Violence in the media has become a contradictory topic. While some individuals believe that media violence places society in danger of anarchy, others find that violence in the movies and on television has no negative effect on societal communities. Research has shown that there are pros and cons to having violence displayed in the media.
Pro: Catharsis Theory
The catharsis theory implies that daily interactions cause individuals to accumulate frustrations. These frustrations could lead to the individual committing violent acts if not released by other means. According to this theory, watching others engage in violent acts on television or in the movies relieves the individual of daily frustrations, and creates a society filled with less violence. In essence, the catharsis theory deems media violence as a positive attribute because an individual can release tension without physically harming another individual.
Con: Violent Thoughts
Researchers have undertaken studies that support the idea of media violence initiating violent thoughts in children and adults. According to the theory of observational learning, children learn through example. As such, kids who are unable to decipher the difference between reality and fantasy will imitate behaviour viewed on television. If not corrected, these children have the potential to exhibit violent acts as children and throughout their adult lives. From this perspective, violence in the media initiates violent thoughts that individuals eventually carry out.
Pro: Reinforcement Theory
The reinforcement theory holds that media violence reinforces prior beliefs about violence in society. When speaking of media portrayals, the reinforcement theory indicates that violent acts seen in the media occur in society when aggressive behaviour already surrounds the viewer. Individuals who learnt that violence is wrong will not be influenced by the media to commit such acts. In fact, persons who believe violence to be bad will use such behaviour in the media to strengthen their opposition.
Con: Justifiable Violence
Regardless of an individual's beliefs about violence, the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) hold that aggressive behaviour in the media presents the idea of violence being a justifiable solution to societal problems. According to CMPA, many television shows with a protagonist and antagonist display the good protagonist as one who triumphs over the bad antagonist through violent acts. While good ruling over evil is a positive concept, some television shows and cinemas do not demonstrate the human consequences of violent acts. Failure to exhibit such consequences informs the viewing audience that violence is the only justifiable means of solving a problem and aggressive behaviour has no consequences associated with it -- a concept that is certainly untrue in society.
- Mass Media and Society: Media Effects, pgs. 1,3
- American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry; The impact of media violence on children and adolescents-Opportunities for clinical interventions; Eugene V. Beresin, M.D; 2010
- Media Awareness Network: Violence in Media Entertainment
- National Center for Children Exposed to Violence (NCCEV): Media Violence