Slender Man is a terrifying figure despite his humble beginnings as an internet meme, scaring audiences who play his games and read read his literature. His virtual presence has inspired hilarious reactions to Let’s Play videos, but some of Slender Man’s followers turned his story in to a reason to commit crimes. Now, groups from law enforcement to the mass media is sorting out who is to blame for violence attributed to this fictional figure.
One of the most well known Slender Man inspired attacks occurred in May, when two Wisconsin middle school girls claimed their action of stabbing a classmate 19 times was their way to become proxies of the fictional character they read about.
The most recent case of violence connected to the fictional character has not been confirmed yet by law enforcement who are investigating the case. This latest case involves a 14-year-old girl in the Tampa, Florida area arrested Wednesday for arson and attempted murder.
According to investigators, the girl set her house on fire while her mother and brother were sleeping inside. Before lighting the flammable mix she created, the girl wrote uncanny journal entries and sent her mother text messages.
The girl expressed remorse for her actions during interrogation, but she also revealed she turned to the Slender Man literature after past bullying and her mother’s method of discipline. What is more concerning than the stabbing and arson is the reaction to literature. According to a story by WTSP in Tampa, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said he wants parents to be conscious of Slender Man literature and other related content.
Both of these cases have connections to bigger social issues such as accessibility to weapons, bullying, and (potential) child abuse, yet the number one concern is the consumption of fictional content created for leisure without any malicious intent?
The attacks against characters created by the comic and video game industries need to stop being a scapegoat to bigger social issues. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which became included in the American Psychological Association’s database, video games and their content do not cause aggression and violent actions. Smilier studies by the University of Oxford and University of Rochester only validate the result.
The culture behind Slender Man is socially constructed, and it’s violent interoperation is even smaller than the culture. Over 2 million people have downloaded the game, a Kickstarter page has received over $10,000 to fund a Slender Man film, and millions more read fan fiction on the mysterious character across the internet. If Slender Man truly inspired violence, something the creator did not intend, there would be many more acts of violence attributed to this fictional character.
While Slender Man is relatively new on the video game and fictional character timeline, the idea of attributing violence to comics and (specifically) video games is not. Shortly after school shootings and the “hot coffee” Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas mod, a group of senators lead by Hillary Clinton set out to hold the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) accountable for failure to enforce their rating system.
“A majority of parents are feeling increasingly victimized by a culture of violence that makes it difficult to protect their children against influences they find to be inappropriate,” Clinton’s statement on the Family Entertainment Protection Act said.
One of the biggest changes included in the act included the introduction of an Everyone 10+ (E10+) rating. But did the E10+ rating stop the association between video games and violence? The answer is no.
When the media began discussing Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooter responsible for killing 27 people (20 of them children), the conversation included information on “violent” video games he played. Included in the list of games he frequently played such as Grand Theft Auto IV and Metal Gear Solid was, of all games, Dance Dance Revolution.
f families, investigators, watchdog groups, and senators are to learn anything from fictional video game and comic characters, it’s that they should be looking at social topics bigger than consumer entertainment and literature.