Does Steampunk Promote Violence?
In the wake of the trial of George Zimmerman and the verdict, which was disheartening and disappointing for many – not me, I expected it to go just the way it did, but that’s another story, for another time – we feel a desperate need to know why, so we can understand how – how can we keep this from happening again? When someone shoots up a school, a mall, office building, or a child many of us blame lax gun laws, and recommend those laws become stricter. Others blame it on cultural factors – violent video games and films have sickened our culture, glorifying wanton violence and desensitizing our youth to its effects.
So, where do we draw the line?
Do we wrest firearms from the cold, dead fingers of the American public (and they will, most certainly, have to be dead because people are not just giving up their guns in the U.S. of A)?
Do we wrest wireless controllers from the sweaty, dead palms of the players of Call of Duty, and Halo (and they will, most certainly, have to be dead because game geeks are not giving up their COD)?
Should we ban violent films and books like Braveheart or Homer’s Iliad? Should we edit out the kills from Shakespearean plays?
In truth, violence is a great – perhaps the great – staple of the entertainment industry.
We gorge ourselves on violence in television shows, novels, films, sporting events and video games, but a half century search for real-world consequences of violence in the media has found no conclusive evidence of any link. Hundreds of millions of people watch violent television and play violent games and never develop the slightest urge to kill.
Most Steampunks and Steamfunkateers insert their personas into imaginative scenarios in which they play the role of a hero who bravely confronts the forces of chaos and destruction. When we play most video games, role playing games or cosplay we aren’t training to be mass murderers or serial killers; we are emulating the good guy who races to place himself between evil and its victims.
The same applies when we engross ourselves in more traditional fiction formats like film, television, and novels.
Almost without exception, when the villain of a story kills, his violence is condemned. When the hero kills, that kill is righteous. Fiction preaches that violence is only acceptable under defined circumstances – to protect the good and the weak from the evil and the strong. What Steven King says of horror stories in his book, Danse Macabre, applies to all forms of imaginary violence: “The horror story, beneath its fangs and fright wig, is really as conservative as an Illinois Republican in a three-piece pinstriped suit…It’s main purpose is to reaffirm the virtues of the norm by showing us what awful things happen to people who venture into taboo lands. Within the framework of most horror tales we find a moral code so strong it would make a Puritan smile.”
Resist the urge to find and torch a scapegoat – whether in the entertainment industry or the gun lobby.
And remember that the portrayal of heroes armed with steam-powered rifles, aether pistols, or gear-driven retractable claws are just portrayals. We Steampunks and Steamfunkateers are – in general – friendly, mannerly and relatively sane.
Now those anime cosplayers? They’ll kill ya’.
Just kidding! *looks around nervously for a teenager with disheveled blue hair and a wildly oversized sword*