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The GEM Debate: Is The Entertainment Industry To Blame For Student’s Rampage?

The GEM Debate:
Is The Entertainment Industry To Blame For Student’s Rampage?

We are all shocked and disturbed by Elliot Rodger’s horrific shooting rampage last Friday. Rodger left behind a 141-page manifesto (which I have not read) where he expresses anger and rage toward popular teenagers and pretty blonde women. He also had some bizarre views about sex and people of color, though he was half-Asian himself. One of the more disturbing and prescient statements he directed toward women was, “I do not know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it.” Girls are supposed to be attracted to him? What a sense of entitlement.

Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday picked up on Rodger’s mental illness and wrote an opinion piece in which she says that his delusions “were inflated, if not created, by the entertainment industry he grew up in. She further states: “For generations, mass entertainment has been overwhelmingly controlled by white men, whose escapist fantasies so often revolve around vigilantism and sexual wish-fulfillment (often, if not always, featuring a steady through-line of casual misogyny). Rodger’s rampage may be a function of his own profound distress, but it also shows how a sexist movie monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike.

“How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like Neighbors and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of ‘sex and fun and pleasure’? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, ‘It’s not fair’?”

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I’m not here to defend Hollywood or Judd Apatow. He and Seth Rogen and their fans are doing a fine job of that on Twitter and in comments sections. I am here to offer my opinion that Hornaday’s argument doesn’t go far enough in placing the blame with the person who perpetrated the crimes.

It is true that the music, movies, and other forms of entertainment we consume have an effect on us. Sometimes we’re not even aware of its pull and we can’t always see a direct cause and effect correlation between a person’s actions and a movie they viewed. Hornaday’s point that “men in the movie world…don’t care to listen to feminist criticism, and treat the intensely gendered nature of mainstream entertainment as a neutral or natural fact with no significant consequences” is a good one that is worthy of discussion, but it got lost in going after a specific movie and a specific person.

All forms of media can be a source of good or a function of evil, depending on the person consuming it. It just doesn’t go far enough to blame movies, music, video games, or books for someone’s feelings of inadequacy. Movies did not create Elliot Rodger (although some people may argue the opposite because his father is a director and cinematographer). He was mentally ill and while I don’t know if he was receiving treatment, I hesitate to blame that. No, I blame him because he was the one who chose his actions. We may never get to the root cause of why he chose to kill, but to put the blame on an entire industry strips people of their personal responsibility and disconnects them from their humanity.


What do you think? Is the entertainment industry at least partially responsible for this and other reprehensible actions? Share your thoughts below.


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