In light of today's tragedy in Colorado, some will ask whether violence in America takes place because Hollywood has desensitize many Americans to extreme forms of cruelty. The Telegraph's resident movie critic, Jenny McCartney, argued this in 2008:
Is there a link between screen violence and actual violence? Fans of violent films will tell you – frequently in the most aggressive terms – that there is not. Yet we know that children are, to greater and lesser degrees, highly imitative of what they see. We know that there is escalating public concern about violent crime, particularly knife crime, among teenagers.
And we know that entertainment aimed at young people is becoming markedly more violent. My generation was terrified by the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; the current one is diverted with torture and agonising death.
Little boys have always played with swords and guns. But they did not always play at beating a prisoner's genitals with a rope, or stitching a live bomb inside a man's stomach. For that innovation we must thank Hollywood, the industrious factory of dreams, now frequently devoted to churning out nightmares.
The poet WB Yeats once wrote, "In dreams begins responsibility", yet Hollywood will never take responsibility for its most brutal dreams so long as the paying public still flocks to the theatre of cruelty.