Is TV violence all that bad for kids? The Age (Melbourne, Australia), March 5, 2005 Saturday, INSIGHT; Opinion; Pg. 9, 816 words, HUGH MACKAY LexisNexis Academic 9 Apr. 2008
This article is a response to a report from The Weekend Australian that asserts a child’s witnessing of violence in media will result in higher levels of aggression. Writer Hugh Mackay refers to a 1960’s American child-psychology experiment which consisted of observing the different ways children would play with a particular object after they watched different videos, ones that either showed children playing peacefully with that toy or children punching and kicking it. The findings were that those who watched a violent video would treat the toy violently, and those who watched the peaceful video would treat the toy peacefully. Mackay makes sure to point out that although the children would emulate the behavior, it has been concluded that the effects are only short-term, and that all long-term personalities remain virtually unchanged. Furthermore, he declares that the search for variables which might shed light on a child’s increased or decreased susceptibility toward emulating violence in the media result only in negligible data that cannot give any indication of why a particular child would be acting more or less violent than any other one. Mackay’s overall point is that although these experiments may show children in the act of emulating violence on television, all large-scale national crime statistics show that the introduction of television into the societies of decades past resulted in severe drops in crime, and that the age-group which watches the least amount of television today commits the highest amount of violent crime. In short, what a child views in movies or videogames has far less positive or negative impact on his personality than the benefits of extensive human interaction, or the dangers of lazy, television-filled inactivity.
This article is worth factoring into the discussion of Natural Born Killer’s potential effect on inspiring three young couples to committing separate violent murders in Europe and America, all after their viewing (and in one case, repeated viewing) of the 1994 film. Although accusations were made that the filmmakers and producers were responsible, hardly evidence has been found to support them. Mackay also says that at the time of his writing the article in 2005, the violent crime rate in America had been in steady decline for the last 10 years – which would mean the trend began in 1995, one year after Natural Born Killers was released. If violence in the media could truly influence people to emulate the brutality on screen, Natural Born Killers would surely qualify for those results, considering the rare intensity of bloodshed that is present throughout the whole movie. And considering it grossed 11 million dollars in the first weekend, and over 50 million dollars to date, enough people have seen the movie that we can say if there was a slight rise in a person’s aggressive tendencies after watching the movie, no matter how slight, the accumulation across the country would certainly be noticeable.
The relevance of this article has to do with the controversy surrounding Natural Born Killers, over what impacts a film of such incredible violence (coupled with its themes of glorifying such acts) can – and has – and will – have on the societies of its viewers. Boyle draws on three specific cases of murderous love-duos that occured after the films release. Edmonson-Darras, Rey-Maupin, and Herbert-Paindavoine were all young couples tried for committing horrendous murders as pairs, and all three couples admitted to having been influenced by Natural Born Killers, further adding to the intense question of how acts of brutality we see in the media are linked to real-world violence.