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My Thoughts on Newtown: A Different Look at Violence in the Media

Joined: 1/31/2013
Posts: 1
Two days after the Newtown, Connecticut shooting, I poked my head into my mom’s room and asked, “Want to watch Law & Order?”
She looked up from the news channel she was watching. In that pause, I could hear a reporter say, “Twenty children, all ages six and seven, slaughtered by a gunman on Friday morning…”
It hit me so quickly. The uneasiness, the irony: the nation was in shock after this tragedy, and I was about to settle down to an hour of scripted shootings, stabbings, assault, and rape, for entertainment. While investigators pulled bullet-ridden bodies from an elementary school, while a town struggled to make sense of something so senseless—I was passing time by watching people die on cable television. When the episode ended, I’d turn off the TV, totally unaffected.
Most shows I watch are crime dramas—CSI, the Law & Order franchise, Bones. Each episode starts with an explicitly depicted, horrific crime. My friends and I gather to watch Law & Order: SVU and stare blankly at body onscreen of a young woman shot to death. We drink our soda and make comments every once in a while: “I bet he did it.” “I love this actor.” Eleven thousand gun murders occur each year in the United States alone, yet it’s pure entertainment to watch this kind of violence by choice, for fun. Was nothing wrong with this picture?
My peers and I discussed the Newtown tragedy—“Wow, that was awful.” “I feel so bad for those children’s families.” Our responses are unconnected, automatic, generic. Violence has become so omnipresent in the entertainment world that the real thing fails to hit us at an emotional level.
A University of Michigan study found that media violence puts exposure to harmful and violent stimuli in a positive emotional context, making us feel “comfortably numb”. Cognitive effects include decreased attention to violent events, decreased sympathy for victims of violence, increased belief that violence is normative, and a decreased negative attitude towards violence. How can we move forward from Newtown in a positive, constructive way if the violence that occurred doesn’t touch us deeply enough that we realize the violence we rely on for entertainment is doing us harm?
Newtown changed my life because it made me realize for the first time just how violent the media I consume is, and how disturbing it is that it doesn’t disturb us.
A month after Newtown, my friend invited me to see the new big-budget gang thriller. I hit “reply” and started to type, “Sure, what time?” but paused. I thought of myself paying nine dollars to watch people get shot. I thought of myself leaving the theatre remarking “That was so good!” I thought of the families of Newtown victims and how they won’t be sitting down and watching shoot-em-ups for entertainment any longer. I thought of their lives being shattered by gun violence, and how I was choosing to invite such violence into my life.
I said no.
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Comment by seamstressofwords

Joined: 12/7/2012
Posts: 86

My name is Laura and I'm an intern at Stage of Life. I wanted to thank you for submitting your story to our "Where Do We Go After Newtown" writing contest, but more importunately, I want to congratulate you on being selected by our Editors as an essay finalist!

Watch this page for when we announce the winner.

Feel free to share this on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or any other site you use. Share your accomplishment with the world!

Thanks for sharing your story on

Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 2:56:16 AM
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Comment by SOFLarchive

Joined: 1/6/2012
Posts: 111
Congratulations on winning the contest. I agree with you. I think the media should tone the violence down a little.
Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2013 9:29:15 PM
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Comment by Girlboxer1970

Joined: 1/15/2013
Posts: 79
Congrats!! I really enjoyed your essay ;-) Pattie
Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 11:48:57 PM
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Comment by Sara7272

Joined: 2/21/2014
Posts: 3
This is a really good essay! :)
Posted: Saturday, February 22, 2014 4:34:07 AM
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