Does watching too much violence in films and television make people more violent?

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Kiran Patel

Does watching too much violence in films and television make people more violent?                        

The question of whether media causes violence has attracted a lot of attention and has been much researched. It is however an exceptionally difficult theory to test as it is hard to define it objectively. This is because what some people may consider as being a violent act, others would not, and more so forms of violence may be acceptable by some may not be acceptable to others. For example hitting your child if they have done something wrong. We can therefore say it is difficult to access what is considered to be violent and what is not and because of this it makes it harder to isolate the effect of media violence from the wide range of other factors that may be said to cause violent behaviour.

Eldrige et al 1997 claimed that as soon as films in Britain were introduced, concerns were raised about the way they would undermine morality. Films were generating crime, promiscuous sex shown and portraying violence. There was particular concern because of the way large numbers of women and children learned how to commit crime by seeing crime scenes on the screen. Others, on the other hand believed that stories of romantic love affairs would undermine marriage and threaten the family. A recent case carried out by Newbun and Hagell 1995 showed the murder of a 2 year-old boy named James Bulger. The murder of the child was blamed on horror films one particular film was child’s play 3, which was seen to be associated with the murder. However there was no real evidence that either of the children who had murdered the boy had seen the film.

         In 1971 ‘A clock work orange’ was withdrawn from British cinemas because of imitative violence seen by young gangs. In 1987 the Hungerford massacre was said to have been inspired by Michael Ryans obsession with ‘Rambo’ films and three young men were convicted murder in Cardiff, which followed repeated exposure to the film ‘Juice’. Even cartoons such as Tom and Jerry, Ren and Stimpy and the Simpsons have linked to the encouragement of violence, vandalism and anti-social behaviour. Children have also been exposed to computer pornography: Since early 1990’s it has been treated as a serious offence as children gain widespread access to acts of rape, buggery and bestiality through floppy disks available at car boot sales and even in school playgrounds.  

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         Cumberbatch claims that there are relatively low levels of violence seen on British screens, especially in comparison to societies like Japan. Nobel (1975) goes on further by claiming that forms of television violence have the cathartic effect of releasing feelings of aggression. However Goode (1997) dismisses the ‘catharsis’ theory as old-fashioned and false and is equally dismissive about the fact that pornography is by nature a form of violence against women.

Because of the inconclusive nature about media and violence, a number of models have been developed to explain the relationships between the media ...

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