This Media Scare Book From 1988 Warns Scooby-Doo Leads to Gang Life
Your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from thrift stores, estate sales, and flea markets.
Horror and Violence: The Deadly Duo in the Media
Authors: Phil Phillips and Joan Hake Robie Date: 1988 Publisher: Starburst Inc.
Discovered At: Sunnyside Thrift Store, Queens
The Back Cover Asks: "Who are the 'killer dillers' and 'plasmic perverts' " targeting your kids?
The movie She-Ra: Princess of Power contained 59 violent acts per hour, including whipping people, flame throwing, gassing the enemy, kidnapping, knocking people out, slavery, using magic to control people's minds, paralyzing rays, attempts at mass destruction, and 33 attempted murders. (page 147)
The level of violence that MTV finds acceptable is extreme, as is shown by the Car's [sic] music video "You Might Think." (page 210)
Before digging into the full-on madness of Horror and Violence, let's allow the authors to tell us a little bit more about the terrifying violence the children of America once witnessed in that one Cars video:
In this video, a monster carries a woman away, uses a jackhammer to drill her tooth, climbs a building with the woman in tow and drops her from the roof. The monster runs over her with a car, and her head pops off.
That sounds like Last House on the Left multiplied by some snuff film — until you recall what that video actually looked like:
Yes, in 1988 evangelicals panicked because a Nagel painting climbed the Empire State Building.
So it goes in fear-profiteers Phil Phillips and Joan Hake Robie's Horror and Violence, a masterpiece of think-of-the-children concern-trolling — and almost certainly the book that taught thousands of kids never to believe anything adults say. "When you are watching MTV you are learning that it is nice to hang women by the wrists and beat them up while you sing," the authors tell us. That declaration distills their argument to its paranoid essence: The children of America, assaulted by media violence, lose their sensitivity to terror in the real world, which is why a "new breed" of "remorseless" juvenile murderer has taken to the streets.
Of course, crime rates in this country have dropped significantly since 1988, while media violence has kept right on keepin' on, even if in a bloodless, PG-13 sort of way. But don't think that means that the rhetoric of a book like this has dated. Consider Phillips and Robie's outraged write-up of Delta Force, that biggest and dumbest of all Golan-Globus productions:
They depict war incorrectly, as an exciting patriotic undertaking where Americans get the chance to prove that they are "real men" and kill enemy soldiers.
Marvel at how just a couple decades can scramble the terms of debate in America. Phillips and Robie's broadside against Chuck Norris's biggest hit sounds exactly like liberal complaints against American Sniper.
But don't worry, there's plenty here for everyone to laugh at. One choice complaint of the authors' is that our entertainment culture not only produces superpredators — it also teaches, through shows like Kate & Allie and Diff'rent Strokes — that there's no reason to believe in the traditional family, which tends to discourage all that murderin' kids are into. That's especially true in cartoons:
[In cartoons] we are more likely to see kids playing or sleuthing around in gangs, unsupervised. The gang may be a bunch of teenage kids (Scoobydoo [sic]), animals, or superhumans. Regardless of the humanness of the gang, the young audience for these shows is asked to identify with kids who travel in bands unsupervised, or to view gang behavior as a desirable way of life.
Credit where it's due: That is an entirely original argument. And what a badass gang the Mystery, Inc. kids must be — I mean, they've chosen to wear and defend every primary color there is.
As always happens in concerned parents' tracts against youth culture, the details of the culture under attack are never quite accurate. The authors seem convinced that She-Ra and the Joes were always cold murdering everybody:
War cartoons average approximately 80 violent acts per hour with an attempted murder every two minutes. Some of the most popular violent cartoons include G.I. Joe; Transformers; She-Ra, Princess of Power; He-Man and the Masters of the Universe; and Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. These cartoons show characters who enjoy repeated attempts to kill each other. Usually the character who is considered good is never harmed, whereas the bad guys are routinely killed off.
I don't know what's more bewildering: that the authors believe all those Cobra agents parachuting from their fighter jets died, or that adults with a publishing contract could commit a sentence atrocity like "These cartoons show characters who enjoy repeated attempts to kill each other." It's like Phillips and Robie found out on Monday that there's things called words and language, and then on Friday handed in the book's final draft.
Other thoughts from these sentence-mangling, Transformers-fearing, cartoon-misrepresenting hucksters:
The families that do appear in cartoons are either artifacts from a long time past (The Flintstones) or serve as a museum exhibit of the future (The Jetsons).
If all videos were as socially conscious as "We Are the World" (theme song for Live-Aid) or as benign as "All Night Long" (by Lionel Richie), the only problem with MTV might be that kids are spending too much time being "couch potatoes."
Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself" shows the star using electricity to blow people off a building.
Diet Coke uses the violent Remington Steele star Pierce Brosnan for its new ad campaign.
Even Herbie, the "lovable Volkswagen," careens into unoffensive citizens, demolishes property, and teaches our children to ignore rules, traffic lights, signs, and other evidences of restraint.
Here's their list of the most violent movies of 1987:
And here's a hilariously off-model doodle of He-Man and She-Ra, that Princess of Power whose movie had 33 attempted murders in it:
But I have a hard time believing that anything in the She-Ra flick — or even Death Wish 4 — is as disturbing as this illustration:
Important Question: When media violence sets the teakettle of our heads to boiling, who gets to drink the brain-tea that kettle spews?
It's easy to recognize Phillips and Robie as alarmist, exaggerating goofs today. What's heartening is that the book itself offers evidence that the kids of '88 weren't buying it, either. The first sign is here:
Yes, a previous owner of the book occasionally felt moved to fact-check its authors:
Sometimes he or she offered minor clarifications:
Sometimes that reader was amused:
Sometimes that reader was wry:
And, being young, once in a while that reader just shrugs and offers up the '88 equivalent of a "whatever," especially when things get a little awkward. Here's his or her response to a summary of the disturbing video games that all American kids were enjoying:
That last game, Beat 'Em & Eat 'Em, was not made up. Here it is:
But the fact that the kid doesn't seem to have known that exposes the authors' lie: They're presenting the most extreme examples as the norm, and even the Iron Maiden fan reading their book has no idea what the hell they're talking about.
That kid also disproves the nastiest assumption of the authors: that young Americans are passive lumps unable to think critically about the media forced on them. Good going, mystery kid! I can't imagine how many murders you've enjoyed in the last 27 years!
Finally, please note that their complaint above about the game Space Ace confirms that the authors are the original hater-feminist that Gamergaters believe have ruined all games forever for everyone. Bullshit 1988 book, I doxx thee!
(Click the kitties for many more Studies in Crap posts!)
Hey, you could do worse than following @studiesincrap on the Twitter thing.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.