Media Manipulation

Violence on TV and films affects us all

It’s Sunday evening. Zubair intends to spend the entire evening in front of his television. That’s the only way to relax after a neck-breaking schedule. “With a pack of popcorn and ice cream scoop, TV viewing is surely the best thing,” he thinks flipping through channels, but gets bored only after an hour. There’s nothing but the same old movies, plays and songs. He’s looking for something exciting — full of action, thrill and romance that can take him away from his monotonous world. Finally, he gets what he wants — a high-rated American movie on a famous movie channel. The filthy violent and obscene images captivate him for an hour. After watching some vulgar videos for another hour, he goes to sleep. Throughout the night, he keeps on dreaming himself as a victim, attacked by monsters that brutally dragged and killed him after destroying his family.The next morning, when he wakes up, he’s sleepy and has a headache. Though images from the idiot box don’t haunt him anymore, he’s more anxious about the people around him. On his way to office, a horrifying road accident doesn’t move him at all as he’s seen many violent scenes on screen. However, he feels sick and depressed all day long.Whether you’re a student, professional or a housewife, you experience more or less the same if you are one of the TV junkies. Television has become part and parcel of our lives. It entertains and accompanies us, and perhaps influences us more than anything else. With economic prosperity, now an average household has more than one TV set which enables the youngsters to watch TV on their own without any parental guidance or control.Violence and gender issues are popular themes of the entertainment industry and have always been fantasized in literature, art, folklores, fiction and history. In modern times, television has outclassed all other media as a source of entertainment and education. It portrays larger than life images that glamorize violence and sex to lure the masses and thereby earn profits in the world of commercialism and consumerism.In about 3,000 studies conducted over four decades, researchers have determined that a steady diet of violent and obscene entertainment does contribute to anti-social and aggressive activities when added to other factors such as violence in the home and neighborhood. Seeing violence and obscenity on television can affect us in many ways. However, the three areas of possible emotional effects that are highlighted in the report areDESENSITIZATION: People may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others; FEAR AND ANXIETY: People may be more anxious and fearful of the world around them; HOSTILITY: People may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways towards others. It has been proved in several studies that exposure to intense media violence quickly incites hostile feelings and can also lead to a rather enduring hostile mental framework that affects even close interpersonal relations.

Heavy doses of violent and obscene content contribute to our nightmares and long-term anxieties developed in an early age and often immune us to acts of violence and vulgarity in real life. Studies by George Gerbner, PhD, at the University of Pennsylvania, for example, have shown that children’s TV shows contain about 20 violent acts each hour and also that children who watch a lot of television are more likely to think that the world is a mean and dangerous place.“

Children who watch violent shows, even ‘just funny’ cartoons, are more likely to hit out at their playmates, argue, disobey class rules, leave tasks unfinished, and are less willing to wait for things than those who watch non-violent programs,” says Aletha Huston of the University of Kansas.

Early researches on the effects of pornography and violence in the media indicated limited influence, suggesting that the impact varied from individual to individual. Some persons reacted more than others. For example, one study showed that some youths who had watched a movie in which a victim was burned to death went out and committed exactly the same kind of crime. But obviously not everyone who saw the movie committed the crime.

However, later researches began to show more direct effects, especially on children and young people. As television has become the dominant mass medium and pre-school children in their formative years spend more time watching TV and less time with their parents, teachers and religious leaders, it’s logical that their values, beliefs, customs and traditions are dictated by television.

One such study, for example, a 1987 survey of 2,760 randomly selected 14-to-16-year-olds, determined that adolescents who engaged in risky behavior (sexual intercourse, drinking, cigarette and marijuana smoking, cheating, stealing, truancy, and driving a car without permission) were more likely to spend more time listening to the radio and watching music videos and movies on television than those who didn’t. According to a seven-year statistical analysis by University of Washington professor Brandon Center, half of the murders in North America can be attributed directly or indirectly to television viewing.

According to the American Psychological Association, the typical TV-watching American child will witnesses 8,000 murders and 10,000 acts of violence in its lifetime. The case is not much different in Pakistan as now our children also have equal exposure to all types of Indian, American and native channels, thanks to cable television and parents who often use television as a baby sitter.

Cartoons, which are meant for children, are rated among the most violent programs. Violence on TV is increasing all over the world. In 1980, for example, the most violent prime-time show registered 22 acts of violence per hour. In 1992, one show registered 60 acts of violence per hour, and in 2012, it most probably increased fourfold in number. Increasingly, social scientists have found a link between media violence and aggressive behavior in society.

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