I love Halloween.
Frankly, I’m a sucker for all holidays. I morph into an elf, obsessed with trees and twinkly lights at Christmas; an egg-hiding bunny on Easter; a jolly, green-garbed leprechaun on St. Patty’s Day. I’m all about themes and costumes and seasonal spirit.
And since Halloween is right around the corner, I’m totally immersed in all things ghastly and ghoulish. I’ve watched Hocus Pocus twice, stocked up on vegan candy and my Labyrinth-inspired costume is *almost* complete.
But despite my affinity for pumpkins and gravestones, I’m not into gore, violence or hackathons. And I actually think that stuff is pretty dangerous.
I’m not out to rain on anyone’s bloody parade, but Hostel-esque horror is damaging to our grey matter.
Plenty of people will tell you that there’s nothing wrong with (fictional) hard-core violence. They’ll tell you it doesn’t affect us, it’s totally harmless and HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST WE EASE UP ON THE GRAND THEFT AUTO?!
I would disagree with those people, and here’s why: our brains can’t really tell the difference between what’s actually happening and what’s imaginary. Obviously our conscious minds know the difference between a real-life massacre and the one playing out in Saw 18, but the physicality of our grey matter doesn’t. So biologically, our brains react to fictional bloodshed as though we were seriously witnessing it.
That can’t be good.
We know that stress and turmoil are bad for the brain. Research suggests being exposed to violence is, too — even when it’s fake. Here’s some proof:
A study by Indiana University’s School of Medicine found visible alterations in young men’s MRI brain scans after only one week of playing a violent video game, including significant decreases in the activation of prefrontal portions of the brain (dealing with concentration, decision-making and self-control) and a greater activation of the amygdala (the “emotion center” that can be the trigger for depression, anger and aggression.
The Macquarie University Children and Families Research Centre found that children who watch violent movies are more likely to view the world as unsympathetic, malicious and scary — which stimulates aggression.
In other words, violent “entertainment” isn’t so hot when it comes to our happiness. It’s hard to argue that increased aggression and decreased self-control are positive emotional states. Are violent movies bad for us? I vote yes.
So when it comes to media, I stick with what’s positive, uplifting and, well, happy. These things make me feel good. Violence makes me feel bad. Why would I choose the latter?
In the spirit of Halloween, I’m staying away from The Human Centipede and sticking with the Addams Family and Casper, instead. Feel free to join me. 😉