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Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence Paperback – May 6, 2003

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Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence + The War Play Dilemma: What Every Parent And Teacher Needs to Know (Early Childhood Education Series (Teachers College Pr)) (Early Childhood Education (Teacher's College Pr))
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (May 6, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465036961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465036967
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Violent entertainment is good for kids, and demonizing it can do great harm to their emotional development, claims Jones (Honey, I'm Home!) in this provocative and groundbreaking work. Drawing on his experience as a parent and as a creator of children's cartoons, as well as interviews with dozens of psychologists and educators, Jones forcefully argues that violent video games, movies, music and comics provide a safe fantasy world within which children learn to become familiar with and control the frightening emotions of anger, violence and sexuality. He debunks studies linking violent media with violence in society and argues that children clearly understand the difference between pretend and reality. Providing realistic and helpful advice, Jones says parents need to learn to differentiate between what violent games mean to children and what they mean to adults, and to stop imposing their understanding of them on children. Adults may be horrified at the literal meaning of a video game, but children are far more interested in its emotional meaning; "through identifying with a fantasy figure who displays intense sexuality, wields destructive power, and exudes heroism, kids can help themselves feel more control over these forces." Jones speaks to adult fears of the power of popular culture and cautions that "entertainment has its greatest influence when it's speaking to something that isn't otherwise being addressed in a child's life." To lessen the impact, adults should "model nonaggression, empathy, respect, a clear distinction between fantasy and reality, and the integration of aggression and other scary feelings."
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Jones's thesis is straightforward: the violence in popular culture is to be embraced rather than feared. In his estimation, it provides a vehicle for objectifying the volatile emotions that young people already experience, presents an opportunity to learn control and to experience power in a culture that perpetuates the helplessness of children and adolescents, and affords a sense of community for those whose limited social skills often result in alienation and loneliness. Adult objections to popular culture violence, the author says, result from failing to recognize that the constructs are fantasy and not asking children about the appeal of action figures, comic books, video games, and rap music. Rather than provide a sequence of logical arguments, Jones uses the 13 chapters to repeat variations on his themes. Employing both anecdotes from his own experience and those of other professionals, and drawing upon existing scientific research, he debunks the "prevailing wisdom" that directly correlates the viewing of violence with violent behavior. Although not an academic, the author has done his homework. He presents his case convincingly, and the concluding notes provide support. Killing Monsters belongs on public library parent shelves and in collections that support teacher training, library science, and the communication arts.
Sue Burgess, Framingham State College, MA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Read the book before you write a review!
Jane Ritchie
I've never read a book that was more obviously by someone who cares about kids--and knows how to listen to them!
Sarah Houghton
There are a lot of parents like myself that were raised around video games and violent movies.
JR Hubbard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By JR Hubbard on January 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I recently stumbled across this book while shopping at a bookstore, and it came at a perfect time. I have a 3-and-a-half year old son that enjoys some shows that some people feel are not appropriate for young children. Shows like Power Rangers (his all-time favorite), Pokemon, and a few others.
My son goes to a Montessori School, and we have always been quite happy with him there. One day, the head of the school pulled my wife aside and said we have a problem with my son's behavior. She stated that he was showing "aggressive behavior" and that he was the ring leader of a handful of kids that had the same problem. Our first reaction was shock and a fear that we were bad parents. Coming from someone who deals with kids all the time, you feel they would know what's best. She said that the shows he was watching were causing the problem, and that we should not let him be involved in watching those shows. That's when I started thinking about it. I asked her the next time I saw her to define aggressive behavior. She said that my son and his friends would play fight and do karate on each other. I asked if he actually ever hit anyone, and she said no. I also asked if anyone was ever hurt or if they took the playing beyond just playing. She had no answer. I even asked if they took turns winning and she said yes, and that was part of the problem!
This is when I found Killing Monsters, and I am so glad I did. The things it talks about directly related to me and my relationship with my son. I love when he watches Power Rangers, and puts on every article of clothing he owns to enhance his powerful character. He walks through the house as though he could conquer anything!
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Deborah Luepnitz on May 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a psychotherapist and medical school professor, I speak regularly with parents who worry about their kids' taste in entertainment. I have commiserated with them often. After all, weren't the Columbine shooters obsessed with "Doom" and similar fare? Don't images create possibilities? Gerard Jones argues against the prevailing belief that fantasy violence makes kids violent. Close study of the literature shows that teens who watch the most violent entertainment actually commit fewer serious crimes. And among the 18 boys who perpetrated school rampages in recent years, the majority showed no interest in games. Instead of asking the unanswerable: "How does violent entertainment affect kids?" Jones poses 2 more interesting questions: Why do they love what they love? and: What is the place of fantasy violence in a world that condemns it in reality? He uses his teaching experiences and 30 years of social science research to show how children use make believe to master fears and experiment with feeling strong. In "Girl Power" Jones contends that just as girls used to identify with male fantasy figures, boys are now identifying with Lara Croft and other super-heroines. In a culture in which the male imaginary has been standard--something to which girls and women needed to accomodate--this expanding set of possibilities for kids is no small triumph. While the book is targeted to parents, it's also a solid piece of scholarship, and the author is obviously as comfortable with Freud and Bettelheim as he is Batman and Mega Zords. A fine cultural critique informs his argument. ("We don't ask whether game shows predispose our children to greed or love songs to bad relationships." "Killing MOnsters" made me think of James Joyce's hearing the word "imagination" as "the magic nation" (in "Finnegan's Wake.") Gerard Jones reminds us that we're all permanent citizens of that vast and weird republic, sometimes for worse, but much more often for better.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By michaela824 on June 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I first heard of this author on a radio interview. I was intrigued by what he said, but what truly struck me was the interviewer's comment afterward; he said, in effect, that all our previous efforts to deal with the power of media and violence in children's lives haven't worked but "maybe this guy has the answer." That caught my interest, because I see so many problem-solving efforts in modern America trapped in fruitless conflicts between two sides (liberal v. conservative, free speech v. watchdogs). Two sides more invested in continuing the conflict and placing blame than making any real change. Until someone steps up with a new solution that pulls together the strengths of both sides and moves the discussion forward.
My interest and hopes were very well borne out by the author's book. I don't like violent media, and I'm inclined even after "Killing Monsters" to believe that it has many negative influences on our society. What Gerard Jones makes clear, however, is that simply asserting its negative effects with increasing anger and fear does do good for anyone. Young people interpret attacks on their popular culture as attacks on them, and so they become only more defensively attached to what we criticize. Censorship is problematic because the young people most fascinated by something forbidden will be the very ones to find it anyway; and, as Jones shows well, if it is forbidden they will be unable to discuss it openly with adults but will identify with a subculture that makes that media its core. "Overidentify" is a word Jones uses several times to describe the conditions that lead to a negative reaction to media.
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