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Friday, August 11, 2017

The Effect of Violent Movies on Human Behavior

     One of the great debates of modern times has been about the possible effect of movie films and, later, of television, on impressionable minds and leading to criminality. In 1952, when a young man shot and killed a policeman on a warehouse roof in south London, England, the question asked was whether his actions were influenced by having watched a gangster film depicting gun violence.

     While sociologists debated what they saw as the issues, they were overtaken by rapid developments in the media industries. The cinema had the power to show violent images to paying audiences but television and, in due course, video, brought the culture of violence into every home. The proliferation of brutal and sadistic scenes combined with a lessening of moral inhibitions, rendered the debate virtually meaningless.

     A watershed occurred in 1971 with the cinema screening of Stanley Kubrick's film, "A Clockwork Orange," based on the novel by Anthony Burgess. The film, which showed disaffected young men committing gang rape, was highly controversial and accusations followed that it glamorized violence. As a result, the film was withdrawn from distribution the following year.

     While Kubrick's film was graphic, it was simply ahead of its time and complaints about film violence have become muted as images have become more explicit. In modern cinema and television, gritty realism is everything. [Check out the new HBO series "True Detective."] Films such as "The Silence of The Lambs," "Natural Born Killers," and "Nightmare on Elm Street," entertained and horrified their audiences. They also entered the psyche of some individuals who went beyond the threshold of entertainment into the realm of personality deviation….

Robin Odell, The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes, 2010 

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