Violent films reduce violence?
A new study in the U.S. has shown that during and for a period after violent films are shown in general release that there's a significant decline in violent crime on the streets.
The study is based on a decade of national crime reports, cinema ratings and audience data, and reveals that due to cinema, violent assaults have been reduced by one thousand a weekend, or fifty two thousand a year.
The report is based on pretty solid statistics, and what it doesn't do is say something like
Professor Gordon Dahl, an economist at the University of California, is one of the authors of the report and says through the New York Times:
"You're taking a lot of violent people off the streets and putting them inside movie theatres… In the short run, if you take away violent movies, you're going to increase violent crime…
…What would these people have done if they had not chosen to go and see a movie? Whatever they would have done would have had a greater tendency to involve alcohol. If you can incapacitate a large group of potentially violent people, that's a good thing."
The report suggests that what is really happening is that the films that are aimed at the twenty-something audience are keeping the potential offenders out of bars at the weekend, when many violent crimes occur due to drink fuelled arguments.
By removing these groups to an alcohol free environment the violent crimes are reduced and for a noticeable period after the film and into the following days, even until Monday and Tuesday following a big nationwide release.
This research does give a different face to the poor argument that violent films create violent people.
In the story Craig A. Anderson, a psychologist and director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University, says that:
"There are hundreds of studies done by numerous research groups around the world that show that media violence exposure increases aggressive behaviour…People learn from every experience in life, and that learning occurs at a very basic level of brain function."
However this study isn't really about that, it's about the direct correlation of weekend violence against nationwide film releases.
Of course people are up in arms with the Parents Television Council saying that this report is going to encourage parents to send their children to violent films in order to make sure they aren't violent. If that were the case I'd be wondering why their children hadn't been taken away and put into care, at what point does the nannying stop and the parenting start?
What is most interesting is Professor Dahl himself, he's a Mormon who only recently bought a DVD player which removes violent and sexual imagery from films. So you would think that this was a pretty unbiased report, except just when I thought this might be an intelligent study on the figures the co-author comments on the article:
"It's not as if these people watching violent movies would otherwise be home reading a book."
Then Dahl himself suggests that since it's actually films that attract the twenty-something age group rather than just violent films that Hollywood could do well to remove the gore from films and still offer something that would be attractive to them:
"We need more Adam Sandler movies...Even though I'm not a big fan of Adam Sandler, that's the implication."
Well can we really believe that Adam Sandler is the key to ending violence in the real world? Well obviously not as his films are pretty rubbish. However this study does seem to have a point, attract audiences to evening weekend showings of films and they won't be out getting drunk and ending up fighting.
However unlike the statements above I'll clarify that by saying not everyone does go straight to the pub instead of going to the cinema and not everyone who goes to the pub gets wasted, nor do they then go out and fight. I know I don't, and I do read books thank you!