There has been a lot of controversy over the cancellation of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer finale. Warner Brothers says it cancelled the episode, intending to air it later this summer, because the material was too sensitive to air at graduation time. The recent school shootings figured prominently in this decision as did the political jihad currently being mounted against tv.
Now we all know that the Buffy finale was broadcast in Canada and there was no outbreak of school violence. In fact, Canadians see pretty much the same tv as folks in the US yet have a far lower rate of violent crime. We also know that when the episode does air advocates of tv censorship will be quick to hop on every violent incident in American as proof of the evil influence of television.
Well, is there any evidence suggesting tv images cause people to act violently? Since seeing the future is impossible, let's take a look at the past to make some comparisons. Let's look at that happy year of 1955. Kids wore their hair short and obeyed their parents. WWII and Korea were just memories and most people didn't even know Vietnam existed. The House UnAmerican Activities Committee had done its worst and was fading, but it had 'cleansed' Hollywood and production codes were in place. Students didn't take guns to school, teenage pregnancy was something no one thought of as a problem, and abortion was illegal in most places. The divorce rate was still pretty low as was unemployment. Eisenhower was beginning his second presidency and most people in the US thought things were just great.
So, what were some of the tv shows on air in 1955? Here's a little list I've drawn up of some of the tv highlights of that year.
Those shows, and lots of others, had plenty of violence. They often made fun of authority figures and praised outsiders who took the law into their hands. When authority figures were praised, it was usually for their recourse to violence. Now, just in case you're thinking that tv wasn't so big in those days (after all lots of people didn't have one) how about taking a look at some of the major movies of that year. Here are some of the Oscar winners and nominees for 1955:
But the 50s weren't really all that bad, were they. Kids didn't watch Blackboard Jungle and go out and beat up their teachers. They didn't form gangs to rob local merchants after watching Robin Hood. Oddly, all that negative imagery on tv and film had no effect.
Now some of you might be saying those shows were different from today's shows. That they were less graphic. If by that you mean the language was less realistic and the fx technology not as good, you're right. But at the time, people thought they were very graphic. They were as realistic, if not more so, than what had been seen previously in tv and film. And the audience watching them was far less sophisticated about the media.
If the past is any indicator of the future, violence or its absence in real life has nothing to do with violence on tv or film. A glance at the listings from yesteryear is enough to demonstrate that. And while that simple logic won't stop politicians from getting on the antitv violence bandwagon, they'll only be doing it because tv is an easy target. A lot easier than actually trying to understand and solve the real problem
So the answer to the question is no. Cancelling the finale did not make sense. But it looked good to some people and that's all they really care about.
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