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FILMS AND VIOLENCE

Reaction Paper One Films and Violence Nick Andrews Ball State University PSYS 100:004

FILMS AND VIOLENCE Hypothesis: Films showing or depicting violent acts are not responsible for the increase of tragedies. My Initial Hypothesis As a cinephile and a filmmaker, my belief has always been that violent films do not affect

society in a negative way. Whenever tragedies such as school shootings or other violent events of that nature occur, nearly every time the subject of censoring these forms of media is brought up under the assumption that violent movies and video games cause these tragedies. As a mentally stable person, I myself enjoy viewing these movies regularly and have never been prompted by one to go on a mass shooting. In fact, some of the greatest movies ever made contain some very violent material. Some examples of this are The Godfather, A Clockwork Orange, and Pulp Fiction. Not to say a film must include violence to be worthwhile. I would be completely wrong in saying so. Many fine films are without violence, but censorship should not be imposed on the films whose directors deem it necessary to show such violence. The Empirical Evidence While not directly connected with certain crimes, violent movies have been proven to increase aggression in the short term. The incentive to perform an act of aggression is raised in order to achieve a goal similar to what was in the movie (Betsch & Dickenberger, 1993). Although this is true, there is a puzzling result in another study by Dahl and DellaVigna where crime is actually shown to be reduced by a significant amount due to movies. This is due to the fact that when people choose to view a movie on a weekend, they are in turn opting out certain activities where crime is more likely to occur (Dahl & DellaVigna 2008). Not only is crime reduced at the actual time of viewing but the negative estimates for nonviolent, mildly violent, and strongly violent

FILMS AND VIOLENCE movies all imply that an evening spent at the movies leads to less dangerous activities in the night hours following exposure (Dahl & DellaVigna 2008). Since a large majority of movie

theaters do not sell alcohol nor allow alcohol to be brought into the theater, alcohol consumption is also affected by movies. Since a person chooses to attend a movie theater he or she is in turn opting out of going to a bar, restaurant, or club that does sell alcohol. Alcohol is one prominent factor that has been linked to violent crimes, and assaults in particular (Carpenter and Dobkin, 2007 as cited in Dahl & DellaVigna, 2008). Because of this, movies, especially violent movies reduce alcohol consumption which in turn reduces crime (Dahl & DellaVigna, 2008). Another important factor is the effect of violent films on children. The effect of film violence is amplified with children because they perceive it to be real (Hopf, Huber, & Wei, 2008). This also influences the way these children develop in how they view violence later on. under-18s who spend more hours watching TV value violence more positively (Vidal, Clemente, & Espinosa, 2003). There is also the concept of desensitization to violence. It has been shown that after even a short period of time, the effects of desensitization to the violence begin. With repeated exposure, however, the psychological impact of media violence was reduced and participants indicated feeling less sympathy for violence victims and started enjoying more the violence portrayed in the media scenes (Fanti, Vanman, Henrich, & Avraamides, 2009). The same study also suggests that these violent films reduce inhibition and therefore increase aggression (Fanti, Vanman, Henrich, & Avraamides, 2009).

FILMS AND VIOLENCE When children have behavioral disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), or conduct disorder (CD), they seem to be more susceptible to violence in films or any type of media (Grimes, Vernberg, & Cathers, 1997). In

summary, the study suggests the psychopathy of the DBD-diagnosed children was reinforced, or at least given support in the minds of those children, by what they saw. Rather than the movie excerpts suggesting to these children that violence is not a satisfactory way of resolving problems, the excerpts seemed to support the view of these children that the victims of violence deserved what they got (Grimes, Vernberg, & Cathers, 1997). Overall, it seems that violence in movies affects children on a greater scale than for adults. Additionally violence affects those with behavior disorders more as well, as they are proven to be more prone to aggression due to the behavior disorder (Grimes, Vernberg, & Cathers, 1997). Evidence has also shown that desensitization to violence occurs across the board to both children and adults (Fanti, Vanman, Henrich, & Avraamides, 2009). My Current Opinion After researching the topic and examining the evidence, I have slightly changed my stance on the topic. It is clear now that violent films do cause an increase in aggression (Betsch & Dickenberger, 1993), but I am not convinced that they are the cause of the increase of tragedies. The logical problem with blaming films for the increase in tragedies is that these crimes are nearly always committed by those who are mentally unstable. It would be extremely difficult to point out causation between violent films and an increase of shootings if even only for ethical reasons. It is possible that violent films may spur on a mentally ill person to commit a crime, but

FILMS AND VIOLENCE

it is not the direct responsibility of the film. It is more so due to the mental illness and the lack of treatment for it. As we can see with even a slight mental disorder such as ADHD, there is more potential for aggression (Grimes, Vernberg, & Cathers, 1997). Those who are mentally ill can sometimes have difficulty distinguishing a dramatization such as a movie from reality which can cause them to be more prone to the desensitizing nature of a violent film. In the end, I believe blaming movies for violence is simply pointing to a symptom of the real issue: the stigma of mental illnesses and lack of proper treatment in many cases. I do however believe that children should be limited on how much violent media and the extremity of movie violence they view. I believe the current rating system used by the MPAA is flawed, is mostly effective in accomplishing this goal by providing parents information on the movie they will or will not allow their child to see. As mentioned before, children have difficulty distinguishing movies from reality (Hopf, Huber, & Wei, 2008), and too much exposure can cause many problems in adolescent years (Hopf, Huber, & Wei, 2008). Not only is it necessary for parents to censor movie that are too mature for them, but it is also necessary for them to engage in their lives in order to prevent delinquency. High consumption of media violence and low educational engagement of parents are predictors of increased aggressive behavior and delinquency of young people (Hopf, Huber, & Wei, 2008). In the end, my final thoughts are that although it is possible for violent movies to affect society poorly and increase aggression, films are not the issue. When taken as art and enjoyment, a movie can be a very enjoyable experience as long as the person viewing it is mature enough to handle what he or she is seeing on screen and understands that it is only a movie.

FILMS AND VIOLENCE References Betsch, T., & Dickenberger, D. (1993). Why do aggressive movies make people aggressive? An attempt to explain short-term effects of the depiction of violence on the observer. Aggressive Behavior, 19(2), 137-149. doi:10.1002/1098-2337(1993)19:2<137::AIDAB2480190206>3.0.CO;2-S

Dahl, G., & DellaVigna, S. (2008). Does movie violence increase violent crime?. NBER Working Paper Series, 1-57. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w13718.pdf?new_window=1 Fanti, K. A., Vanman, E., Henrich, C. C., & Avraamides, M. N. (2009). Desensitization to media violence over a short period of time. Aggressive Behavior, 35(2), 179-187. doi:10.1002/ab.20295 Grimes, T., Vernberg, E., & Cathers, T. (1997). Emotionally disturbed children's reactions to violent media segments. Journal Of Health Communication, 2(3), 157-168. doi:10.1080/108107397127734 Hopf, W. H., Huber, G. L., & Wei, R. H. (2008). Media violence and youth violence: A 2-year longitudinal study. Journal Of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, And Applications, 20(3), 79-96. doi:10.1027/1864-1105.20.3.79 Vidal, M., Clemente, M., & Espinosa, P. (2003). Types of Media Violence and Degree of Acceptance in Under-18s. Aggressive Behavior, 29(5), 381-392. doi:10.1002/ab.10037