Television Violence Effects On Our Society

Television Violence: Effects On Our Society Essay, Research Paper

I. Introduction

Television Violence is at the forefront of an ongoing debate in American society. In particular is the question of whether or not those (primarily children) exposed to violence in programs on a daily basis are profoundly affected by it. It has long been proposed that indeed such content has the ability to influence behavior. In this paper I will examine some of the ways TV violence affects our social culture. Through studies and various authors views television violence will be examined including network programming and economic factors involved in this issue. Origin and the pervasiveness of violence as it relates to the entertainment industry in our culture is also considered. Television Violence indeed has a profound impact on the world in which we live, and this can be witnessed in events we encounter on a daily basis.

II. The Effects of Television Violence: Theories

Much of the debate about violence in television programs concerns the possibility of its harmful effects on behavior. Noting this concern Hansen and Hansen (1990) introduced this question: “why is the … violence there in the first place?? (Hepburn 1998). Their reply began: “the conventional wisdom seems to be that … violence ’sells’; that, for whatever reason, violence … increases enjoyment …” (Hepburn 1998). Do viewers enjoy seeing violence, in any or all of its forms? If people like to see violence, will they watch it more often, or will more people watch violence than other spectacles? (Hepburn 1998). If the answers to the first two questions are not positive, and even if they are, what else is it about violence-containing entertainment that does reward and reinforce viewers? (Hepburn 1998). If studies do not endorse the value of violence why does the entertainment industry continue to believe, or to proclaim that “violence sells”? (Hepburn 1998). One thing is for certain, American television programs are filled with violence.

The effects of television violence can no longer be denied. Presently there is little debate on whether TV violence has an impact on society. Among the widely accepted assumptions are:

* Television violence can lead to imitation.

* Witnessing repeated violent acts can lead to desensitization and a

lack of empathy for human suffering.

* The cumulative impact of violence-laden imagery can lead to a “mean-

world” perspective, in which viewers have an unrealistically dark view

of life (Goodale 1996).

Quoting a 1996 UCLA study: “We found that a good deal of violence goes unpunished, the pain or harm is unrealistic, and if someone gets hurt, it has no bearing on real life,” this explains much of the reason why violence on television is so powerfully destructive on children…it diminishes it?s reality (Goodale 1996).

Perhaps the most dangerous of television violence effects is the one that also gets the most media coverage: imitation. The fire-setting and burning of a subway token-booth clerk in New York City replicated in real life a movie incident in a recent action thriller (Callahan 1996). Scores of such copycat crimes are regularly reported. Violent images on TV or in the movies have inspired people to set spouses on fire in their beds, lie down in the middle of highways, extort money by placing bombs in airplanes, rape people in particularly disgusting ways, and who knows how many other kinds of shootings and assaults (Callahan 1996).

Can society still honestly doubt that violent and criminal images in the media or in music incite aggressive behavior? (Callahan 1996). Only those making mints of money purveying violence to the American public even try to defend the practice (Callahan 1996).

Such defenders of the poor state of our media will usually claim that (1) real life is violent, so why not be honest and show it; and (2) only a few vulnerable aggression-prone persons will be negatively affected, so why keep everyone else from the innocent entertainment of having a few thrills–whether of an aggressive or sexual nature (Callahan 1996). Is it the media’s fault if unhinged people get set off on some rampage by what they watch or hear? (Callahan 1996).

Most psychologists who have studied the question of how aggression operates are convinced that everyone learns violent behavior by seeing it enacted (Callahan 1996). Children will beat Bobo dolls into the ground if they have seen grown-ups do it first, and even those children who do not immediately enact the aggression learn the behavior and remember how it’s done (Callahan 1996). The more prestigious the person modeling aggressive behavior, the more likely it is to be imitated by observers (Callahan 1996). Imitation, after all, is an indispensable way that an intelligent species like ours learns.

Children do it. Teen-agers do it. Grown-ups do it. Mindlessly we automatically imitate and follow the leader (Callahan 1996). Fads sweep societies–from slang to games to foods to clothing . Who hasn’t found themselves repeating phrases recently heard? Or humming mindless TV commercials?(Callahan 1996). Athletes will watch videos depicting images of excellent moves to increase their own proficiency (Callahan 1996).

Anything we notice and process gets put into the information programs in our minds and memories. When the input consists of a violent or sexually shocking act, two lessons are learned at once (Callahan 1996). One is the behavioral sequence, how, for instance, to go about setting fire to a vagrant sleeping on a park bench (Callahan 1996). The second lesson is more subtle: one learns that this kind of behavior exists; it can happen here; and it is permitted in the universe as we know it (Callahan 1996). There’s the act and then there’s the permission to do the unthinkable. If good guys are doing horrible things in order to fight the bad guys, then the behavior is all the more permissible (Callahan 1996).

At this point society should be willing to risk the dangers of censorship because it has become apparent that what you put into the imagination creates the person. What we pay attention to, becomes us, as surely as we become what we eat (Callahan 1996). Good images and good thoughts and benevolent feelings become good deeds (Callahan 1996). And alas, the opposite is also true. Maybe even truer since we may have a built-in tendency to regress into infantile rages and paranoid anxieties (Callahan 1996). And why the human fascination with blood, gore, and violence in the first place? Saint Augustine noted sadly how eagerly people were drawn to view mangled corpses, and how easily his noble and good friend Alypius was first persuaded by peer pressure to go the Coliseum and once there, became addicted to the murderous displays of gladiatorial combat (Callahan 1996). These “games” were the thrilling entertainment?s of that pagan culture.

William Cash in The New York Times of 18 June 1994 argued that since the days of the Roman Coliseum and later public executions “death has always pulled in the crowds”. Cash asserted that a film containing much violence was “enjoyable because the audience feels enriched by the human and tragic… passions of pity and terror”. These have been powerful theories over the centuries since the heyday of Greek tragedians (whose works generally reported the deeds of violence “off stage” rather than explicitly); so it remains to be confirmed whether any viewers are attracted to watching acts of violence themselves, or may be equally or more enthralled with the emotional structure and other contents of the drama rather than merely with brutal physical details (Hepburn 1998). Whatever the attraction, when we are bombarded continually with images of violence, brutality, sexual immorality, and betrayals of trust, our minds and spirits suffer.

VI. Conclusion

In this report I have discussed the effects of Television violence on our society through various authors writings as well as studies conducted on the subject. News coverage and theories on specific effects on children was also taken into account. I further dealt with the origin, continuation and possible solutions to the problem of TV violence. Television violence is certainly a problem in our society and I believe this paper?s content adequately provides a basis for my conviction that program content plays a significant and undeniable role in the vicious behavior of children and teena



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