Go Ahead, Make My Day…
It’s rare to consume news these days without it containing some kind of disaster or violence. Media outlets are presenting more news than ever, especially video content, and it seems to be a case of ‘the more disastrous, the better’, as it gives the consumer a sense of being lucky that it didn’t happen to them.
It’s no secret that bad news sells, but what effect is it having on us? Violence on our screens and in other forms of media has been an area of concern for governments and consumers for some time, but does violence promote real world aggression?
Let’s look at what violence actually is. According to the Australian Council on Children and the Media, violence is a “credible threat of physical force, or the application of physical force intended to cause physical harm to an animate being”.
In 2013 the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that school kids spent over two hours per day on some sort of screen, with a large part of that containing some act of violence. Television, whether live or on demand, is the winner, accounting for 65 per cent of all screen time.
As we get older and our ability to rationalise what we watch increases, the level and type of violence tends to intensify. Think back to good old Bugs Bunny, which pretty much revolved around some sort of violent mishap. We also have other popular television shows like Game of Thrones where the violence can be even more extreme. Even sport, like the UFC for example, can be extremely violent and has now become mainstream.
Violence in any media format is becoming more difficult to avoid. It’s often glamorised and marketed in such a way that the consumer sees violence as the way to be powerful and heroic. “Hang on,” I hear you say, “I’m a rational person and I can distinguish between the imaginary world and the real one!” The problem is that it’s the amount of time watching this stuff that creates the problem. Over time we are being conditioned to accept that the level of violence we currently see is normal – the more we see, the more we tend to tolerate and accept it. Once normalised, the higher up the extreme ladder it tends to go.
Compare the classic war film From Here to Eternity, made in 1953, to Saving Private Ryan, made in 1998. The former seems like Bambi compared to the first 25 minutes of the Spielberg classic. I’m sure Steven was just trying to make us feel the brutality of being a soldier but I think we got the point after the first five minutes. Twenty years on from Saving Private Ryan and we have Deadpool, incredibly violent in a black comedy kind of way and not that different from Road Runner’s run-ins with Coyote.
After much research, the magnitude of the relationship between violence in the media and the real world is much stronger than people realise. For the die-hard, nappy-wearing gamer who loves the extreme violence of Hotline Miami 2, the more time spent playing, the more prone they are to aggressive and antisocial behaviour, aggressive thoughts and a lack of empathy. Perhaps the same can be said for those bingeing on Game of Thrones or playing Grand Theft Auto.
Sure, it’s a choice whether to watch or not, but in a world where practically any form of media content can be accessed anywhere and anytime, it should be remembered that once you see something it’s very hard to ‘unsee’ it, especially for young kids who tend to interpret visual imagery in a literal way. Although much of this violence may initially come across as benign, the bottom line is that the correlation between media violence and aggression is clear. By restricting screen time and adhering to recommended ratings, perhaps this effect can be managed.
For further information, please email Jeremy at bondicounsellingservices.com.