Sample Exemplification Essay
Violence in the Morning
In recent years, television networks have come under increasing attack for the violent programs that fill their schedules. As we discussed in class, psychologists and communications experts, such as Dr. George Gerbner at the University of Pennsylvania, have formulated scales to measure the death and destruction that comes into American homes daily. Sociologists have discussed the possible effects of this situation on the viewing public. One area that is currently receiving attention is children?s television. As even a brief glance at weekly cartoon shows reveals, children are being exposed to a steady diet of violence that surpasses that of the prime-time shows their parents so eagerly watch.
Children?s cartoons have traditionally contained much violence, and this situation is something we have learned to accept as normal. Consider how much a part of our landscape the following situations are. The coyote chases the roadrunner and finds himself standing in midair over a deep chasm. For a fraction of a second he looks pathetically at the audience; then he plunges to the ground. Elmer Fudd puts his shotgun into a tree where Buggs Bunny is hiding. Buggs bends the barrel so that, when Elmer pulls the trigger, the gun discharges into his face. A dog chases Woody Woodpecker into a sawmill and, unable to stop, slides into the whirling blade of a circular saw. As the scene ends, the two halves of the dog fall to the ground with a clatter.
Where these so-called traditional cartoons depict violence as an isolated occurrence, newer cartoons portray it as a normal condition of life. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a good example of this. Every Saturday these characters battle a series of villains that seem intent upon destroying the world. Every week the plot stays essentially the same; only the participants in the combat seem to change. And every week the message to young viewers remains the same: Only by violent action can the problems of the world be confronted and solved. Neither the turtles nor their human friends ever attempt to negotiate with their enemies or to find a peaceful solution to their seemingly endless combat. It is only when the turtles use their considerable physical skills to defeat their adversaries that the status quo is restored. Oddly enough, no one is ever killed or seriously injured during all this fighting. It would seem that in an effort to avoid criticism, the producers of this show have decided to present combat as a game in which violence has no lasting effect on those involved. Ironically, these combative turtles?Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, and Leonardo?are named after four Renaissance artists whose work represents the highest achievement of the human spirit.
Even more shocking is the violence in G. I. Joe, a thirty-minute action cartoon that presents a daily battle between the individuals in a commando unit (the forces of good) and COBRA (the forces of evil). In this series violence and evil are ever present, threatening to overwhelm goodness and right. Each day COBRA, an organization that appears to operate freely all over the world, destroys defense installations, blows up power plants, attacks cities, or somehow challenges the ingenuity of G. I. Joe. The two sides have apparently fought to a stalemate. COBRA?s desire to rule the world is at the heart of the conflict. How COBRA started or how it is able to operate as freely as it does is never fully explained. In one episode, COBRA scientists discover a ?computer virus? that can destroy any computer in which it is placed. COBRA plans to insert this virus into all the police computers in the world to wipe out their records. The G. I. Joe commandos fight a pitched battle on the streets of Las Vegas and eventually find and destroy the virus in the computers of a resort hotel. As is the case with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, human beings are never killed or seriously injured, but the young viewers of the show must know, even though it is not shown, that many people are killed when lasers explode and buildings fail.
Violence on children?s television is the rule rather than the exception. Few shows, other than those on cable or public television, attempt to go beyond the simplistic formulas that cartoons follow. As a result, children are being shown that violence is superior to reason and that conflict and threats of violent death are normal conditions for existence. In addition, because human beings never get killed in these cartoons, children are encouraged to see war and fighting as harmless. Perhaps the recently convened government commission to study violence on children?s television will help end this situation, but until it does parents will continue to shudder each time their children sit down in front of television for a morning of fun.