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1968 Letter Decried too Much Violence on TV

On April 4th, 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Two months later (June 6th), Robert F. Kennedy was also shot and killed. That very day, TV writer Bill Bell penned an open appeal to the entertainment industry, asking them to consider the level of violence that his colleagues were portraying on television. On June 12th Bell took out a full-page ad in Variety, the industry's main publication, appealing for an end to violence. He continued:

"The time is now for our industry … to look deep within ourselves, recognize our responsibilities and take decisive steps to temper and hopefully eliminate violence from our programming." Bell argued that much onscreen violence was not simply gratuitous, but artistically bankrupt. "As a writer, I know that … you can have conflict without violence," he wrote (emphasis his). "And that invariably it is finer drama. I hope for your children and mine that this does not prove to be merely another cry in the wilderness."

Did we learn our lesson? Have we reduced the amount of violence we digest by watching violent media? Hardly. Recently, Time magazine ran an article titled "Serial Killing: How TV dramas, good and bad, have become addicted to blood." From the Walking Dead, to Game of Thrones, Sons of Anarchy, The Following, Breaking Bad, and Homeland, the Time article notes, "TV drama has been on fire lately. Literally." It's not just that there's too much violence on TV, but that it is all so mind-numbing and exhausting. The article argues, "Producers have decided that the best way to touch a viewer's heart is to rip it out and show it to him."

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