Violence in the Media – Does it Create Violence in Society
Some can argue violence amongst people can originate anywhere; I’m interested in how media can have an affect on people’s behavior and the theories behind this.
Uses and gratification theory aims to understand why people choose to surround themselves with specific media products to satisfy their desires. There are many reasons why you watch what you do or play the games you enjoy, it could be for several reasons, relaxation, escape, diversion, social interaction or companionship. It relieves you into the elements you enjoy.
GTA4 is a popular game in which the user controls the main character completing violent missions involving bombs, guns and fighting. It diverts the user away from their usual life to indulge in behavior they wouldn’t normally do, it feeds the violent side of the player without them actually causing harm. The series ‘Misfits’ (S2E4) based an episode around the idea that violence in video games would be extremely dangerous if it were real. This plays into the copycat theory, that people will be influenced and copy what they see. Debates about people surrounding themselves with violent games and television programmes have risen. Media exposure of violence is increasing and has reduced its ‘shock’ factor; the news broadcasts dangerous situations, which grab our attention, as instinctively we want to be aware of the dangers surrounding us.
The news shows bomb attacks when they take place and they send a strong message around the world. This sends messages to the passive audience taking in the information that violence can achieve a result. The television show ‘24’ features agents (the good guys) torturing terrorists for information, this once again is stating a message that violence gets results. The show has the heroes performing these horrible acts which also says it must be an ok thing to do for a good cause. The audience passively takes the message in; the next step is violent video games like GTA4, which encourage violence to further the characters story. The player will be consciously choosing to cause this fantasy violence. Active consumption of media is when the message donates a response from the audience. With the news broadcasting terror events copycat criminals have followed most recently with the Boston Bombings. It was reported that the two brothers involved had been following extremist groups online, viewing the videos they post. Even the execution of the terror threat was something similar to a Bond film, dropping the bag and disappearing into the crowd. Being undetected and achieving their end result is what is then broadcast. Fear that this attack could be copied in the UK, security was heightened for the marathon. This feeling of being unstoppable is similar to the latest Iron Man film with the terrorists sending a message “you’ll never see me coming”. This also relates to video games as you can restart or add cheat codes to be invincible and some say this is giving a very negative thought process not only to those the game is aimed at, but youngsters growing up surrounded by violence achieving results. This can promote unhealthy ways for children to be brought up, being influenced on social situations by violent media. That being said many teenagers play and watch fantasy violence and it serves well as a talking subject bringing social groups together with similar interests.
The hypodermic needle model suggests that media messages are being directly injected into the passive audience, which incidentally will be influenced by it. When surrounding yourself with images, sounds and colours that represent success your more likely to be successful, seeing these positive things will subconsciously put you in a better mood. Some say this is similar with violent media, seeing it all the time will put you in a subconscious state of mind that this is the way to act in certain situations. How people interpret actions seen within media products can also affect the desired outcome. GTA4, some could say that it allows players to act in ways they would never want to in reality, feeding the need for excitement in the game. Other say it is setting an example for people to follow about the way the world works, thinking that violence will always get you the desired results. Reception theory expands on this discussing how people evaluate what they see and read. Basing a film or text on your social surroundings and environment different people will interpret things differently. The original message therefore can have mixed interpretations as to what it means, in depth readings into the type of language used and others taking it at face value. Poetry often has this type of effect where the poem may mean one thing at face value but another when broken down and analysed. The poem ‘Nothings Changed’ by Tatamkhulu Afrika. Cultivation theory examines the effects of watching television over a long period of time and becoming immersed in the fictional world. People model their clothing and hair cuts on those they admire on screen and so copying elements from the shows incorporating it into their own lives. GTA4 covers many different types of criminal activities within the game but shows them in a positive light which copycats may be inclined to repeat.
An online poll showed that 20% of people believe media is to blame for violence in society and 80% say it’s not. (http://www.debate.org/opinions/does-the-media-cause-violence)
In the 1960sProfessor Leonard Eron began a study following 856 third-grade children in America. This study lasted for 22 years and concluded that males brought up watching violence on the television were more likely to commit crimes as teenagers or adults. An American news paper also reported on the subject on the topic of video games, discussing how they promote killing and violent behavior as that is the task required to reach the next stage – rewarding the player for that behavior. Films and television shows show off violent behavior as the necessary action however many have reported about the fact the consequences for brutal actions are rarely shown. These media products remove the reality from violent actions and brutal behavior making them less significant to the individual in the real world.
On the other hand it’s argued that media is blamed for violence in society, television news simply report on the actions that will generate viewers and that can’t be blamed for encouraging others. Media products simply reflect or report on violence and not influence the original act. This is not to say that media as a whole has no influence over audiences, advertisements tend to generate more business for a company hence the continuing growth in the industry. Purchasing a different drink at lunchtime is only a minor alteration however violence is caused from a change in emotion and attitude, which media alone can’t create.
Some say that games, films and books take the user away from reality to experience a world different to our own. We all live to experience, or we are just surviving. These media aspects provide this different experience and admittedly people have used similar methods seen or followed extremist videos as inspiration however these were not necessarily the influence but could be seen as a provoker.