thoughts about a documentary about school shootings.

sugarmagnolia's picture

So today I was watching this documentary about child killers, mainly about situations like Columbine. They focused on Gothic teens and the possibility that media influences such as Marilyn Manson may have triggered these violent acts. While watching this documentary, I noticed several common factors, aside from violent video games and tyupes of music, that these teenagers had in common. In the documentary, each case occured in a seemingly perfect town, often somewhere in the Bible belt, and in a small, close knit community. The other common factor that I noticed was that all the kids had very easy access to guns. And I don't mean, oh, it's nyc, we keep a gun to protect ourselves (which doesn't even work out well) I mean huge racks of large rifles.

The towns seemed to have almost a caste system among the students, which even authority figures endorsed. The jocks and academic types were the most popular, and then there'd be two or three kids, the "gothic teens" that everyone else stigmatized and mocked. Even at home, their families were often extremely religions, often frowning on everything about their child, rather than just inappropriate behavior. The children also had a sense of entitlement. Materialistically, they had almost everything they wanted, including the violent music, videos, and games that many people bleme, yet at the same time, they were often ignored, spending hours alone because they were different, and left feeling like they had no one they could confide in.

Easy access to guns was another concern. One part of the documentary talked about a father who found out his only son had killed himself while he was away on business. The father returned home and found what he believed to be the cause of his suon's suicide in his cd player, a Marilyn Manson album. While he was saying this, they were filming him in front of a large rack of rifles. Psychological studies have shown that exposre to a gun, even one that's simply present, and not being used, increases indviduals' feelings of violence. At the same time, studies about the media's influence on teens has been inconclusive. After the shooting in Little Rock, Marilyn Manson canceled the part of his tour in that area, stating that the people there "had had enough". The National Rifle Association, on the other hand, did not, and went ahead with a rally they'd planned.

Obviously it's not a single factor that causes a student to bring a gun to school and target their classmates, there's a combination of psychological, environmental, and possibly even biological factors, however the needed actions are not being taken. Rather than looking for concrete evidence as to what risk factors should be adressed, parents and politicans and other concerned members of society argue about whether to blame the media and the gothic subculture, or the parents of the teens for the violent actions. Society needs to take steps to support diversity, schools should encourage students to reach out to each other, and should have more than the flimsy anti-bullying programs that everyone mocks anyway. High school and middle school students should have easier access to school counselors, and should be made more aware of other resources that can help them. As a society, we set the example that violence is the answer. We are currently at war, and the United States is the only western country that still uses the death penalty. We've only recently stopped sentencing minors to the death penalty. Our president as govenor of texas has sent the mentally ill and retarded to their death. We need stricter gun laws and we need to make more effort to be openminded, rather than taking the easy way out and simply condemning the 'gothic subculture' and hoping that action will solve society's problems.

Above all, we need to spread the message that high school is not forever, life does get better, and even if individual towns aren't diverse, the world is.


the mouse that roared's picture

very true

Though I wonder if it was a bit of media stereotyping to have only Gothic kids in bible-belt towns doing the shootings? I mean, that situation isn't the only one in which kids are unhappy.

I'm all for getting rid of guns altogether, maybe going back to the Stone Age when all you could do was throw pebbles at each other. But then I'm a bit of a peacenik, so what can I say...

Are you hanging on to something useless just because you think it's beautiful?
--William Zinsser

sugarmagnolia's picture

well, those are the school sh

well, those are the school shootings that get large media coverage, anyway. i mean, i know there are shootings among teens in ny, but nobody makes a big deal of those because it's not in the picture perfect close knit community. and it's not carried out in the same way, i've never heard of just one or two kids in the city shooting at all their classmates and teachers. i think in many other situations unhappy kids have other outlets for their feelings, where in places similar to little rock, there's more pressure to conform to a specific set norm.

"freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"

Disney's picture


The documentary really could have been some propaganda at it again, but I agree with you're last paragraph about the problems with school bullying and stimatism and society as a whole and it's usual lack of support for diversity. Sometimes I think we as human beings are so wrong in so many ways. It's almost and really is in a lot of ways a mistake that we are as smart as we can be, and can be as cruel as we are. The earth is beneath us now and knowledge is something we bask in and act all-knowing of, yet billions of our race are suffering and we're facing overpopulation, our planet is in jeapordy and we've wiped out MILLIONS of things now.

Anyway, tangent aside, I think that you're 100% right about the flimsy anti-bullying programs and that they're mocked. The commercials really make me laugh to be honest, but I guess in some ways being different makes you more prone to spotting flaws in others or subconciously you're trying to prepare a defense/comeback against anyone who might attack you as you might always fear. The bullying programs aren't the key, the key is to actually have teachers do something when someone is being name-called or kids are tossing around how 'gay' or 'faggy' stuff is. It's more about the obvious trobuel-makers being punished and really making them learn something, rather than just having them come back and have more reason to hate someone, or provide more fuel for everyone else's fires against the different person.

In Canada I think we're a lot better off in mutliculturalism, but in my own school very near Toronto which is a real gay Meca, every damn kid says 'gay' on a daily basis. They don't even realize how bad it sounds and what they're saying. They say they don't have anything against gays, and sort of ignore the little homophobic-free zone signs the school board has made our schools put in some rooms. It's just sad really. IMO the problem starts at home and the parents are probably going to get mad at their kid for getting into trouble for bullying someone, or encourage it; and if they get mad then they should look at what the hell they've taught their kid, because look at what goes on in today's schools on a global level and you'll see a lot of parents may love or nurture their kids, but they're either prejudiced themselves or haven't taught their kids NOT to be which is what matters.

I forget the statistic but there's a lot high percentage of homosexual teens that commit suicide vs. straight ones, for obvious reasons. Sometimes I want to punch people in the face too, or can imagine shooting them or something, which is disturbing but honestly I don't doubt that in present day most people have had such thoughts and some just foster them more as they get bullied or ignored or more fed up and that leads to shooting.

-J, boy, gay and 16 all the way. Just not out to anyone yet. I guess my sig could use some work.

sugarmagnolia's picture

yeah, i've always been one to

yeah, i've always been one to mock the anti-bullying programs because they don't actually acomplish anything. it's so strange how we target those who are different from ourselves.

"freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"