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.
Girls with Guns: Narrating the Experience of War of Frelimo's "Female Detachment" Harry G. West Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 73, No. 4, Youth and the Social Imagination in Africa, Part 2 (Oct., 2000), pp. 180-194 Published by: The George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research
West’s article about Female Detachments fighting for Mozambique’s independence from Portuguese colonialism (a war that lasted from the late-70’s to the mid-90’s) sheds light on differing psychological states of those who lead lives of violence in situations as extreme as risking one’s own life to kill others.
West himself admits he had expected to hear or observe that the women and children who lived through these ages of dramatic social changes (which were results from the consequences of colonial conquest, anti-colonial insurgency and post independent governance) would be permanently scarred from the trauma of war. This was not the case. The Female Detachments he met were proud of their service, never claiming to have ever felt scarred or vulnerable. Among the male militias, the women were not quite equal to the male soldiers, but they reported feeling empowered by the men when they were given space to carry out their own attacks. The women also claimed it felt important to participate in the war rather than having to stay trapped in their homes carrying out agricultural work.
These observations have a lot of resemblances to Mallory’s character from Natural Born Killers. West attributes the Female Detachments’ mental strength in terms of rising above trauma and suffering to their ideology and beliefs, which relates to Mallory’s ability to carry out her actions under the shade of Mickey’s philosophical indifference to death and murder. Following that relationship, the organization which the Female Detachments fought for, FRELIMO, was a forceful and dangerous group which might have been viewed as the stronger counterpart of the two genders’ militias (if they were closer aligned). As West writes of the Female Detachments, “Respect for and fear of FRELIMO were inseparable … they had no option but to comply with their ‘requests.” And after completing training, their loyalty would always be tested by FRELIMO, who would compel them to certain dangerous missions. Although Mallory is happy to carry out her side of the murders, perhaps she is much more inclined to do when she sees how much it pleases Mickey. Another similarity between Mallory and the Female Detachments is drawn from West’s account of interviewing one of the soldiers with a tape recorder: he never needed to ask a second question, the interviewee was so relieved to be telling her whole story that she never stopped. The idea of telling one’s story, and to have one’s own life of danger and violence be the focus of an interview, is one of the central themes we see in Natural Born Killers.
Wartenberg argues that the filmmaker and audience often see past the initial estimation of unlikeliness because they understand that the two love each other or share a bond, despite apparent obstacles and violations of what is socially acceptable. In this way, the pairing of an unlikely couple, for Wartenberg, can function as a vehicle for social critique. In their plotlines, the films find a way to negotiate whatever social barrier might be separating them, and during these 90 or so minutes, the audience develops a sympathy for both the individual couple and their situation. Even a small detail can elicit this effect. At the end of Some Like It Hot, for instance, when Lemmon's character reveals he is actually a man, Brown's character shrugs it off and says, "Nobody's perfect." Though this is a meant to get laughs from the audience, Wartenberg also argues that it will cause them to think about why they're laughing, thus subverting societal norms.
Wartenberg acknowledges that these films don't present themselves as "vehicles for serious social analysis," but he rejects the common conviction that films are superficial and reinforce dominant social beliefs. He concedes that sometimes in fighting certain stereotypes, films falter by including other stereotypes.
Sabrina is not mentioned in Wartenberg's analysis, but fits in neatly as a romance spanning the upper and lower class. The lower class Sabrina surprises high society when she gets involved with the upper class Larrabee brothers, and this plotline works the subvert and undo the stronghold of class barriers in 1950s society. Though seemingly rigid structures might keep a couple apart, Hollywood implicitly approved of and endorsed this unlikely pairing.
Burton, Emory C. "Sociology and the Feature Film". Teaching Sociology, Vol. 16, No. 3. (Jul., 1988): 263-271.
This article focuses on film and it use as an educational tool within the context of a sociology classroom. The article is meant to be informative and instructional for sociology professors specifically, however it offers insight as to how film can have a great impact on students and how it can teach said student sociological subjects. Emory Burton, the author of the article, bases his statements on the research carried out by numerous sociologists. This research supports the claim that movies are effective teaching tools because they allow viewers to vicariously experience the life or hardships of characters from different times, classes, and of different circumstances. Vivre Sa Vie is a film that presents a sociological issue and it is meant to stimulate serious thought and reflection within the viewer on a real life social problem. In that sense, this article relates directly to the film, because it discusses how film has been shown to be effective in stimulating such thought. Godard's film attempts to present the reality of a social issue in an intellectual manner in order to encourage critical thought.
In this article, Dowd and Pallotta offer a sociological perspective on the movie genre of romantic comedies. Cultural ideals of romance, they say, have changed throughout time, and the changes of the 20th century can be analyzed through movies. Movies are imbedded with cultural scripts that reflect the social norms of various ages. Dowd and Pallotta aim to complete a systematic analysis of romantic comedies, and to do so, they set strict definitions for what would constitute such a movie, leaving out movies that were no longer available, movies that featured romance only as a side plot, movies that mixed genres, and more. After using their definitions to rule out all inapplicable films, they ends up 182 films that qualified, all made between 1930 and 1999. Though not individually analyzed, Sabrina was included in this group of films, thus contributing to the analysis as a whole.
Because this article takes a methodological approach, it is not very accessible for the average film scholar. It also talks about trends as a whole, leaving out the detailed scene analyses that those interested in films often enjoy. But the article does a good job of trying to examine what the medium of film might have to say about our culture, and its strength lies in its ability to offer empirical evidence of trends, such as an explosion of romantic comedies in the 1990s, as opposed to individual examples. In this way, we can look at the trends of particular decades. When Sabrina was released, in the 1950s, for example, romantic drama was more popular than romantic comedy, a reversal of what is currently true. Other subsets that are popular now, such as teen romances or romances that feature supernatural elements (like 1990's Ghost), were nearly nonexistent in the 1950s.
The study also found that cultural conditions have effectively killed many formerly popular plotlines of romance movies. Couples in different classes, for example, no longer offer a "convincing dramatic impediment." Movies that feature these aging romantic conventions," then, can only remain popular today as "relics of an earlier era." This statement serves to justify Sabrina's ongoing popularity despite its perhaps hard-to-swallow plotline. All in all, romantic films, even the current ones, do continue to reinforce some of the more conservative romantic tendencies in our culture, namely the importance of marriage and fidelity, and this has not changed since the days when Sabrina was released.