Media Violence and Social Deviance Term Paper

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Media Violence/Social Deviance

Media Violence and Social Deviance

For decades, there has been concern over media violence and its influence or potential influence on public behavior, and while there have been countless studies and volumes of research devoted to this topic, the issue appears still open for debate.

Ever since television began becoming popular in the 1950's, the pubic has been complaining that there is too much violence in television programming, and has continually put pressure on Congress and the television industry to reduce the amount of violence (Potter). During the past fifty years, social scientists have been conducting analyses of the violent content on television in an effort to document the amount of violence in order to inform the public however there is a growing evidence to suggest that the public perceives media violence in a different manner than do media researchers (Potter).

A study published by James W. Potter in the June 2006 issue of the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media found that there is a significant difference in how the public quantify the amount of violent acts within a program. For example, some people counted scenes, some counted violent acts, while others attempted to count every bullet fired and punch thrown, yet the most interesting findings revealed that the participants' quantitative estimates were not related to their summary judgments concerning the degree to which the program was violent, but rather were related to perceptions about graphicness and explicitness (Potter). Participants rated Tunnel more violent, 5.73, yet it contained four scenes and 18 acts compared to Nash Bridges which they rated 4.74 and had six scenes and 18 acts or Justice League, rated 5.51 that had 8 scenes and 23 acts (Potter). Tunnel displayed the lowest mean estimate at 21 acts compared to an estimated 27 acts for Nash Bridges and 34 acts for Justice League. Potter believes that the high rating of violence for Tunnel is probably explained by its "final shot in which the villain is shot between the eyes and the camera stays on his face in close-up for several seconds as the life leaves his body, his eyes roll back in his head, and he falls to the ground dead" (Potter). Potter's study found that the use of graphicness as the most influential element in an individual's judgment shows up whether researchers ask for ratings or rankings, and suggests that the judgment of violence in a particular program is keyed to interpretations of graphicness, regardless of genre, gender, or television-viewing level (Potter).

According to Potter, the differences in definitions lead to a problem of ecological validity, which can make the public distrustful of the results of scientific research studies. For example, from a scientific view point, cartoons such as the Road Runner and Bugs Bunny are very violent, in fact, cartoons are consistently rated as the most violent of all programs on television because the characters are continuously getting "stabbed, shot, hit with heavy objects, blown up, rocketed into the sky, and flattened into the ground," however the characters always recover and never die (Potter). Therefore, social scientists who make strong statements about the harmfulness to children of viewing Tom and Jerry, Road Runner and the Three Stooges put themselves in danger of being regarded as being "fuzzy-headed academics wasting their time with silly research," because the majority of viewers would not regard any of these programs of violent (Potter). Critics who look at this situation conclude that social scientist use poor definitions of violence, and if the results of these studies are viewed as silly by the public, then those findings will not help them make meaningful changes in their children's exposure behavior that could protect them from unwanted effects, and if these findings are not trusted by policymakers, then it is unlikely that they will expend political capital to force changes in programming (Potter). Thus, researchers need to understand more about how the public interprets violence in programming and media scholars must do a better job of highlighting the differences in interpretations and convincing the public about the faulty nature of how it makes its interpretations (Potter).

According to Marina Krcmar in the March 2005 issue of Communication Studies, the desire to consume media is influenced by a number of social and psychological factors, such as sensation seeking and neuroticism that have also been used to explain problem behaviors (Krcmar). Krcmar notes that "sensation seeking predicts both exposure to violent media and aggressive behavior...yet, many studies separately examine personality or media exposure in relation to behavioral outcomes," thus there is no agreement concerning the relations among "personality factors, media use, and negative behavioral outcomes" (Krcmar).

The majority of researchers agree that exposure to media violence results in aggressive behavior and desensitization, yet many social critics believe that the effects of media violence are more "subtle and insidious," such as breaking down a child's moral reasoning (Krcmar). Research on verbal aggressiveness demonstrates that it "damages the receiver's self-esteem, serves as a catalyst to interspousal violence, and results in less liking and lower credibility," and predicts behaviors from substance abuse to physical aggressiveness (Krcmar). While no studies have examined the link between verbal aggressiveness and exposure to and liking of violent television, Krcmar believes that people who are verbally aggressive are probably attracted to media violence because it may provide a type of validation for aggression (Krcmar). Krcmar's study found that sensation seeking did predict exposure to and liking of violent and horror movies, yet did not consistently predict television viewing and liking variables, however the findings do suggest that argumentativeness is related to violent movie exposure, real crime television and violent television exposure, while "neither verbal aggressiveness nor argumentativeness predicted media liking" (Krcmar)

According to George Comstock of Syracuse University, analyses of some 217 studies assessing the relationship between exposure to television violence and aggressive and antisocial behavior concludes irrefutably that children and adolescents who watch greater amounts of media violence are more likely to behave in an aggressive or antisocial manner, and that girls and boys alike are affected (Comstock).

Data indicates youth are especially vulnerable to the influence of media violence when they have certain attributes, such as low socioeconomic status, being African-American, and stressful circumstances as "represented by unsatisfactory social relationships or low psychological well-being" (Comstock). Two other attributes include "rigid or indifferent parenting and a predisposition for anti-social behavior" (Comstock). Comstock concludes:

Thus, violent entertainment is most likely to add to the burdens of those who face considerable challenges in coping with everyday life, and this becomes particularly clear when it is acknowledged that the kind of behavior likely to be increased by violent portrayals is also the kind likely to lead to conflicts with others and clashes with the law (Comstock).

Jock Young from Middlesex University notes that exposure tot media violence is just as likely to cause an individual to become a campaigner against media violence as it is to encourage someone who seeks justifications for their own violence (Young).

According to Young, news items that depict violence are generally ignored because they are considered legitimate violence and are justified by politicians and the media as pro-social because it is considered a major public source of knowledge, yet these images reflect the reality of youth violence, such as young men with AK-47's, driving tanks and firing artillery, thus a significant proportion of media violence experienced by youth are "portrayed as legitimate violence and the main actors are youths like themselves" (Young). While the vast majority of fictional depictions of violence generally involve the triumph of legitimate violence over illegitimate violence, in factual depictions, no punishment of illegitimate violence is seen, yet studies "ignore all of the factual depictions of violence and register each aggressive act in fiction as in essence anti-social" (Young). Carl Nightingale noted in his ethnography of a black Philadelphian ghetto that Whether the amount of violence in films and TV shows have contributed to the recent rise in homicides is uncertain, but some of the ethical codes of aggression in the neighborhood clearly have depended on the mainstream culture of violence for legitimacy...boys' efforts to compensate for humiliation and frustration owe some their aggressive qualities to their identification with the heroes and values on the mainstream American culture of violence...Indeed, TV and movie violence has nearly completely replaced the messages and ways of expressing and concealing pain that have been offered by African-American folklore" (Young).

In 1990, the average African-American household watched eleven hours of television per day, and although African-Americans make up only 12% of the U.S. population, they account for 25% of the movie-going public (Young). Thus, these youths watch the latest movies, then discuss each act of violence, all the while identifying with the heroes, for these films tend to focus on the main male characters who "derive their moral authority by a glorified ability to play it alone and to live outside the realms of humdrum emotional vulnerability" (Young). Moreover, there is typically some sort of celebration of these… [END OF PREVIEW]

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