Media and Criminal Violence

Introduction

People’s love for violent shows seems to have grown several times over the last few decades. All one would need to verify this assertion is to compare the video games made in the 1990s to those that are being produced today. Indeed, violence is addictive. Not only does the media understand this fact but also capitalizes on the knowledge to keep people glued to the screen for more violent entertainment. The result of the prolonged exposure to violence through the media is that people have become accustomed to violence as something normal in the real world. As the paper argues, people are more prone to criminal violence because the media promotes and normalizes violence through means such as violent television shows, aggressive video games, the inclusion of violence and crime in entertainment, and the portrayal of violent characters as heroes among others, thus making the audience more likely to engage in violent behavior.

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Media and criminal violence

The media has made violence at the center of entertainment. Today, it is almost impossible to separate entertainment from the concept of violence. Violent television shows are advertised in an appealing manner to capture the interest of potential viewers. According to Dowler et al., crime is an integral element of entertainment in Canada and the United States (838). The number of people who watch violent or crime-oriented television shows such as American Justice and COPS has also increased considerably over the years. Many of these shows are disguised as offering important information regarding a crime, yet they only succeed in making viewers more tolerant of crime. As the consumption of violent media continues to grow, people will become unable to contextualize entertainment without violent scenes. As a result, more people will be unable to differentiate reality from fiction when it comes to violence.

By entrenching violence and crime in almost every piece of entertainment, the media has succeeded in normalizing violence. Today, people view violence as part of life. They are less perturbed when they witness it in real life. The YouTube video The Mean World Syndrome Desensitization Acceleration Extra Feature reveals how exposure to violence through media makes people more jaded when they witness the actual violence in a real-life situation. Therefore, such people are unlikely to help a person who is being attacked by thugs. Cases of people being mugged in broad daylight as onlookers watch unmoved have also increased in recent times. The culture of violence has become normal to the extent that people do not care as long as they are not the ones under attack. The media has played an important role not only in promoting the portrayal of people as inherently violent but also in depicting violence as a normal part of life.

Today, video games are rated based on how aggressive they are. As people become more addicted to cruel entertainment, game producers make the games even more violent to quench the growing desire. These video games have come to be commonly accepted through the media agencies that glorify and even assist in rating them. Many children and young adults spend at least five hours a week playing aggressive video games. While violent video games appear harmless to the user, statistical findings have indicated otherwise. For instance, Anderson et al. assert that video games contributed to aggressive behavior in children age between 9 and 12 years (1070). Arguably, the more hours children spend playing video games, the more aggressive they are likely to become. Violence by these children may be demonstrated through unprovoked attacks on fellow children or even in remote cases, attempting to smuggle a weapon to school. Therefore, violence that is witnessed today all over the world can be partly blamed on aggressive video games.

The media portrays brutal characters as heroes while at the same time depicting the polite individuals as weak. Based on the YouTube video titled Violence in Media: A Complicated Relationship, it has almost become the norm that ‘invincible’ characters in a film must be physically strong and violent for them to win admiration from the audience. Movies with numerous fighting scenes are seen as more entertaining. They get the most publicity from the media. As a result, the body count in films has been increasing steadily. Where a film is remade, the subsequent movie will have a higher body count relative to the previous version. For this reason, it is almost impossible to spot a movie that does not involve a form of violence and death. Violent films resonate with feelings of fear and anxiety in people, a situation that makes the audiences even more attracted to criminal violence since it makes them feel invincible too.

The realistic portrayal of crime drama shows has blurred the line between fiction and reality. The term ‘infotainment’ refers to this phenomenon of portraying crime as reality (Dowler et al. 838). Shows such as Criminal Minds and Person of Interest are depicted as true accounts of events that have happened in real life. Therefore, it is not surprising that the audience today finds it difficult to tell crime drama shows from real crime. As a result, viewers end up accepting the scenes of a crime drama as being real. Furthermore, news articles that touch on violent crimes are given a more entertaining angle compared to ‘ordinary’ news. This situation may call for the distortion of facts and/or the exaggeration of details to capture the attention of the audience. Consequently, people are drawn to news items that report about violence, a move that leads to a culture of appreciating violence.

The media has contributed to the increase in sex crimes such as rape and sexual assault. Although it (media) has been a part of the struggle for equality between men and women, its portrayal of women in films is degrading. Female victims are often depicted as having brought the victimization upon themselves. Violence against women is downplayed while women are objectified and shown as being weak and unable to defend themselves (Dowler et al. 841). As a result, they are frequently attacked and abused by men who are easily exonerated by the media since it is already assumed that the female victim must have been in the wrong. Music genres such as Hip-hop promote misogyny by showing women as ‘objects’ who must always be available to gratify the desires of men (Dowler et al. 841). Accordingly, instances of women being sexually abused are high since the society is already justified through the media to perpetuate this perverseness.

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Notwithstanding, violent behavior often reflects the trouble that a person is going through. For children, being aggressive may indicate that the child is having a difficult time in his or her family. Associating such problems with violent films and video games may be far-fetched. In addition, children and young adults who are attracted to violent content are likely to be having personal problems (Anderson et al. 1071). In this case, resorting to violent content is only a way of venting their frustrations. Hence, the media is not to blame since it is not responsible for the root of the said problems. Therefore, this affinity to violence could be addressed through counseling by parents rather than blaming the media. Moreover, most media outlets issue precautions on age restriction before airing content that is not appropriate for, say, children. In addition, regarding violent shows such as the WWF Wrestling, the media delivers disclaimers warning people that the events are fallacious and/or based on creativity.

The disclaimers issued are not adequate to prevent violent media from advancing the culture of violence. Personal problems may encourage people to resort to criminal violence. However, this claim does not exonerate the media from its role in furthering the culture of violence. Arguably, without violent content is available through the media in the first place, people would not have access to it. In addition, media does not have effective mechanisms to ensure that the wrong audience such as children does not access violent content.

Conclusion

Media outlets have made violence normal to the extent that people have accepted it. As a result, the audience is more prone to criminal violence. Brutality has become the pillar of modern news. The media portrays crime drama as realistic, thus narrowing the line between offense fiction and true misdemeanor. Video games are also becoming more violent. Additionally, violence against women remains high because the media depicts them as being responsible for the violence against them. These factors have compounded the normalization of violence. The result is that society has become more aggressive.

Works Cited

Anderson, Craig, et al. “Longitudinal Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggression in Japan and the United States.” Pediatrics, vol. 122, no. 5, 2008, pp. 1067-1072.

Dowler, Ken, et al. “Constructing Crime: Media, Crime, and Popular Culture.” Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, vol. 48, no. 6, 2006, pp. 837-850.

“The Mean World Syndrome Desensitization Acceleration Extra Feature.” YouTube, Web.

“Violence in Media: A Complicated Relationship.” YouTube, Web.

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