ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Kids need imaginary violence
By Brian Wong
Gazette file photo
MY BATTY SENSE TELLS ME VIOLENCE IS GOOD. According to
Gerard Jones, violent comics can actually be helpful
Comic book artist and screen writer Gerard Jones, author of
the book Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super
Heroes and Make-Believe Violence and whose credits include
Batman, Spider-Man and Pokémon, speaks to The Gazette
about the benefits of violent entertainment.
How does fantasy violence help children?
The most basic [way] is giving kids a fantasy self: it enables
them to feel stronger, less vulnerable and bolder. It also
helps them to figure out the difference between reality and
fantasy. Obviously, what works in a cartoon or a movie doesn't
work in daily life, so they get to compare their desires to
be strong - and sometimes destructive - with what actually
works in their world. And I think kids are also curious and
anxious about real violence and having a safe place to play
with it, examine it and then leave it behind is helpful to
calm their own nerves.
Are there any limits to the type of violence kids should be
For kids under 10 or 11, it's important to apply adult protectiveness,
but if it's something that kids are enjoying, there's probably
something beneficial going on. Things that kids are drawn to
and like without anxiety or reservations tend to be positive
influences for the most part.
Can violent entertainment desensitize?
Certainly violent entertainment can desensitize one to other
violent entertainment, but I haven't seen any evidence in the
scientific literature or from what I've heard from people that
violent entertainment desensitizes them to real violence. It's
a distinction people make quite clearly; "This is not a movie" -
they get that, and little kids get that.
Can violent entertainment help adults?
Yeah, I think people in their 20s are going through some of
the same things as in adolescence - the desire to feel competent
and less vulnerable - because you're still trying to take control
of your life and figure out how the world works.
How about rappers like Eminem? What can people learn from
There is some downside, such as Eminem's lyrics about gays
and other people not like himself and that's when you need
a counterpoint out there to say "This is an archaic and defensive
attitude." But at the same time there's a real power in wanting
to be the rapper who gets up and says whatever is on his mind
and who expresses anger. We've created a very polite world
in which it's extremely difficult to express your own frustration
and rage, so what you get out of these anti-social music forms
is a way to identify yourself with someone who gets up and
Do you feel adults don't give children enough credit?
Yes. I think it's normal to worry about kids, but in doing
so we can exaggerate their vulnerability and we can underestimate
their ability to make sense of things and separate the real
from the unreal.