Nightmares Worth Having?


Nearly everyone engages with some kind of violent entertainment – from blockbuster action films to video games; from the nightly news to professional sports like hockey and football. No one is forced to watch these violent images, but still, humans seek them out. In fact, TV ratings show us that we’re hungry for violence on screen, and the more realistic, the better.

Parents, teachers, politicians, and policy makers largely focus their attention on the negative effects of violent entertainment, but seldom pay attention to why violent entertainment is so appealing in the first place. This workshop explores both the effects and the causes for the popularity of violent media. Is it a bad influence on society or a safe outlet for our more dangerous urges? How do we separate reality from what we see on screen? At what point does something become too violent to watch? Students will discuss and debate these questions and more, leaving them with a broad perspective on the attractions of violent entertainment, from the gladiatorial combat of ancient Rome to immersive VR video games today.

Learning Objectives:

1.    Examine the many reasons (aesthetic, poetic, didactic, affective, etc.) filmmakers include violence in their work, and the ways that gender, race, and ability intersect with fictional perpetrators and victims.
2.    Confront our societal and/or personal enjoyment of violence in media by discussing and debating its possible dangers and merits.
3.    Examine the historical evolution of violence on screen as censorship laws have changed in tandem with new societal tastes and thresholds for violent content.

[Media Literacy Workshop designed by Liz Schulze + Hayley Gauvin]