Codey Porter, 10, has died after playmates buried him headfirst in a sandbox — an act inspired by Naruto’s ability to bury himself in the ground. Despite the tragic and horrible circumstances — his friends buried him in fun and didn’t realize he was really in trouble when he began struggling — the initial news reports are going fairly lightly on the cartoon connection:
Among media watchdogs and those who research the effects of television on children, the anime program [Naruto] has created barely a ripple.
“To my knowledge, there is no research specifically targeting anime,” said Doug Gentile, director of research for the National Institute on Media and the Family. “But what we do know is that media in general do have a very large effect on people.”
Nor is this a modern-day problem. People have been imitating television shows since the 1950s, Gentile said, recalling how boys jumped off garage rooftops, wearing towels like capes and pretending to be Superman.
The major difference today, he said, is that violence is often portrayed more realistically than, say, the TNT bombs that characterized “The Road Runner Show” or “Tom and Jerry” cartoons of a generation ago.
“A lot of the aggression in ‘Tom and Jerry’ is not easy to copy,” Gentile said. “You won’t have access to a ball of TNT to stuff in your brother’s mouth, but you might have access to a sandbox. It’s a horrible tragedy, but it’s not surprising that at some point somebody is going to try almost anything they see.”