Review of "Killing Monsters"

Killing Monsters, by Gerard Jones. ISBN 0-465-03695-3.

Are violent movies, cartoons, songs, and computer games turning our children into desensitized killers? Popular moral panic says yes; Gerard Jones says no. Jones's thesis is that, on the contrary, violent entertainment of all kinds helps children to deal with their feelings of anger and powerlessness; that they generally have absolutely no difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy; and that any correlation between violent entertainment and actual violence is because messed up, violent children are likely to turn to violent entertainment, not because violent entertainment makes children messed up or violent; and that, like it or not, children simply do like violence in their play and imagination, regardless of what they see on TV.

To an entirely uninformed reader like me, Jones makes quite a convincing case. None the less, I'm not wholly convinced, for reasons that are more to do with where his arguments and evidence come from than with their inherent strength or weakness (which I'm not well placed to evaluate). Specifically ...

Jones offers some suggestions for parents and (to a lesser extent) teachers wondering "how to help children use entertainment well". They seem like good suggestions to me, but I'm no more an expert now than I was a paragraph ago.

Whether Jones is an impartially astute expert on children's reactions to violent media or an industry shill, he's a pretty good writer. Killing Monsters is an enjoyable read, offering plenty of food for thought.

The book is decently designed, well footnoted and well indexed. The hardcover edition I read had something not quite optimal about its binding; the covers had a slight tendency to splay outwards.