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Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence
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Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  377 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
Children choose their heroes more carefully than we think. From Pokémon to the rapper Eminem, pop-culture icons are not simply commercial pied pipers who practice mass hypnosis on our youth. Indeed, argues the author of this lively and persuasive paean to the power of popular culture, even trashy or violent entertainment gives children something they need, something that c
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 6th 2003 by Basic Books (first published 2002)
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Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 02, 2011 Mike (the Paladin) rated it liked it
Originally reviewed in Dec. 2011. Updating to correct a couple of typos Nov. 2012.

I've read on this subject often. As noted before I grew up in the '50s and had dozens of cap guns. I sported "Fanner Fiftys" (yes I know it should be "fifties" but the "Fanner Fifty" was a trademarked product of Mattel) in the "Two-Gun" rig. I had the Buffalo Hunter set that came with a six-gun, a Winchester that shot "Shootin' Shells" and came with a plastic skinning knife, complete with stag horn grips on pistol
Margaret Robbins
Sep 17, 2015 Margaret Robbins rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a fascinating work of research, nonfiction, and experience about comics and fantasy stories! Gerard Jones definitely did his homework, and his past experiences as a comic writer, teacher/workshop presenter, parent, and fan give him a lot of credibility. I appreciate the book's distinction between exposing children to weapons and allowing children to play with toy weapons, such as water guns, toy swords, and action figures. Play, along with the reading of fantasy and comics, allows chil ...more
Karen Brooks
May 31, 2011 Karen Brooks rated it really liked it
This is a terrific book that puts in sensible perspective irrational adult fears around kids and their play. Jones asks the question, why do so many healthy (psychologically and physically) 'normal' kids like fantasy violence and imaginary rough play so much? It's a great question which he then explores examining a range of pop culture forms from films, TV shows, video games and toys - from Star Wars to Harry Potter.
Fantasy is about escaping the strictures and controls of everyday life and captu
Ashanti Miller
Jul 25, 2011 Ashanti Miller rated it liked it
The book has a good premise and setup, but I am getting bored as the author reiterates the same information and over and over. I am reading this book to understand my industry better. I work as an animator and since the early 2000's the stories have focused on themes that concern boys. I am perplexed with the attraction to violence--especially explosions and wimpy heroes. This book is a window into young male psyche.

According to the author, boys need a fantasy monsters to conquer because they ca
Aug 03, 2011 Tina rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This was an interesting read. I don't have kids, but it sounded like a good book nonetheless and I'm glad I read it. It actually gave me a unique perspective on why I liked the things I liked when I was a child and I can appreciate them in a different light.

Good discussion on how media is an outlet and how we need fantasy, even into adulthood. I especially liked his discussion of video games since I find gaming a perfect outlet for negative emotions. An artificial environment where one can shoot
Dec 04, 2011 Andrea rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book for parents, psychology students, and teachers. I'm not even going to try to sum this book up in a few lines, because it is just that good. Suffice to say that it really put my mind at ease about my son's fascination with GI Joes and "war stuff" like military aircraft books. It is even applicable to those interested in sociology in that our fascination with these things as children continues into adulthood. It is a part of our society. I did a report on this book for ...more
Sep 22, 2011 Ben rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
While the intention of this book is to explain and explore the value of different types of violent entertainment for kids, I ended up gaining insight into myself. As Jones discusses the ways kids use violent entertainment to safely explore their own violent feelings, to find a sense of control in a chaotic and out of control world, to relieve stress in a risk free environment, I found myself realizing why I had been (and still am) drawn to this type of entertainment. Like almost everyone, there ...more
Jun 09, 2010 Claudia rated it it was amazing
This book is an absolute must-read for anyone with kids, especially for those of us who have loudly proclaimed that they will never let toy guns in the house. The author shows how pretend violence is a vital tool for children to work out their fears, and that repressing all violent thoughts and urges is likely to do more harm than good.
Scott Robins
Started out interesting but felt it was saying the same things over and over again. Moved beyond what I had expected the book to be.
Julia Erlanger
Aug 20, 2014 Julia Erlanger rated it really liked it
This book is a personal reading choice, recommended by an LIS professor and friend, and NOW SUPER FAMOUS COMICS RESEARCHER WHOOOOOOOO *applause*, Carol Tilley. She said on Twitter that she wished everyone would read this book and stop freaking out over kids running around playing “pretend we’re the good guys and you’re the bad guys and we kill you” games. So I read it.

Killing Monsters: Why Kids Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence, is ten years old, but perhaps even more relevan
Aug 18, 2008 Jamie rated it liked it
The full title of the book here is Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence, and in it author Gerard Jones works out a thesis that exposure to violence --especially fantasy violence-- is not unhealthy to children, but actually critical to proper emotional, social, and mental development. It's the inverse of the "violent media makes violent kids" angle that most of us are used to hearing, and it's fairly interesting.

Basically, Gerard's book boils down t
Pete Welter
Aug 25, 2012 Pete Welter rated it really liked it
While I never bought into the "violent media makes all kids violent" idea - conflicting research and too many counter-examples - Jones explores the topic in great depth. It definitely expanded my thinking on the topic, moving me from the "it doesn't hurt anything" to an appreciation of the important function of make-believe violence in kids' development. There's a reason make-believe violence is universal and timeless, and it's not just entertainment.

One of his major points is that as adults, we
Aug 14, 2008 Jeremy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Gaming parents
Violent games, movies and comics are good for children according to the author of Killing Monsters, Gerard Jones, and blaming it for problems can affect emotional development. I'm not sure about the being good for children part, but he makes a good case for the importance of this type of thing while they are growing up. His biggest reason is that fantasy in media is a safe place for kids to learn how to deal with violence, fear and the emotions that go along with it. When they encounter these ty ...more
Mar 05, 2013 Winddancer rated it liked it
Still reading, but so far rather compelling arguments for make-believe violence in children's play and lives. My only question for this book so far is that, early on the author makes a point that the violence in media isn't all appropriate for every child, but it's not clear to me how that is supported through the chapters so far. A lot of what the author proports makes sense, though, especially as I see kids play with things they can't control or are afraid of. Play makes these big scary feelin ...more
Carol Mann Agency
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 famil
I'm not 100% sure how to feel about this book. Many sections do feel right on, speaking about the usefulness of violent and intense entertainment as catharsis for children. This calls all the way to Plato vs. Aristotle where Plato wanted to ban entertainers from his utopian Republic because they might give the populace dangerous ideas and Aristotle supporting katharsis (in the Greek).

Was I injured by my mother's "no guns" policy? I certainly worked around it... 1 squirt gun per summer meant I go
This is a great book about the fantasies and stories that help children grow up and make sense of both the world around them as well as their feelings about it. I love how Jones weaves his own experiences as a dad, storyteller and researcher together with scientific studies and other people's anecdotes. His arguments are convincing and easy to follow and while I don't have kids I could find many parallels to my own childhood and see how this book can be very useful to parents and people who work ...more
Kathryn Thompson
Apr 07, 2009 Kathryn Thompson rated it really liked it
This is the book that made me chill out about Dan playing Call of Duty and the kids wanting to play "Bad Guys." He does a good job of digging into the studies that warn against media violence and explaining the way they were conducted and how the research isn't always what it seems.

I was really skeptical to read this book because I thought it was Dan trying to justify letting the kids play with wooden swords. It sort of was but I find that I agree with him. Fantasy violence (to an extent) helps
Apr 04, 2011 Jamie rated it liked it
You can't expect to agree with everything in a book like this, and I didn't. I needed to read on this topic, though, and I think I'll continue to do so. I would recommend this book to all parents with children entering their preschool years, but especially for parents who were like me- uncomfortable with toy weaponry, rough and tumble play, or the negative emotions their children are exploring. Reading Jones' perspective definitely helped me work through that.

Though this book helped me come to t
Frank Jude
May 01, 2013 Frank Jude rated it really liked it
This is a really good, thought-provoking and necessary book! Jones goes beyond the superficial surface that most discussion or rather knee-jerk debating about media and media portrayals of violence generally skim! He makes many important points, but two that particularly resonated with me is when he points out that adults, anxious about violence in media, are often so because they tend to blur fantasy and reality! It's the parents, not the children who do this!

His point that we should rather qu
Mar 16, 2014 Christian rated it really liked it
This is an important book, one that should be read by every parent and teacher. In clear language it lays out what most kids and geeks intuitively know - that violence in toys & cartoons & games doesn't make kids more violent but rather provides a healthy outlet for aggression and fear.

The author emphasizes the value of talking to kids to find out why violent media appeals to them and so teases out some great stories. His son integrates Teletubbies and Power Rangers into one world, combi
Mar 13, 2013 Gina rated it it was amazing
Recommended for parents. This is a calm and clear-eyed book that can be truly helpful for understanding what role some things will fill, and where the strong influences really are. At times I would be pulled back by how I react to some of the same entertainment, and then remember, but I'm an adult, I'm past a lot of this.

The book does not go into representation issues, which while they can be related are their own topic, but I was so impressed by the thoroughness of the research. He covers so ma
Apr 25, 2015 Kris rated it really liked it
Fantastic information that really broadened my perspective on this subject. I really wish that both parents and teachers would read it so that these issues would not be turned from something naturally occurring into a created problem. It also forced me to think about whether or not my children have the outlets they need to express these crucial developmental milestones in an appropriate way, and also expanded what I think of as appropriate. I only refrained form a 5-star rating because I found t ...more
Aug 31, 2013 K rated it it was amazing
Loved this perspective! Surprisingly enough, kids need to act out violence to deal with their anxieties. It helps them cope with the real violence and crazy things going on around them. Let your kid have toy guns and swords, let them watch Star Wars, and let them play violent video games. All these things are good in moderation, just like everything else. They allow kids to express their feelings in a safe environment and allows them to cope with life. I would recommend this to anyone who has he ...more
Jan 16, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it
This was a good defense of superheroes, though the writer is a comic writer so he's not exactly unbiased. I read this because I learned some schools were banning superheroes, and I wanted to find out why. I couldn't find out why superheroes were considered 'bad' so I figured I'd check out why they could be helpful. The arguments in this book are good, but kind of went along the lines of what I thought anyway.

Worth checking out if you're a parent of a hero-worshiper. Very funny, with lots of pop
Jessica Robinson
Nov 12, 2012 Jessica Robinson rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm not sure that I entirely agree with the author's assessment of the way in which girls relate to female characters in media (and a book that spends so much time on Buffy but doesn't even mention the game-changer that was Xena is ridiculous). I think Jones would find a lot to add and revise if he released this book now, especially in regards to video games and comic books, and while I agree with his general message, I didn't always agree with the reasoning that got him there.
Jan 11, 2013 Luca rated it really liked it
Eye-opening and pragmatic defense of "violent" (although I'd rather say "action-packed") children's entertainment by Gerard Jones, comic book historian and organizer of international kids & media workshops. Jones' friendly, rational, well-sourced arguments never devolve into finger-pointing, but instead are based on years of experience in working with kids from all kinds of social backgrounds.

Must-read for anyone who works with kids or teenagers.
May 17, 2011 Evan rated it really liked it
Jones argues that fantasy violence is more than okay for children, it's helpful, perhaps essential. Although he does allow for people becoming trapped in fantasy and the need for balance, he sees a large problem with the adult world constantly judging what for many kids is an important form of release and self expression. Adults mistake fantasy play for actual violence and in the end, many kids are confused and frustrated. A very interesting read.
Cristiano Santos
Nov 04, 2013 Cristiano Santos rated it really liked it
Whenever I’m asked about what’s the earliest memory of my childhood that I recall, I always say that it is me, a 4-5 years old boy, sitting on the living room ground playing video games in a very small black-and-white television. This book made me remember every piece of my early days and it will probably influence how I will be in the future when I have kids.
Nov 27, 2008 Ross rated it it was amazing
Brilliant rebuttal to the buck-passing that too often occurs when parents whish to absolve themselves from the responsibilities of child rearing by blaming media influences. Jones takes time to examine findings from various studies with the expressed interest in discovering what is useful to growing children, not just proving his opposition wrong. An important difference in focus, that.
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Gerard Jones is an award-winning American author and comic book writer. From 1987 to 2001, Jones wrote many comic books for Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Viz Media, Malibu Comics and other publishers; including Green Lantern, Justice League, Prime, Ultraforce, El Diablo, Wonder Man, Martian Manhunter, Elongated Man, The Shadow, Pokémon, and Batman.

Jones is author of the Eisner Award
More about Gerard Jones...

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“We all know starry-eyed romantics like love stories, but few would argue early and intense exposure to sappy melodrama causes a romantic temperament.” 1 likes
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