Have Movies And TV Gone Too Far? (Part 2)

by Doc Orman, M.D.

Movies And TV 2This week, I am asking you to consider whether movies and TV have gone way too far in promoting violence, unhealthy behaviors, and other visual/visceral experiences that could be doing us harm.

I started off this discussion in my first post by criticizing the writers and producers of a new Fox TV series called “The Following” starring Kevin Bacon.

Basing a TV series on a serial killer is one thing.  Basing it on a group of people who take total delight in snuffing out the lives of innocent citizens, and then glorifying their acts of cold-hearted murder, is quite another.

The Rise Of Mass Murders

Why do you suppose we are seeing such a startling increase in mass murders recently?  Did we have any incidents like Columbine fifty years ago?  Did we have any lunatics walk into movie theaters, like in Aurora, Colorado, or in elementary schools, like in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and start blowing people away with automatic weapons?

No. We didn’t have these types of senseless, soul-less tragedies until recently.  And I believe part of the reason we are seeing so many of these now may be a result of how movies, TV, and video games have glorified violence in general and killing in particular.

I know there are plenty of people today who believe watching violence on TV, in movies, or in video games doesn’t cause people to commit mass murders. But I’m not so sure.

In order to not be affected by such recurring images of violence, you have to have a strong core of moral values already established within you.  So someone like me, who just turned 65, can watch violent movies all day long and not be any worse for it.

However, younger people may not be so immune to being influenced, especially on a subconscious level.

Jake And The Fat Man

Let me give you one example from my own life that I still remember today, even though it happened more than 20 years ago.  In 1987, the year my daughter was born, a new weekly series called Jake And The Fat Man appeared in prime time on network TV.

Jake And Fat Man TV SeriesThis popular show, which ran for five seasons (1987-1991) starred William Conrad as Los Angeles (and later Hawaii) District attorney J.L. McCabe together with his special investigator Jake Styles (Joe Penny) and assistant D.A. Derek Mitchell (Alan Campbell).

I used to watch this show regularly, and when my daughter reached the age of 3, she took a liking to the show and began watching it with me.  I don’t remember the show being all that violent, and my daughter and I enjoyed watching it together as a Perry Mason type experience.

As the fourth year of the series approached, and after a summer of watching reruns, my daughter and I were looking forward with great anticipation to the premier episode of the new fall season.

When the time finally came, on the evening of September 12, 1990, we snuggled on the couch together wondering what new types of challenges McCabe, Styles, and Mitchell were going to face this season.

I Was Totally Shocked By What Happened Next

There I was, sitting next to my almost 4 year old daughter, when the first new episode of the fourth season of Jake And The Fat Man started playing on our TV screen.  To my shock and horror, the opening scene caught us both by surprise.  It went something like this:

  • Two teenaged siblings, a brother and sister, are extremely angry with their parents.
  • The two have apparently plotted to get even, and the moment to act has arrived.
  • Once both of their parents had fallen sound asleep at night, the two siblings open a closet door in their house and pull out two loaded shotguns.
  • They then walk into their parents’ bedroom and quietly sneak up to the foot of the bed, taking positions directly at the feet of each sleeping parent.
  • Both siblings then raise their shotguns and point them directly at each sleeping parent.
  • They give each other a nod, and then both pull the triggers on their guns simultaneously.
  • The scene then shifts to the following morning, after the police have discovered both corpses.

Unwanted Exposure

Now this was a graphic scene I was not really expecting.  Nor was it the type of shocking, violent intrusion into my home that I really wanted.

Can you imagine sitting there with your 4 year old child, expecting to see a nice, enjoyable detective story, when these visual images suddenly appear on your TV screen…without any warning?

I could only wonder what my daughter must have been thinking about this type of visual imagery.  I still wonder today what, if any, lasting effects it might have had upon her.

Do you think this was a little too much?  Do you think this crossed some type of line of common decency? 

I know we don’t want to go down the path of enforced censorship, and I agree.  But my gosh, was that opening scene really necessary?

I’m sure it caused a big stir and got plenty of people talking about the series. So if you were a network executive back then, you may have been happy with the ratings you received.

But how many of those viewers were under ten years old, like my daughter?  Would you truly want any of them seeing this scene?

Personally, I don’t know what the answer is to this growing trend of excessive violence being portrayed in the media, but I sure do know one of the right questions to ask:  Is all this graphic, extreme violence really good for us to be continually exposed to?

I’ll share one more example with you in my upcoming third and final post on this topic.  But maybe you have some thoughts on this matter that you would like to share below.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Les February 13, 2013 at 7:07 AM


I watched a couple of episodes of this show and am in the process of writing a letter to the producer to share my experience and reasons for deleting it from my programming schedule.

Language patterns, metaprograms, pre-suppositions, imagery, sound and a host of other hidden and embedded strategies aimed at enticing the audience to fantasize and act on their fantasies is dangerous, reckless and cannot end well.

Although I can’t prove it, I would not be surprised if it surfaced that this show is an experiment in influencing human behavior. A sick, perverted, immoral experiment.

Only the Best,
Les Dossey
Life Success Coach


Doc Orman, M.D. February 14, 2013 at 12:35 PM

Les: Good for you for taking concerned action. Mort


Gus Geraci February 13, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Today’s movies, TV and video games respond to what sells. Not sure we can do anything. What is the solution?


Doc Orman, M.D. February 14, 2013 at 12:34 PM

Gus: Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure there’s an easy solution. Perhaps if more people did what Les did (see above) and also deactivated their VCR recording, which probably gets noticed, this might help.


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