Even for many die-hard fans of the long-running AMC drama, The Walking Dead, the gruesome violence of the Season Seven premiere, including the brutal deaths of two well-liked characters, proved to be too much to handle. According to one fan reporting afterward on social media, “I consider myself well versed when it comes to horror and violent movies and shows in general but this was just something else,” they wrote. “I found this episode a too disturbing even for TWD standards.” But other fans praised the opening episode and declared it to be one of the best ever seen on the show.
Media representations of violence are certainly common enough. According to some estimates, average television and movie viewer will have seen 20,000 violent deaths or more over the course of a lifetime. For many producers of movies and television, the shock value provided by violence often means increasingly graphic deaths to draw in viewers. Even in video games, we are seeing a rise in extremely violent content including games such as Manhunt in which players murder, maim, and torture victims to score points. Despite efforts to rein in violent content, including the use of rating systems to warn potential viewers, researchers are still concerned over the possible desensitizing effects of media violence and the impact it might have on aggression in the real world.
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.
One aspect of media violence largely neglected by researchers up to now deals with