Video Games, Movies, and Respect for Human Life

My favorite kind of movies are action movies. I also believe in the inherent value of every human life. And I think those two things may be incompatible.

Photo by Josh Hild from Pexels

Why do I say that? There is a theme I have noticed which constantly surfaces in our modern action movies: an unspoken assumption that there are lives that matter and there are lives that do not. 

Take your average (or not-so-average) superhero movie: innocent bystanders can be killed with reckless abandon, whole cities can be wiped out in one scene, but it doesn’t really matter, as long as the main characters aren’t harmed. 

Do those “minor” deaths actually affect the heart of the story at all? Let’s be honest. They do not. 

Our hero’s girlfriend dies? 

Extensive grieving. 

A whole building full of people gets blown up? 

Well. They were all just extras anyway. 

Thus a perverted mentality is introduced into the mind of every single viewer – that as long as it isn’t someone we care about, it doesn’t matter whether they live or die

When we go from action movies to violent video games (like “Call of Duty” or “Grand Theft Auto”) the effect is even worse.

Now we aren’t just watching people on a screen be killed – we’re doing it ourselves.

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What good could it possibly do us to practice killing people for fun? What good mental habits or mindsets will that cultivate in us? It seems very likely to me that every time we shoot at a computer image of a person with the intent to kill them we deaden our sense of the value of human life and the real consequences of our actions. 

Sure, they aren’t real people, and we aren’t shooting real bullets, but again, that comes back to this subtly ingrained idea that as long as we don’t know them and they don’t mean anything to us, their death doesn’t matter.

That is not a mentality which will build a culture of respect for all life.

I’m not saying we all need to stop watching action movies – mostly because I’m not sure I could do that myself. Maybe violent video games could go, but I say that as a non-gamer, so I’m really not equipped to make that judgment. I am saying, however, that we need to become aware of this subtle increeping of the culture of death and that we need to find some way to combat it in ourselves.

In Ch. 2 of the Certified Training Program, WYA members read the words of Mahatma Ghandi: “All our activities should be centered in Truth. Truth should be the very breath of our life…There should be Truth in thought, Truth in speech, and Truth in action.” 

As people who believe in the undeniable value of every human life, is watching violent movies and playing violent video games helping us to authentically live this truth?

And if not, what are we going to do about it?

Published: August 26, 2021
Written by Marietta Mortensen, a Batch 2 2021 WYA North America intern