There is an ongoing debate regarding the effects that violence on television and film has on young people. It is no secret that children have access to such material and watch violence that is clearly not suitable, as the Glasgow media group stated in their study in 1994. They discovered that the extremely adult-based film Pulp Fiction had an enormous impact on the ’12-13′ age group, and that when presented with stills children could often explain the action and dialogue, with stress on the adult language and violent acts.
This study, although proving that young people were being exposed to such material, did not explore the effects that it may have on the children, emotionally or in their everyday behaviour. A previous study conducted by Barlow and Hill (1985) does contradict this study, as when asked what violent films they had seen on a list, 68% of children involved claimed to have seen non existent films.
These studies in my opinion simply show an obvious desire by the children to seem ‘grown-up’ and ‘cool’ and do not reflect on any major effect violence may have on the children emotionally. Despite the evidence of emotional effects being rare, television and film are still constantly blamed for the actions and emotions of young people who have committed crimes. The most famous case of this would be the aftermath of the murder of Jamie Bulger and the material that was thought to influence the boys who had committed his murder.
The Press at the time had named one film as it’s target, Child’s Play 111 which after extreme scrutiny was ruled out as a direct influence as there was no evidence of the boys even watching this film. Instead of then exploring other ways to explain the emotional disturbance of the boys, other contacts with film and television were being sought. As Martin Baker reported in Audience Studies Reader (2003) ‘ So urgent is the wish to find such a link, it seems, that when an exemplar like this falls apart the response is simply to carry on’
In this case and in reference to many others which place a high degree of blame on media violence I would argue that its is mainly a desire to tackle the problems society encounter from the outside, blaming the violence seen in films can divert attention from other more serious aspects regarding internal problems. Theorists almost completely ignore the effects of real violence within the media, images seen on News programmes, which I would suggest could have a much higher emotional effect on a person, as the majority of people can differentiate between fantasy violence and the reality of violence within everyday life.
However, in regard to emotional effects, there have been a number of studies relating to a slight change in attitude and emotional feelings expressed. A 1999 experiment for example looked at the emotional consequences of repeated exposure to extensive violence on film. Researchers assigned both male and female college students to view either extremely violent or non-violent feature films for four days in a row.
On the fifth day, in an unrelated study, the participants were put in a position to help or hinder another person’s chances of future employment. The results did indicate that both the men and the women who had been exposed to the film violence were more harmful to that person’s job prospects, whether she had treated them well or had behaved in an insulting fashion. The study concluded that the repeated violence viewing provided an ‘enduring hostile mental framework’ that damaged interactions that were affectively neutral.
This experiment records a specific change in attitude and emotional behaviour but does not provide any evidence of direct violent changes in that person, and therefore simply states that a short term change of state may be apparent through increasing larges amounts of exposure to violence on television. Again, studies are extremely contradictory and ambiguous when referring to the emotional effects of violent television and it is increasingly difficult to result in a clear conclusion when discussing the degree of effects that is has on the audience as a whole.