Thursday, February 9, 2012

If Movies Teach Violence, Do Books Make Us Thin?

Ever since I could remember I’ve heard “experts” say that mass media is destroying our culture, that TV and movies promote violence and promiscuity, and that we soon won’t know right from wrong as a result of video games and the media we consume.  However, there’s never been a definitive study that could prove our media caused bad behavior.  If our media was that powerful then in the era of goody TV like I Love Lucy we should have seen a society filled with peace and love.  We didn’t. The 50s had the Korean War, race inequity, female subjugation, and street gangs.

For all of the media out there – rappers objectifying women as bitches and ‘hos, movies depicting rape, murder, genocide, and corruption; video games focused on war; TV shows set in prison, war zones, and abusive homes; and news media that report every heinous crime in bloody detail – the society today is no more violent than prior generations.  In fact, we’re more peaceful.  Crime has trended downward.  The 60’s had race riots and the Vietnam War.  The 40s had the Holocaust and World War II.  One could argue that we have greater peace now than ever before.  Even the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t compare to our losses in earlier wars.  I think people can separate screen violence from reality, and I think the screen violence shows consequences that none of us would want to face, thus, serving as a deterrent.  Lastly, the dark side that resides in each of us is actually served when we view violence.  The viewing of it replaces our urge to live it.

But I wonder , since we are not influenced much by the violence we view, can books inspire us to do good things or change our lives?  The answer to that is hard to say but if all those diet books that are purchased are used properly, wouldn’t we all be thin?  Or  all those books telling us how to make millions in our sleep – shouldn’t we have cured poverty by now?

The truth is books and videos only influence us if that is what we want.  You want to lose weight, listen to the music from Rocky while you work out.  But you can also listen to it and eat Oreos and not feel moved to exercise.  Books and media only have the power we give them, or otherwise we’d all be skinny murderers.

Ready To Start A Book Publishing PAC?
For those who watch the humorous late night program The Colbert Show, you know that host Steve Colbert, in a bid for PR and to mock the political shenanigans of DC politics, had a PAC formed to advance his “Colbert for President” campaign.  Thought he ridicules how those PACs are formed, one point is clear:  They are expensive and powerful ways to influence elections and policies in this country.  Thought I’m opposed to the PAC system, while it exists I would support the formation of a PAC that supports the interests of the book industry.

The industry needs the support of the government and consumers in order to thrive.  More importantly, we need to promote literacy at a greater level and to a higher level.  Perhaps the fate of the book industry is connected to how literate our nation is.

It would be great if there was a lobby group looking out for the interests of the book industry – to protect bookstores, publishers, and authors over issues of censorship, literacy, fair competition, author rights, and piracy.  Right now there are different groups that try to act on each of these issues but we need a single group to wield some power nationally and locally.

Interview: YA Author Kimberly Dana

  1. What do you find rewarding and challenging about being an accomplished author? The reward is the challenge.  I think an author has to really embrace the process.  You write because you love to write and you couldn’t survive without writing.  I’m not going to lie – a little recognition is nice, but it’s the journey that counts.  And the journey isn’t over once you’re published.  Promotion takes a lot of time and work.  Fortunately, I love to promote!  The biggest reward – having a gap-toothed, five-year-old bellow, “I love your book!”  

  1. You are also a teacher, which ties into your recent book, Pretty Dolls (Tate Publishing, 2011). What message do you want to share with others? I recently interviewed on NBC about using my award-winning book Pretty Dolls as a character education tool.  I have been a teacher for about fifteen years and am a strong advocate of character education and anti-bullying.  Research shows a child is bullied every seven minutes and it starts in the primary and elementary years.  Our greatest defense is teaching empathy starting with quality literature.  By relating to fictional characters, such as Gracie in my picture book Pretty Dolls, kids learn empathy at a young age, which is the core to human social interaction.

  1. What is your upcoming book called? About? My soon-to-be-released YA book, Cheerage Fearage, takes place at Camp Valentine - a cheerleading camp with raging spirit.  It’s ten years after a popular girl’s bizarre death and the bloodthirsty pranks are going down at a hypnotic pace.  Enter Tiki Tinklemeyer my protagonist, an indentured servant to the geek label, who’s thrown into the middle of camp mayhem.  Not only is she out of her element spending a week with the micro-miniskirt V.I.P.’s, but now someone wants to kill her.  The book’s tagline would be Fly high and die!  Cheerage Fearage is published by Wild Child Publishing and a YA winner in the Writers Digest Writing Competition.   

  1. Any advice for struggling writers? I have a little list of five motivators I keep at my desk:

·         Find the uncommon in the common experience; find the common in the uncommon experience.      
·         Ask: How can I make things worse?
·         Plot must thicken, never thin. 
·         Give a character a secret, a quirk, bad habit, etc.
·         End each chapter with a bang. 

  1. Where do you see book publishing is heading? It’s an exciting time in book publishing.  I believe the industry’s business model will continue to change, as technology reshapes the way books are distributed and read.  Additionally, I think social media networking will become more important for an author’s success.  The publishers and authors who adapt to the digital age will survive and flourish. 

For more information, please consult: and her blog at

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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