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Why We Hate
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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Why We Hate is a documentary series investigating why human beings show hatred towards each other. The ultimate aim of the series is positive: to unravel tension and conflict. But viewers will see many disturbing images, and content can be intense and mature. We see historical photos (a pile of human skulls, a young girl in a field of bodies after a genocide, lynched people hanging from trees, Nazi rallies), newsreel footage (street conflicts, riots, protests, the aftermath of school shootings), and videos captured by people in the midst of conflict or filmed by those intent on terrible deeds (like an excerpt from Elliot Rodgers' "manifesto" video before his shooting rampage). Such images are given context and illustrate how conflict can go awry, but they're terrible to watch anyway. Sexuality enters into some discussions of clashes, like a young man who relates how he was bullied for being trans, and members of a "hate speech" church who call gay people "fags" and says they'll "burn in hell." Language is mature and often connected to intolerance: "fag," "dyke," "tranny," "fascist," "sluts." People are called "cockroaches," and are insulted for being Mexican, gay, Jewish, Muslim. What we see may inspire compassion and empathy, and participants are frank about their experiences, even when they regret what they used to believe. Parents and kids may want to watch together, and talk over any particularly disturbing imagery or ideas, as well as the hope offered by the documentary in how to effect change.
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What's the story?
Hatred can drive human beings to hard words and terrible deeds. But is hatred a natural and inevitable result of humanity? Or is it something we've learned to feel? WHY WE HATE takes a long look into the hearts and minds of humankind, interviewing experts on many aspects of psychology, neuroscience, and history, as well as private citizens prominently touched by acts of hatred -- and of love -- to uncover the meaning behind conflict, as well as how to disarm our minds.
Is it any good?
In an era when it seems like political, social, and cultural thinking has never been more polarized, this smart and incisive series asks one question: Why? Does hate come from nature? Nurture? Scarce resources? Is it part of our biological imperative? In its quest to tease out the roots of the hatred that results in all manner of human conflict, Why We Hate interviews many different types of experts: an evolutionary anthropologist who talks about the difference between peaceful bonobo apes and aggressive chimpanzees. An expert in infant cognition, who talks about studies gauging the moral drives of babies. An activist who abandoned the controversial Westboro Baptist Church. Two teens who talk frankly about what it's like to be bullied -- and to bully others.
What emerges is a fascinating portrait of the human race, both our worst qualities, and, paradoxically, our best. The worst is easy to illustrate, of course, and Why We Hate shows plenty of disturbing examples: Nazi rallies, street riots, the aftermath of genocide. But we also learn more what motivates those who lash out against others: scarce resources, insecurity, a wish to feel a part of a group, and the intense pain that's experienced by those who are left out. On a more cheering note, the series also looks into what can defuse hate. As a psychologist points out, our plastic brains can change with new experiences, and humans have the capacity for great cooperation and love. It's hard to see people treating each other terribly, even through the distance of a TV screen. But if Why We Hate has one overriding message, it's that hate isn't inevitable -- and understanding what hate is and what it means may be the first step towards unraveling it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the images of violence in Why We Hate. Are they disturbing to watch? Do any of the images surprise you? Do they help drive home this show's messages? Adults: How would you go about talking about tragedy with kids? Kids: Which is more upsetting to you -- seeing violent acts take place on screen or hearing people talk about them? Why?
Families can also talk about why this series was made. Is it intended to inspire change? To document a cultural phenomenon or a period of American history? What do you think were the intentions of those who made this show?
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