Although there have been thousands of research studies on the effect that violence in films and television has on people, these studies are unable to prove that those that watch and enjoy violent films and television programmes will be more likely to carry out violent offences. F. S. Anderson collected the findings of sixty-seven studies that investigated the influence of television on aggressive tendencies in children, which had been carried out between 1956 and 1976. The methods used and the definition of ‘aggressive behaviour’ varied considerably.
Three-quarters of the studies claimed to find some association with violence tendencies, twenty percent gave no clear-cut-result, and three percent found that it decreased aggression. As we have already seen the validity of much of this research has been questioned. He also looked at the underlying theme of justice and found that in dramas there was a much higher proportion of crime solved than in real life, and that in cartoons harmful characters usually got their ‘just deserts’.
So perhaps some viewers are more influenced by the moral themes than the violent acts. Most research does not take into account the complexity and mental capacity that viewers have, which enable them to recognise that the violence portrayed in film and on television is not real. Hodge and Tripp emphasised that it was the interpreting or ‘reading’ of what had been watched, not just the content that caused violent tendencies.
They concluded that it is not the violence that affects behaviour but the framework of attitudes, within which, it is presented and ‘read’. The ideology in media refers to the way in which mass media can influence people’s beliefs, ideas, and actions. The media reaches mass audiences who are unable to answer back in a direct way. However the receiver does have the right to choose what he watches and to refuse to view anything that he does not agree with.
It is very difficult to prove psychologically or in a definitive way what the impact of violence in mass media has on the receiver. Those that believe that we desensitise and are no longer upset by the horrors depicted on our screen accept the argument for censorship, but others believe that we catharses and release negative emotions in a controlled environment would disagree. Arguments can be put forward both for and against especially as millions of people watch violence on television and yet it does not affect the vast majority of them.
Children do appear to be more willing to imitate violence that they have seen, and this is particularly evident in the case where a child was killed by a playmate imitating a karate kick performed in the television programme Power Rangers. The murder of Jamie Bulger has also been connected with violence from the film Child Play 3. This film had been rented by the stepfather of one of boys who was found guilty of the murder, even though there is no evidence to prove that the boys had watched the film. This potential danger to society does once again raise the issue of the impact of unacceptable violence levels on television and in film.