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MediaWise With Dr. Dave   Print page

Killographic Entertainment

Click for Dr. Dave's biography Sometimes words fail us. When we fall in love, when our kids take their first steps, and in other times of joy it can seem that our vocabularies are inadequate to express our emotions. Words may not seem enough in times of sorrow, anger or disgust either. Some events, some things, and some feelings are just too powerful to be encapsulated by a word or a phrase. Because words pale in comparison to what we try to describe, we give up trying to express it at all.

And then there are the times that we know exactly what we need to say, but we just don't have the right word to say it. I've had that feeling a lot lately as I've kept track of the rising tide of extreme violence in the entertainment media. Depictions of grisly, brutal violence are prevalent in every form of entertainment media, from video games to movies, from pop songs to TV shows. There should be a word that describes this kind of violence that has become so popular with media-makers in recent decades.

We have the word pornographic-it refers to the graphic depiction of sexual acts-but we don't have a word for the graphic depiction of brutal violence. I propose that we add the word killographic to the English language. Killographic entertainment is an epidemic in this country, and if we want to stop its harmful effects from hurting our kids, we need to start by putting a name to it.

Recently, while we were putting together the Eighth Annual MediaWise Report Card, we came across a game called Manhunt. This game, like last year's popular Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, is so filled with hyper-real scenes of disturbing violence, it seems to be in a different category from nearly anything else available. These games' extreme killographic depictions of butchering fellow human beings compel me to do what some might consider butchering the English language.

Parents know that exposing their children to pornography is irresponsible and harmful. In recent years, study after study has suggested that exposure to killographic media has a powerful negative impact on kids' behavior, brain development, and future life choices. Rating systems and reviews can give parents the information about media choices to protect their kids. That's why MediaWise parents who want what is best for their children keep killographic entertainment out of their homes and lives.

Giving a name to the insidious practice of portraying horrifying death and violence won't instantly stop this kind of entertainment from appearing on TVs, in theaters, and on video screens. But calling killographic depictions by a name that reminds us that they are just as extreme and age-sensitive as pornographic scenes will help us to the next step: keeping our kids safe and telling the media moguls that enough is enough.

David Walsh, Ph.D. is the president and founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family ( He has written seven books and is a frequent guest on national radio and television.



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