Violence in movies has been a topic of a heated debate for many decades. Some people claim that violence in movies negatively affects people (especially adolescents), whereas others argue that violence in movies does not lead to violence in life. However, there is one thing researchers agree upon: movies only reveal trends existing in the contemporary society. It is agreed that violence in movies appear as it is a part of the human society.
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Thus, the cause of violence in movies is quite clear, but its effects are still unidentified. The ongoing research provides quite controversial data on the matter. However, it is necessary to note that violence in movies does affect many people (especially adolescents) as some start seeking for more violence in media or real-life, some become ‘inspired’ by the films or may feel depressed for a while.
In the first place, it is necessary to note that adolescents are the most vulnerable group. Reportedly, adolescents tend to seek for violent imagery more than adults do (Kirsh 90). A number of surveys show that “individuals who are high in sensation seeking find violence in television and film more appealing than do their low sensation-seeking counterparts” (Kirsh 90).
These adolescents prefer watching films with more violence. This need is yet to be explained. However, researchers agree that adolescents tend to be more aggressive than adults. In other words, researchers note that adolescence is the period of the human life that is associated with most aggression.
Notably, watching violence on TV can become insufficient for some adolescents who will start seeking for it in real life. Apart from watching violent scenes, some adolescents can become eager to participate in such scenes (and video games will not be enough). Some may even wish to initiate violent episodes to get new experiences.
At this point it is necessary to mention another possible effect of violence in movies. Researchers claim that violence in media can affect adolescents’ self-efficacy. In other words, young people can feel more confident when they associate themselves with certain characters created by filmmakers (Kirsh 102). Thus, watching superheroes or ‘tough guys’ coping with difficulties can positively affect adolescents’ self-efficacy. Apart from this, sometimes these adolescents can feel like exercising their power and initiate some violent episodes.
Watching films containing violence can provide young people with ideas how to exercise their power. Some films can be regarded as a guide full of tips. Adolescents can try to repeat actions and ‘amusements’ revealed in a film. More so, Simmons provides a detailed analysis of reception of two films which contained a lot of violent scenes and notes that those films (like many other movies) tell a story of young men who were involved in a number of violent episodes and remained unpunished.
The author notes that people believed that the major message of the film was as follows: “If there were enough hoodlums and they behaved in a menacing way, they could get away with it” (qtd. in Simmons 385). Therefore, adolescents may wish to try things they see in movies. Of course, only some adolescents can seek for violence in real life.
Some adolescents may detest violence and feel depressed when they watch it. Thus, violent scenes may haunt adolescents in their dreams, which can lead to certain anxiety or even depression. Unfortunately, now people are exposed to violence on TV.
Notably, Simmons notes that violence has become an indispensible part of movies since the middle of the twentieth century when people understood that violence in movies brought money (390). Vast majority of films contain violent scenes. Sometimes it is simply impossible to be sure the film is violence-free, even if its genre is defined as a romantic comedy.
Thus, the group of adolescents who are less sensation-seeking may feel anxious about violent scenes, but they will hardly escape from watching a violent scene even if they stop watching action movies. Besides, victimized adolescents can also feel uneasy watching violent scenes as they may associate themselves with the victims in the films. These scenes can bring back memories of events which adolescents try to forget. Admittedly, this can contribute to their anxiety and depressive symptoms, which are common for adolescents.
To sum up, even though many people argue that violence in films has no effect on people, it is clear that violent scenes do affect some groups, e.g. adolescents. Violence in movies can make adolescents more aggressive and make them seek for more violence. Violent scenes can also be regarded as certain kind of guide to follow in real life as some adolescents will feel like trying some ‘tricks’ shown.
Finally, violence in films can contribute to development of anxiety or depressive symptoms in adolescents. Of course, violence is a part of the human society and will inevitably be revealed in movies. However, filmmakers should be more thoughtful when incorporating violence into their films. They should try to seek for other tools to reveal their ideas and they should cut down the amount of violence in movies.
Kirsh, Steven J. Children, Adolescents, and Media Violence: A Critical Look at the Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2006. Print.
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Simmons, J. “Violent Youth: The Censoring and Public Reception of “The Wild One” and “The Blackboard Jungle”.” Film History 20.3 (2008): 381-391. Print.