With the impending release of the latest installment of Grand Theft Auto, a game which has been mired in controversy since its original iteration in 1997, a national conversation regarding violence in the media will undoubtedly begin anew. For those unfamiliar with the game, it allows a player engage in a wide array of illicit activities and in general saturates the user with digital violence that opponents of violence in the media have pointed to as the decline of civilized entertainment that will eventually unravel our society unleashing a post apocalyptic wasteland of Thunderdome-esque proportions. Unlike the late 90s, however, statistical evidence has been collected demonstrating the exact opposite trend within American society. Simply put, criminal activity has decreased since 2002, even with all of the violence the average person is exposed to through entertainment media.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics released its annual report of criminal victimization for 2011 in October of 2012 and presents some clear findings on crime rates, namely a steady decrease in violent crimes and property crime. From 2002 to 2011 violent crime not including murder reported to the police dropped 32%, with violent crimes excluding murder not reported to the police but still occurring dropped 29%. Property crime, including motor vehicle theft, dropped 22% in reported crimes with a 15% drop thefts that took place but were not reported to the police. These statistics included victims ages 12 and older. These are incredibly strong downward trends indicating that violence in entertainment is not even remotely causing an increase in violent behavior within society.
Is violent media good for kids? Certainly not all subjects are appropriate for the very young, and entertainers have adopted rating systems to warn parents of potentially inappropriate content for just such a reason. However, to deny that violence is a part of our genetic and cultural history seems foolish and violent entertainment provides an outlet for people to explore their own nature. Ultimately, the increasing inclusion of violent content in media has not affected society in a negative way and will continue to play an important part in how we as a people tell stories worth hearing.