October theme: Animating Violence

Guest curated by: Rebecca Rose Stanton

Deadline for submissions: September 30, 2021

From the comedic cat and mouse fights in Tom and Jerry (1940) to the gory death scenes in Watership Down (1978), animation has famously, or perhaps infamously, featured violence in many different forms. Fighting and violence even make up the central premise of many animations, such as the ongoing battles between Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, or the over-the-top graphic violence in sitcoms such as Superjail! (2007-2014) and Rick and Morty (2013-present). Given its prevalence, it is perhaps not surprising that there has been fierce criticism aimed at animated violence. Scholars have long debated the real-life impact that depictions of violence may or may not have upon viewers, particularly children. For example, several studies have argued that animated violence may increase the chances of aggressive behavior in children (e.g. see Anderson et al., 2003; Bushman et al., 2006). Yet, despite such controversy, there is no denying the massive commercial success of such depictions, which is evident from video games such as Street Fighter (1987), Fortnite (2017), and Grand Theft Auto (1997).

Animation has even inspired its own form of violence, namely exaggerated violence that goes hand-in-hand with comedy, which is referred to as “cartoon violence”. However, whilst animated media has featured plenty of violence, just how reflective of reality is it? For instance, violence in animation is often sanitized. It rarely features blood or hospital visits. Additionally, despite the prevalence of animated violence, some forms of it, such as murder and rape, are rarely depicted. Why might this be? And, why is punching seemingly acceptable in animation yet sexual assault is not?

With this theme, Animation Studies 2.0 hopes to bring to the foreground the different ways in which animated violence has been depicted since its inception and the rationales behind these choices as well as their impact on audiences. Therefore, we invite posts looking at violence in animation from any perspective.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Graphic animated violence (e.g., Watership Down [1978], Superjail! [2007-2014], Another [2012]);
  • Violence in video games (e.g., Resident Evil [1996], Call of Duty [2003], Grand Theft Auto [1997]);
  • The relationship between humour and violence (e.g., Tom & Jerry [1940], Family Guy [1999-present], South Park [1997-present]);
  • The sanitization of violence in animated works (such as the lack of scars, blood, hospital visits, and so on);
  • Animated characters that are often violent (e.g., Woody Woodpecker or Popeye);
  • TV shows with violence as a recurring component (e.g., Batman: The Animated Series [1992], Kimba the White Lion [1965], or Dragon Ball Z [1989-1996]);
  • Violence in animation across cultures and/or time periods;
  • The impact of animated violence on children;
  • Violence as a resolution to conflict (Samurai Jack [2001-2005], Pokemon [1996-present]).

Posts of between 600 and 900 words, which discuss any aspect of the above topic are welcome. Contributors are encouraged to include clips and at least one image to support their posts. Please also include a short bio and 3 keywords. All permissions are the responsibility of the contributor. Please contact the managing editor Cristina Formenti (cristina.formenti@unimi.it) with submissions or questions.