Violence and the Entertainment Media
Columbine High School; Virginia Tech; Fort Hood; Tucson, Arizona; Aurora, Colorado; Sandy Hook Elementary School; Boston, Massachusetts; Santa Monica College…
These are only some of the biggest mass killings related to guns and explosives in the United States in the past few years.
When my debut thriller, Chain of Command, released a month before its scheduled release date last year on December 8, 2012, little did I know that in only a few days, a gunman would walk into an elementary school in Connecticut and fatally shoot twenty school children and six adult staff members. I happily celebrated my release, posting my book’s cover image all over social media and blog posts, reveling in the fact that real, live humans were finally reading my book.
Then, six days later on December 14, families were torn apart by a senseless act of violence, and I sat looking at my new book, its cover proudly showcasing the assassination scene the book’s premise is built on. But suddenly, the target caught in the crosshairs on my novel’s cover didn’t seem as perfect as it had a few days before. For the next several days, I asked myself some hard questions about violence in entertainment, and if it was possible that I could be contributing to a problem sweeping across our nation, even if only indirectly. That week I had a tearful discussion with my editor, terrified everyone would suddenly hate me and my book and everything it stood for. I told her how scared I was of being a part of some unidentifiable problem, because when I wrote about such things, it was purely for entertainment and not because I think gun violence is good or to be encouraged. I was a brand new mother. What if some kid out there was reading my material and thinking this was a good route to take to solve problems? What if my kid read my book and thought that? Grab a gun, and you’ll be okay…
My editor said something to me that has resonated with me since then, and it launched me into some deep thought, and ultimately, resolution about my feelings surrounding violence in entertainment.
She said, “Books don't cause tragedies, they simply reflect life.”
My new book, The Trade, is about a serial killer who cuts infants out of the bellies of pregnant women before ultimately killing the mothers, then sells the babies on the black market. Before the shooting in Connecticut, I was worried about what audiences would think about this premise. Pregnancies are considered sacred in many cultures, and people shy away from stories involving children in danger. If ever The Trade got published, would readers stay far, far away?
But now, after my editor’s words to me following the shooting in Connecticut, I don’t worry about it as much. I will always wonder if it’s possible that violence in entertainment contributes to violence in society, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized violence in books and movies shows up there because it happens in real life—not the other way around.
The killers in my books, like evil people in real life, don’t care if society thinks their crimes are heinous and unacceptable. The malevolent might discriminate amongst victims based on age or their family history, but the reality is, most don’t. Children were present during the Boston Marathon bombings, and a mother of two as well as a six-year-old little girl were amongst the Aurora shooting victims.
But surely children being killed isn’t entertainment to us…right? What does it say about us that we read, write, and watch these sorts of things? It’s a question I asked so many times, and finally, one day, I found my answer.
We do it because it gives us control over the outcome.
I write stories about bad, bad guys who often have no conscience and commit twisted crimes, but for every bad guy, there’s a good guy fighting back, which brings up a whole new question: since often my heroes or heroines fight back with weapons—sometimes guns—does that mean I support citizens snapping up guns to use any time they deem appropriate?
Honestly, I don’t know. I know in the books it feels right, but at the same time, I do have control over the characters, their actions, their aim, and their training. When you can control the thoughts surrounding when a weapon is fired and the person who is firing it, arming someone is infallible. They can only hit those you choose, their minds will be sound if you deem them so, they are safe while firing as long as you keep them that way, and they will only endanger others through their actions if you decide they will. Real people aren’t quite as fail-safe or predictable.
Then again, if I ever come face to face with one of the characters in one of my books, I’d sure feel better if a gun was between the two of us…as long as I was the one holding it.
Do you think violence in entertainment plays a part in the upswing of mass killings in our country? Do you think arming good characters versus arming good people in real life is the same or different? Why?
Reporter McKenzie McClendon is on the trail of her next hot story, tracking a sadistic serial killer known as The Cradle Robber. This brutal murderer preys on pregnant women, slicing their infants from their wombs, leaving the helpless women to die while he disappears with their babies.
The trade of innocents…
Jonas Cleary is out of options. McKenzie, his former sweetheart, is his last hope. Jonas believes his slain wife was The Cradle Robber’s first victim and that his son is still alive, lost in the underground world of the black market baby trade, where ruthless people are happy to prey on the desperation of those willing to pay any price to have a child, and infants are just another commodity.
Before another one dies…
Aided by former Navy SEAL Noah Hutchins and a clever FBI data specialist, McKenzie races to unravel the web of lies, drawing dangerously closer to the ruthless, brilliant surgeon at the heart of the maze. With a child’s future hanging in the balance, the lives of five people careen toward a terrifying collision. It’s up to McKenzie to discover which key will unlock the puzzle, and which will get her killed.
THE TRADE is currently available
on Amazon here: http://tinyurl.com/k4kxunv
Directly from the publisher with free worldwide shipping: www.stairwaypress.com/bookstore
Coming Soon on Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Sony, Kobo, and other major e-readers.
To learn more about Colby Marshall and her books, visit her website: www.colbymarshall.com
Watch the official book trailer for The Trade here: http://tinyurl.com/lqjcb8v
Follow Colby on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/colbymarshall
Like Colby on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorcolbymarshall
BIO: Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she is a perpetual workaholic. In addition to her 9,502 jobs, she is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. She is actively involved in local theatres as a choreographer as well as sometimes indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress. She lives in Georgia with her family, two mutts, and an array of cats that, if she were a bit older, would qualify her immediately for crazy cat lady status. Her debut thriller, Chain of Command is now available, as well as the second book in her McKenzie McClendon series, The Trade.