Stop Blaming Hollywood for
Violent Behavior
Sarah Michelle Gellar, star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, says shows like
hers are scapegoats for society's ills.
This article was
taken in it's
entirety from the
March 2000 issue of
Cosmopolitan
magazine.
 On television, I slay vampires.  In movies, I've been killed by psycho stalkers.  And in one, I
was the psycho stalker.  As a result, I'm often asked if I believe that violence on TV and in films
encourages violent behavior.  The answer to that is tricky.
   I've thought about it a lot lately as we approach the one-year anniversary of the April 20
massacre at Columbine High School, in Colorado.  I was in Europe at the time of the shootings
and was constantly questioned as to how this could happen--as if by just being an American I
somehow had more insight or understanding into the senselessness of the tragedy.  Of course, I
did not.
"As an entertainer, my job is to tell a story, which may not always
mean taking the moral high ground."    
 When I returned home, I was shocked to find the finger of blame being pointed at the
entertainment industry.  President Clinton declared programs like
Buffy to be a bad influence on
the contry's youth.  Because of all the negative attention, not one but two episodes of my show
were pre-empted (they aired on later dates to critical acclaim).  In the first episode, entitiled
"Earshot," Buffy is cursed with the power to read minds.  She hears the voice of a tortured
student who she believes is going to attempt to kill his classmates.  She stops this student by
convincing him that he is not alone in his feelings of isolation, he is actually united with his peers
in the pain and struggle of adolescence.  She explains that the jocks who beat him up and the
cheerleaders who ignore him are just as scared as he is.
   The fact that this episode was scheduled to air the week after the Columbine incident and that
the story line so closely parallels the supposed motives of the real murderers is chilling.  
However, we were not only acknowledging the problem of social cliques but also demonstrating
that the solution is reaching out to people who are different from you. The second postponed
episode was about the graduating class banding together to fight a greater evil.  More precisely,
the students used medieval weapons to destroy a 100-foot computer-generated snake.  Not very
realistic, don't you agree?
   I've always felt that, as an entertainer, my job is to tell a story and make people feel things,
which may not always mean taking the moral high ground.  If a teenager can't discern right from
wrong or fiction from reality, I'm pretty confident that it has little to do with whether he or she
watches Buffy or plays aggressive video games and more to do with the fact that society has
failed to teach him or her how to make those distinctions.  It is my belief that our true life lessons
come from our parents and teachers--these are the people who have the most opportunity and
power to shape young minds.  In the bigger scheme of things, the role they play is much more
influential than the one I carry out on TV.            
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A note from the
webmistress of
this site - I agree
totally with Ms.
Gellar's view!