Sunday, July 4, 2010

Were Cartoons Ever Really Moral?

For those of you who responded back to me with ideas on how to improve our discussions on Pop Culture, I greatly appreciate your input. I decided to address one respondent's suggestion on the morality of television. While this is another topic that will have to be spread over several posts (I know, I have a lot of those), I decided to start this topic off with discussing violence in cartoons. Underneath I have posted two clips from the cartoons Tom & Jerry and Family Guy. I want you to watch them and keep your immediate reactions in mind as you continue.

Although the Tom & Jerry clip does have some humor, it is pretty clear that the clip from Family Guy just isn't funny (I wouldn't be surprised if some of you couldn't finish it). Yet if we look closer, we can see that both clips are equally violent. From what I see, the difference comes from what follows these violent acts. In Tom & Jerry, we hear sound effects and light-hearted music. In Family Guy, we see blood and hear Brian screaming in pain. According to Wikipedia, there was only one instance in Tom & Jerry where blood was shown, and while most people (such as parents, educators) would view this as a positive, I must disagree with their point of view. On the contrary, I believe that a lack of blood or acknowledgment of real pain only re-enforces our society's misunderstanding related to the consequences of violence.
When looking at Family Guy, we see that Brian is actually in pain, reminding us that when someone gets hit with glass, he/she is going to bleed and that it's going to hurt. In Tom & Jerry, we see Tom get hurled into a clock, slam into the floor, and have the clock's coo-coo bird pop out of his mouth. While humorous, this scenario is highly unrealistic, separating the violent acts from the consequences that realistically would result.
This brings me to the title question of this post: were cartoons ever really moral? In my opinion, I would say that Family Guy is more moral because it's graphic displays of violence remind us of the reality of our actions. People who watch Family Guy on a regular basis know that displays of blood are not uncommon. By constantly reminding us of the reality of violence, I would argue that Family Guy shows us the differences between right and wrong. We would never want to end up like Brian, therefore discouraging us from acting like Stewie. Tom & Jerry, in lacking a display of realistic consequences, blurs these boundaries, therefore hurting our society's definition of right and wrong.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that we should let our ten year olds watch Family Guy or other adult cartoons. What I am saying is that I feel we are too quick to dismiss displays of violence as unnecessary (I know that there comes a time when there might be too much violence, which could serve as another post topic). If anything, in a time where we immerse ourselves more and more in electronic entertainment, these reminders could be more beneficial than ever.

(As always, I hope that you post your opinions and comments. Remember, the overall goal of Smart-Pop is to have discussions on these topics)

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