Motion Pictures as an Agent of Socialization:(1976 to 2006)– Business Review, December 2012, Research Journal, IBA Karachi

 People and institution that contribute to individual’s self-image, approach and conduct are known as agents of socialization. The leading traditional agents of socialization include family, religion, school, daycare, peer group, mass media, sports and workplace. Each one has its unique role in nurturing individuals into an active and functional member of society. Mass Media viz., books, newspapers, magazines, radio, television, movies, internet and mobile phones are not just the sources of information and entertainment anymore; rather they mould our attitudes, values and perception towards life. It was estimated in US that “on an average people in modern age spend more time using media (3, 661 hours) annually than sleeping (2, 920 hrs.) or other activities other than media (2, 179 hrs) out of total hours of 8,760 in a year” (Stevenson, 2004-2007, Communication Industry forecast).

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Figure 1: Average Time people spend with Media each year (Veronis Sahler Stevenson’s Communications industry Forecast 2003-2007 as cited by Biagi, 2005), P.2

The above survey reflects that the contemporary generation spends more time with the Mass Media than the conventional social institutions. Hence they get inspiration and understanding of most of unusual life’s experiences such as violence, love and sex through films and TV. Movies serve as an important agent of socialization that often function independently and mostly against the values and morals of traditional social institutions. Most movies project controversial themes and actions such as violence, drinking, gambling, and adultery in a glamorous way to attract masses and churn out maximum profit. In result they often have a clash and face serious criticism from traditional agents of socialization.

However, there are researchers such as Yanovitling and Benett (Thompson, 1999, p.446) who discovered that media effects mediated by other agents of socialization such as family, peers and criminal judicial system actually influences the social context such as perception of social reality and risks which in turn influence individuals’ decisions. Carlyle and Staler (2008), on the other hand, assumed that mass media might manipulate human behavior more effectively through their influence on social institutions rather than individuals (Journal of Communication, pp.68-186).

graph 2

Figure 2 depicts Model of Movie Socialization reflecting role of Movies as one of the leading Modern Social Institutions working independent of the traditional social institutions (Garth Jowett, 1989, p. 82)

 Violence and Crimes are the hot cakes that have always attracted film-makers world over due to its mass appeal. For people of all ages greatest exposure to violence also comes from movies. Researchers have identified that Love, Crime and Sex are the ever green themes that have dominated 75% of the commercial films produced world over since 1930. Further National Institute on Media Studies (The Family, 2010, p.2) fosters the fact that “an average American child exposes to 8,000 murders and 100, 000 violent acts before finishing elementary school which raised to 40,000 homicides and 200,000 violent acts by the age of 18.” It can arbitrarily be assumed that the situation might not be much different in Pakistan, thanks to mushrooming cable channels and easily available foreign movies on DVDS and internet.

It is crucial to note that depiction of violence in films is often unrealistic and exaggerated. Fighting and killing are often projected as a practical and easy solution in crisis without any hint to its consequences especially when it involved heroes versus villains.The impact on viewers’ psyche is obvious. However, it is not that simple to blame onscreen violence for rising anarchy in society due to various reasons. Virtually very few criminals and deviants are found guilty because of their heavy exposure to onscreen violence. On the contrary, a large majority of the viewers seem to be unaffected. Though most researches unable to find a straight cause-and-effect link between real and reel world violence, they do recognize multiple and indirect circumstantial links.

Popularity of Bollywood in Indo-Pak Sub-Continent

The society in Indo-Pak subcontinent is believed to be under the immense influence of large and empathic Indian film industry. The Press Trust of India (2006) claimed that “India has the largest film industry in the world popularly known as Bollywood and often referred to as Hindi Cinema. Its annual worldwide ticket sales are worth $ 3.5 billion. Bollywood churns out approximately 800-1000  movies every year.” Indian Cinema is recognized globally and has a large viewership in almost every region of the world. Due to its international appeal,

Bollywood movies are exported to over hundred countries across the world. “Thesemovies generate around 30% of their potential profit from overseas markets” (APFReporter 21 # index).inema of India (2007) further estimated that satellite television and fast growing home video segment of cable TV are new alternative distribution means that expectedly “expand the Bollywood films’ market to earn around Rs. 12, 900 crores ($3 billion) by 2009

Considering the popularity of Indian movies in Pakistan and its easy accessibility to local mass viewers through satellite television, home video cable channels,  videocassette, DVDs and now countrywide display in native Cinema Halls, one canassume that it might play an important role in influencing the mindset by introducing virtual role models and sharing popular filmi culture.

Current Scenario Approximately, 16 to 20 movies are telecast regularly on 24-hours movie channels available on cable television while a number of Indian movies are showcased in Pakistani Cinemas since last few years after the ban has been supposedly relaxed on the public release of Bollywood films in the country. The ban was imposed after the Indo-Pak war of 1965. However popular figures in the Pakistan film industry fervently advocating the open screening of the Indian movies, considering it the only way to revive the country’s comatose film industry.

The growth of cable TV, globalization of film industry and concentrated mediaownership has transformed the electronic media from a public trust to a transnationalbusiness enterprise. It gives a large part of Pakistan’s population a swift, round-the-clockaccess to all sorts of programmes on various local and foreign channels that often depictcrude violence and sex solely for profit motives. Among them, cable cinema channels are widely popular in the local viewers that showcase all types of Indian and English movies uncensored.

George Gerbner (1967) identified that Films create a new form of collectivity known asthe`mass public’ by transforming selected private perspectives into broad publicperspective.Jarvie (1970) discussed film industry’s influence over the then society. He claimedthat most Hollywood films projected popular view and expected social roles on big screen irrespective of the reality. US Department of Health and Human Services issued Surgeon General Report(1972) which advocates that “exposure to intense media violence often incites hostile feelings and can also lead to hostile mental framework that affects even closeinterpersonal interactions. Heavy doses of violent and obscene content contribute to ournightmares and long-term anxieties developed in early age and often immunes us to acts of violence and vulgarity in real life” (pp. 393-396).

The question of whether or not the mass media are capable of moulding theminds of the audience is an extremely complex one, and the answer is subject to a wide variety of factors. “Some people are influenced by some media at sometime” is a commonly held belief by social scientists; but exactly how this influence takes place is open to speculation” (Garth Jowett, 1989, p. 83).

The powerful role of movies as a source of `image formation’ was a special area of researchers’ interest in the last century, and many studies were conducted to examine movies impact on the collective public consciousness alongside its crucial influence on the psychological development of individual viewers (Baldwin, 1976; Deming, 1969; andRosenbaum, 1980). Motion Pictures are the most fascinating creative art that mesmerizes millions and leaves lasting impact on its viewers. According to the identification theory (1961), films not only entertain people but also help them to identify themselves. Considering the potential, former Hollywood movies often projected the theme of nationalism. “In the early 1900s for e.g. new immigrants were among the most loyal moviegoers” (Gomery,1992, p.21). Likewise, women became loyal fans in the 1910s, and movies helped tdefine the concept of “New American Woman” in the US society (Gomery, 1992, p. 31).

 Since the late 1950, movies became a significant source of youth culture (Snyder 1995).US Department’s Surgeon General Report (2001) reinforced further that ardentaction movies’ viewers often react violently, prefer aggression to resolve disputes, hardlytrust others and generally perceive the world as a dangerous place. Recently, Webb (2009) conducted a study by the title `PG-13 rated Filmsadversely-exposed-kids to violence’. She testified all the PG-13 rated films from the list of100 top-grossing movies of 1999 and 2000 identified by a Hollywood reporter. The study revealed that violence pervaded around 90 percent of the movies sampled. Moreover, the media depiction of violence contributes to the teaching of violence, leading to amplifiedanger, concern for individual’ safety and desensitization to the pain.

In Asia, some significant research studies have been found related to the impact oflocal and international media especially Film and TV on Asian viewers such as a content analysis in Malaysia conducted in early eighties that utterly condemned the increasing rate of violence in cartoons, films and other programs on Malaysian TV channels. UNESCO Global Study on Media Violence (Groebel, 1996-97) surveyed around5,000 children from 23 countries to reveal that 88% children readily identified Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator character world over. Action heroes in films and cartoons are the most popular role models especially among Asian children, rating the highest scores in the survey. Around 50% of the surveyed children found to perceive screen images as reality irrespective of cultural and environmental differences. The study reflects universality of media violence and global fascination of aggressive media icons.

Strasburger (1999) pointed out that media violence is no more a western concern only as several researchers signify swift global reach of media content that uniformly target Asian and Indian viewers especially youth with equally graphic programs and resulted into identical “problems of imitation, desensitization, fear, and inappropriate attitudes” towards real life violence both in the East as well as the West (pp. 603-612).

More specifically in Indo-Pak Region, a few researches on Indian movies and some articles are found that highlight the historical evolution, reach and impact of Indian film industry to the current status. Akbar. S. Ahmed’s research article (1992) maintained that art and life have fused in Indian society. Cinema depicts popular political philosophies, social values, group behavior, folk language and fashion in India and like a mirror, reflects back in society. The understanding of the phenomenon will facilitate to examine India’s self perceptionand Bollywood’ contribution in fostering India’s image as a big brother and regional power in South Asia. Moreover the study also analyzes its impact on neighbouring countries like Pakistan, both at their cinema and society (p. 289).

The key concern of the current study is to explore if there is any correlation between the depiction and representation of violent criminals and victims in fictional world of Indian movies and factual crime-world actors and subjects in Pakistani society, considering the immense popularity and reach of Indian films during the last four decades from 1970s to 2000s. The study strengthens the rational revelation that media violence in nexus with several other personal, psychological and socio-economic factors in the environment might contribute to the formation of a volatile generation that often lead to a dangerous society as reinforced by other studies such as Berkowitz (193l), Geen and O’ Neal (1969),

Frederick and Stein (1973), Joesphson (1987), Bushman (1995), National TV Violence Study (1996-97), Anderson & Dill (2000) and Anderson & Bushman (2002) to name a few. It is vital to realize that even small statistical effects of media violence on aggressive behavior can have crucial social consequences due to the fact that it affects almost everyone across a large population, influence individuals psyche gradually and leaves lasting impressions on unconscious mind subtly through repetitive and continual exposure to onscreen violence over a period of time .Thus any single incident of violence in reel or real life can trigger the pent up emotions and results into extremely volatile reactions as evident in various recent incidents of brutality such as Sialkot lynching of Butt Brothers, Killings, stoning and burning of snatchers and burglars by mobs in Karachi, Lahore and other cities of Pakistan and violence during Lawyers’ Campaign in Pakistan to name a few. The constantly increasing crime rate in Pakistani society makes sense only when we analyze it in reference to the socio-political scenario. As Kunczik (2003) discovered that though “majority of viewers will remain unaffected, portrayal of violence on media might adversely influence a few inclined, predisposed young males in the environment in which violence is a routine experience” (p. 19).

It was statistically proven that the annual crime growth rate exceeded faster than the population growth rate in Pakistan since 1951 despite the fact that data includes reported crimes only which is roughly speculated to be around 50 to 70% in the country (UN Office on Drugs & Crimes, 2007).Political and economic instability, successive martial laws, short-term state policies, Soviet-Afghan War and influx of Afghan refugees in seventies and eighties resulted into narcotics trading, illegal arms smuggling, kidnapping for ransom and increasing crime rate in nineties that dived down during the first half of 2000s. However, it might have reached its height after 9/11 as a consequence of Pakistan’s involvement in war against terrorism.

Analyzing percentage of violent characters in films sample determines that the decades of 1970s and 1990s exhibit identical onscreen representation i.e. 9 percent respectively while the remaining two decades viz., 1980s and 2000s reflect almost a parallel representation of 14 and 15 percent characters as perpetrators of violence. To an extent somewhat comparable trends at much higher rate dominate the journalistic front of native crime scene where consecutively 56 and 55 percent characters were portrayed as violent in news stories in the decade of 1970s and 1990s while around 39 and 44 percent characters were found guilty in the decade of 1980s and 2000s respectively.

It appears that the representation of violent characters might not religiously follow the overall crime rate in the sampled films in the relevant decades. For example the films from seventies contains the second highest crime rate of 80, however, projected a small population of violent characters i.e. 9% which is equivalent to the representation of violent characters in the romantic musical decade of 1990s with the lowest crime rate of 62. Eighties, however, projected the highest population of violent characters i.e. (14%) with an equally highest silver screen crime rate of 94. But the presence of almost similar percentage of perpetrators of violence in 2000s i.e. 15% with the second lowest crime rate of 76 decade is somewhat bewildering.

Figure 3 shows Percentage of Violent Characters in Newspapers and Films of four Decades from 1970s to 2000s

Figure 3 shows Percentage of Violent Characters in Newspapers and Films of four Decades from 1970s to 2000s

As far as films are concerned, it is evident from the tables 1 to 4  that the social class of the violent characters is mostly unidentified. In the single decade of 1970s where it was identifiable, most violent characters, 44 percent seemingly belong to upper class than middle and lower classes which have an equal representation of 11 percent each. It is found that most filmmakers believe and propagate Conflict Theories of

Crime in their depiction of violence and violent characters. These theories maintain that laws are made, imposed and used by the capitalists (rich) in their vested interest against working (middle) and marginal working (poor) classes while they are protected with their crimes under the similar penal system (Henslin, 1997, pp. 100-267). Thus most Indian films condemn the prevailing justice system as biased and project elite class as tyrants against poor victims. Moreover some studies such as Aidman’s (1997, p.2) confirmed that violent crimes are often fictionalized even justified when committed by heroes in almost 40% cases in films thus promoted it as popular and quick way to get social justice.

Reported news somewhat reflect similar treatment since it can be seen that social class of a large majority of the violent characters is unidentified in most crime incidents and in cases where it is known, a slightly large population of these characters seemingly represent upper class i.e. (2 % in 70s, 0.3% in 90s and 1% in 2000). In comparison, there is comparatively less representation of poor class as oppressors i.e.(1, 0.2 and 0.4 percent in the decades of 70s, 90s and 2000s respectively).While the middle class has the lowest presence as perpetrators of violence in reported news which is 0.09 and 0.1 in the decades of 1990s and 2000s respectively contrary to popular beliefs. Sociological Crime Theories have already indicated that the poor and minorities are often arrested and given larger terms and severe punishments for minor deviances compared to their affluent counterparts with much serious crimes (Henslin., 1997, p. 267).

Men always dominate women as active player in violence beit films or news reports. In films the ratio of man, woman representation is 88% male vs.11% females in 70s, 80% male vs.20% females in 80s, 71%male and 29% females in 90s and 79% males vs. 21% females in 2000s. On the other hand, reported news even show the higher male domination as violent characters i.e. 99% male vs. 1% female in 70s, 68% male vs. 0.04% female in 80s, 99% male and1% female in 90s and 94% male vs. 0.5% female in 2000s while gender identity of rest of the violent characters depicted in news reports remain unrevealed.

 Male domination as perpetrators of violence both in movies as well as reportednews reinforce the fact that women are still subjected to severe violence in countries likePakistan and India which is often glamourized than condemned in local media especially on silver screen as confirmed by the findings of Ramasubramanian and Mary’s study (2003, pp. 327-336) about portrayal of sexual violence in popular Hindi films in nineties.

Fig.4 represents Gender Percentage of Violent Characters’ in Films and Newspapers from 1970s to 2000s

Fig.4 represents Gender Percentage of Violent Characters’ in Films and Newspapers from 1970s to 2000s

The study revealed that moderate sexual violence including harassment is oftenromanticized when it’s inflicted upon heroines by heroes.of the violent characters both on and off screen are often unidentifiable. Wherever evident, most of violent characters in films depict youth and middle aged villains i.e. 22% aged between 20 and 29 and 11% between 30 and 59 in the decade of 70s. In the 1980s, there were 21 percent characters aged between 20-29 and 50 % between 30 and 59. Sociologists’ Krohn and Massey (1980) identified in Control

 Theories of Crimes that delinquents are generally teenagers and youngsters with fragile associations, less obligations and ignorance to social norms and values.While in the following two decades of 90s and 2000s, age range of violent characters was unknown. In reported news we could gauge only 0.5 % violent characters aged from 30-59 in 70s followed by 0.08 violent characters fell in age ranged between 1- 29 and 0.04 aged from 30-59 in 80s.In subsequent decade of 90s, 0.1 % violent characters were recognized between the age range of 20-29 while 0.04% were found from the rest of the age groups. In 2000s only 0.1 % was identifiable who belong to 30-59 while the age range of rest of the violent characters was not evident through the reported news analyzed as the reflection of real crime scene in the time period under study.

 Most violent characters, almost 100 percent were depicted and projected as villains in the films of 1970s while the reported news portrayed 15 percent perpetrators of violence as villains, 0.5 as hero and 0.8 as both while rest were reported neutrally. The trend was continued in the subsequent decade of 1980s when despite glamorization of violence, onscreen criminals and violent characters were almost always (100%) portrayed as villains who met divine justice in the end. However, reported news presented around 3% as villains and only 0.1% as heroes while rest of the violent characters were covered neutrally.

 There is a noticeable change in the treatment of violent characters on silver screenin the subsequent decades as findings demonstrate that around 14% violent charactersThe findings indicate that the depiction of perpetrators as well as subjects ofviolence have been constantly increased in Indian films during the three decadesirrespective of themes and rate of projected crimes on silver screen. On the other hand,the percentage of violent and victims in news reports and real world crimes fluctuatedfrom 93 to 98 between 70s and 80s, while it reduces to 84 in 90s and then slightlyincreases to 88 in 2000s. Representation of violent and victims characters in reported newsis somewhat more reflective of the crime rate and trends in the Indian movies of the samedecade than that of the respective news world of crimes.

Fig. 6 represents Sum of Percentage of Violent and Victimized Characters in Films and Newspapers from 1970s to 2000s

Fig. 6 represents Sum of Percentage of Violent and Victimized Characters in Films and Newspapers from 1970s to 2000s

As Eron (1962 cited by Stossel) and Gerbner (1976) maintained that violence in films might not only turn some predisposed vulnerable viewers into violent criminals, but also produce a large majority of fearful beings who accept a police state or dictatorship as a sole safe solution in a highly dangerous society often projected by filmmakers and state channels. Further there is the third dimension of the media violence effect that leads tohighly immune and numb segments of society remain equally insensitive to socialviolence and injustice with “none of my business” approach. Thus as the findings of this study demonstrate that explicit immediate impact of violent films in the making of violent criminals is difficult to gauge, latent impact contributing to the mass mentality resulting into insensitive and fearful public is more common though subtle to trace which might also reflect state and foreign films agenda behind these violence laden films and plays.

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