The Study of Man: Comic Books and Other Horrors
Crime is entertainment, and murder a Parlor game,” Viscount Samuel recently said of our times in an address before the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Judging by present-day books, radio, movies, and comics, it seems “as if we were all engaged in a slightly hysterical parlor-game, the object of which is to scare the living daylight out of the assembled company,” says J. Donald Adams, chronicler of literary tides in the New York Times Book Review.
Complaints of this sort are probably as old as art and entertainment themselves; what is undeniably new is the sheer expansion in the mass of entertainment by murder and violence that the last decade has produced. Since the entertainment industry aims to deliver to its market exactly what the consumers want, what they are willing to pay for, and what will win in the competition with other types of entertainment goods, does this quantitative increase in murder, crime, and agony as favorite contents of mass entertainment reflect a new desire of the people for descriptions of aggression, destruction, and death? The entertainment industry says yes, and cites fairly reliable and continuous scientific tests which have ascertained this mass preference; and it is increasingly engaged in satisfying this blood-and-guts taste by all the technological means at its disposal. Those given to alarm have two problems to concern themselves with—what ominous factors does this new trend signify and portend as to the character of the public mind today, and what further effect may this endless tidal wave of terror entertainment have on our national life?
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