Violence in cartoons and video games — we need to be wiser

11 September 2020
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Updated 11 September 2020

Violence in cartoons and video games — we need to be wiser

I love cartoons ... always have and probably always will. I grew up with Disney movies: Colorful hours of dreamy contentment where — always — good prevails in the end. Disney stories are magical escapist destinations, with morals to be received and lessons to be learnt.
There were standards and principles to uphold if we were to live a “happy-ever-after” life, and they contained a high dose of love, equality and fairness.
Many have said that these stories are misleading, giving false hopes and allowing children to dream of illusions. Ever the optimist, I have no doubt that they have shaped my personality as it has that of many.
I also grew up with MGM’s Tom and Jerry, Hanna-Barbera’s Scooby-Doo and The Flintstones, Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Roadrunner and Coyote, Sylvester and Tweety, and of course Paramount’s Popeye ... all of which were completely different to Disney’s trademark stories.
These were more action-packed, fast-moving and, to be honest, a lot more violent. They reflected feelings of ambition, revenge, hate and lacked compassion and forgiveness. Some would say that these were more realistic about the world we live in and the traits of human nature. Tom could be hit on the head a thousand times and survive; Roadrunner is probably still falling from cliffs relentlessly looking for Coyote; Sylvester will always try to eat Tweety and Tweety always lives ... total anarchy ... but children somehow knew that what is on the screen remains on the screen. As my children grew up, these same cartoons became part of their upbringing but soon became old-fashioned as they were replaced by a new breed of animation, with different styles, story lines and digital animation technology.
With the advent of Cartoon Network, an unlimited amount of viewing choice was available to kids. Those growing up in the 1990s and 2000s will remember the Rugrats, Dexter’s Laboratory, Ninja Turtles, Pinky and the Brain, the Simpsons, South Park and of course the anime-influenced Avatar, to name but a few. Still as violent as the older Warner Bros. cartoons, they seemed however more realistic because of the more detailed designing and directing. Superheroes, robots and aliens have created imaginary worlds based on the real and the surreal with plots that appeal to children.
The effects of violence in cartoons can vary from insensitivity to the pain of others, to feeling comfortable with violence around them, and susceptibility to aggressive behavior.
Yet, I believe that these cartoons are nothing compared to the violence that exists in video games where killing has become desensitized and people are just numbers.
Without touching on antisocial behavior, addiction, health and academic issues or exposure to negative values, the effect of these games on the psyche of young children who spend not hours, but years, playing them can be long-lasting and traumatic, especially if they live in harsh and abusive environments as seen by a minority of children who have played out the games in real life and become shooters. We need to be wiser.

• Hoda Al-Helaissi has been a member of the Shoura Council since 2013. She is also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee within the Shoura.