the mood to be mischievous or was holding a grudge from the previous day, the result was the same and one of them always ended up hurt. You can chalk it up to boys being boys, but the cycle continued every Saturday morning.
I’m not saying that violent cartoons are the main triggers for violence and aggression in children, but not making young viewers aware of the real implications of violence is problematic especially to more susceptible viewers.
It seems that a big issue in today’s society is people are becoming increasingly desensitized to viewing, enacting and experiencing violence. Violence is a big issue and cartoons are just one aspect of the big picture. It you wonder if you really aware of how much influence the media has on you and your children?
Communications Intern | DCCADV