TV violence Analysis

This essay has a total of 2782 words and 12 pages.

TV violence


"The relationship between violence on the screen and violence in real life is extremely
complicated. But while the relationship may not be that of direct cause and effect, we
must bear it in mind. Violent programmes may depress some people, shock others,
de-sensitise some and encourage imitation by a few."

(BBC Handbook-Guidelines for T.V Producers Regarding Violence and Censorship)

The media is all around us and for this reason I feel it is inevitable that it will have
some sort of effect on us. Television is the most popular and accessible form of media;
everybody has at least one television set in their home. It is also said to be the most
vivid portrayer of the world. Screen violence is a term given to violence seen in
television programmes, videos and cinema; basically any violence viewed on a screen. What
causes a problem when debating screen violence is how we define and measure violence, as
different people have different interpretations of what is violent. Some kinds of
'violent' activity are labelled as 'violent' others as 'war heroism'.


Everybody interprets and responds to the media in different ways. The 'hypodermic syringe'
or 'effects' model is a theory, which concentrates on the negative effects of the media
i.e. what the media 'does to us'. The power is believed to lie with the media and terms
such as 'the mass media' or 'mass communications' are often used to emphasise the size and
scale of media operations. It believes in a passive audience and highlights certain groups
of people as being more vulnerable than others are. Children, people who are mentally ill,
women, and the working class are the named groups because they are either obviously
vulnerable (i.e. children and the mentally ill), or exposed to the media much more than
other groups of people (i.e. women and the working class). I agree with this as far as
children and the mentally ill are concerned because they have little control over what
they are exposed to and are not selective viewers. However, the other groups mentioned are
not as vulnerable, as they are able to decide for themselves what they watch and can
create their own opinions about it. There are two key effects that this theory believes
can be induced in an audience:

Inactivity- the couch potato
Manic activity- where the audience imitates what they have seen, i.e. copycat crime (often related to violence)

There are of course problems with this theory. It over-simplifies and assumes that
everybody is passive and vulnerable to the media, which obviously is a generalisation, and
isn't true. Many experiments have been set up over the years, to try and prove or disprove
such theories of audience engagement. One such experiment (which is now a much-criticised
piece of research) was called the 'Bobo doll experiment', conducted by Bandura and Walters
in 1963. It involved showing a group of children a film of adults acting violently towards
a doll, and then leaving the children alone with the doll. The children were recorded
acting in a similar way to what they had seen, which was said to prove that children copy
what they see. The research was flawed in many ways. People (especially children) are
often willing to please those conducting the experiments, and have a sense of what
behaviour is expected of them. Also, a laboratory is a very different environment to the
one in which we usually interact with the media.


The 'uses and gratification' model was founded in the USA in the 1940's. It is one that
disregards the pessimistic approach of the 'hypodermic syringe' theory, and instead
focuses on the 'active' audience, an audience who is able to 'use' the media to its own
advantage. The power here lies with the individual consumer, who is imagined as using the
media to gratify certain needs and interests. In his book Media Analysis Techniques,
Arthur Asa Berger provides a list of twenty-four things that the media may offer to do and
what we as audiences may take from media products. The uses that I feel are relevant to
this essay include:

1. To be amused
7. To find distraction and diversion
9. To experience, in a guilt-free and controlled situation, extreme conditions such as
love and hate, the horrible and the terrible, and similar phenomena.

10. To find models to imitate

I feel that the last 'use' on the list above could have both positive and negative
implications. Role models are useful as long as they are shown behaving in a positive
manner. However, if a child saw Brad Pitt as a role model, and then watched a film such as
Fight Club that contains very physical and violent scenes, he/she would think that if Brad
Pitt is allowed to do it then it must be alright for them to do. Young children are not
able to distinguish fiction from reality in the way that adults can. The problems with the
'uses and gratifications' theory is it suggests that everybody is capable of understanding
what they watch, which is flattering to an audience; we are more likely to want to
identify ourselves as active readers. However it 'pigeonholes' everyone into one group and
totally ignores the obviously vulnerable groups such as children. It seems to forget that
people come from different backgrounds, have different amounts of knowledge about things
and live in very different social contexts.


"what we understand and believe about the television message is 'influenced by our own
personal history, political culture and class experience" (Philo)


The 'uses and gratifications' theory and the 'hypodermic syringe' theory represent the two
extremes of audience engagement with the media. What is needed is a theory that takes a
middle ground between the two.


One of the greatest concerns associated with screen violence is the idea that there is a
connection between violent scenes in the media and 'real' crimes. The term given to this
idea is 'copy-cat crime'. 'Copy-cat crime' is an idea associated with the 'hypodermic
syringe' theory and the particular effect described as 'manic activity'. This is when
someone who has committed a serious crime is said to have been influenced and inspired by
a media product such as a film. An example of this is the murder of James Bulger by two
young boys. After the killing it 'emerged' that they had watched Child's Play 3 prior to
their crime, and therefore the film was felt to be partly to blame.


"The unthinkable sub-text to the murder of little James Bulger isˇKthe concern that we
have created a generation of anti-social young people who have grown up with a television
set as their best friendˇKwith video nasties, violence and sensational sex as the stuff of
everyday life, in a world which offers little explicit moral guidance"

(Mary Whitehouse- The Telegraph)

A Clockwork Orange is another example of a film that has been linked to a crime. When it
first came out, a group of men gang raped a woman in an apparent copy of a scene in the
film. The films maker, Stanley Kubrick, subsequently withdrew the film because he was
annoyed at the critical reception it had received. This copycat effect is not just
associated with serious crimes such as the ones I have mentioned. When the 'You've been
Tangoed' advertising campaign was launched, one of the adverts in particular caused major
concern. It showed men in orange suits running around slapping eachother around the ears
and laughing about it. This was an advert aimed at children to make them buy Tango,
however the effect that it had was to cause children to copy what they had seen (because
it was shown as being funny and harmless), and slap other children around the ears. This
became a problem as it caused children to suffer perforated eardrums as a result. This
emphasises the idea that children are particularly vulnerable, and therefore products
aimed at children should be very carefully considered.


S. Cohen carried out the first sociological analysis of a moral panic in 1972, about the
Mods and Rockers; a panic about what was happening to British youths in the 1960's. A
moral panic is when everything is blamed on the media and society worries about people's
behaviour due to media exposure. I feel that people panic and blame the media in order to
find some way of justifying the behaviour of such people. People find it far less
frightening to think that someone in society has committed a crime because of the
influence of a 'video nasty', than to think that they did it because of the sort of person
they are.


Continues for 6 more pages >>




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