Violence in media is healthy and beneficial for children—or so claims Gerard Jones, author of “Violent Media is Good for Kids”. It is undeniable that the title of Jones’s essay is straightforward and aptly named, if not confidently bold. But while his claim may boast confidence, it lacks credibility. Jones does do a great job introducing his controversial claim by using passion, persuasion, and personal experience. However, his insufficient evidence and fallacious reasoning fail to support the claim he is making, and therefore weaken his argument.
The author starts off his essay by allowing his reader to take a peek into his childhood and see the lonely, passive, and frightened years of his youth. He explains that his shyness and introversion were due to his strict upbringing and feeling of not fitting in at his school. He then goes on to explain how he discovered Marvel Comics, to whom he credits for his blossoming into a stronger individual and breaking out of his shell. Jones describes how he first identified with the Hulk character, who mirrored his “fantasy self” and allowed him to explore a darker side of his psyche that he kept hidden, which eventually lead to the development of his social and motivational skills. He claims that the skills he learned from the violence in these comic books carved the path for his career as an action movie and comic book writer.
I do have to give Jones kudos for being able to create a more personal tone to his essay in order to engage the reader and create a connection there by using his own experience. But while I think that his story gave the reader more insight and set the stage for his essay, I also think his claim that violence led him to success might be too controversial to use as solid evidence and is more opinion-based than factual. “They were good for me because they were juvenile. And violent” (para. 2). What about the bravery and strength aspect of superheroes? It cannot be proven that it was the gore and violence that helped shape his outgoing and goal-driven behavior. And even if it indeed was the violence that helped him, he cannot just assume that the violence is what helped other comic book lovers break out of their shell instead of perhaps some other qualities that superheroes have. The point of his essay is not about proving his own success story; it
is about proving a broad and controversial theory about kids in general in regards to violent media. Many adolescents do find comic books to be a positive influence, but not necessarily due to the violence. I was disappointed that Jones’s argument had done little else for me at that point besides raise many questions regarding the validity of his claim.
As I read more of Jones’s essay, I began to realize that part of the reason why I had a hard time agreeing with his theory of violence being beneficial to kids is because of one major reoccurring fallacy—hasty generalization. Hasty generalization occurs when one makes a general assumption or claim about something without the use of sufficient proof. “I’m not going to argue that violent entertainment is harmless. I think it has helped inspire some people to real life violence. I am going to argue that it’s helped hundreds of people for every one it’s hurt, and that it can help more if we can learn to use it well” (para.13). “We act as though our highest priority is to prevent our children from growing up into murderous thugs—but modern kids are far more likely to group up too passive, too distrustful of themselves, too easily manipulated” (para. 13). In this case, Jones continues to compare his own experience to the average adolescent, assuming people generally all have similar childhood experiences to his own and making a generalization about the average person based on people he has met through his line of work as a fiction writer.
For example, “I talked to the kids who read my stories. Across generations, genders, and ethnicities I kept seeing the same story: people pulling themselves out of emotional traps by immersing themselves in violent stories. People integrating the scariest, most fervently denied fragments of their psyches into fuller senses of selfhood through fantasies of superhuman combat and destruction” (para. 4). This statement is showing the reader that there is a diverse demographic of people who read his comic books, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the average person finds violence helpful, or that violence would have a positive effect on the average person. In fact, he is making a generalization about violence being a positive influence on the average person when the people in his line of work that he meets are passionate about that subject are far more likely to have shared a similar experience to his own. As I read the essay, I continued to notice how Jones kept using people with backgrounds similar to his as examples of how violence has influenced children in a positive way. In paragraph five of his essay, he gives his own son as an example of someone who has benefitted from being exposed to violence. There is a bit of a bias to this success story, as the child is the son of a comic book writer and violent media advocate. I believe there is a bit of a bias to most of the stories he has given as examples in his essay, since many are about children who have found some form of healing through comic books specifically (though he does reference “creative violence” and all that entails in paragraph ten).