Film History and Meaning : Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

This is my first post here so I hope I've put it in the right place, apologies if I haven't.

As part of a project for Film Studies I needed primary research. I thought the best and most effective way to get it was by posting here and finding out your opinions on whether 'Horror fiction has any affect on society'. Violence and the media have always been quite closely linked with murder cases such as the 'James Bulger' and the 'Lionel Tate/Tiffany Eunick' investigations.

The aim of my research is for me to come to a conclusion about whether I think that particularly graphic or violent horror films affect modern society through desensitization.

Sorry if it sounds quite vague but I didn't want my post to be too long, any help would be hugely appreciated! :)

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

There must be some books/research done on that topic. If you just want opinions, I think graphic Horror films affect people differently and don't really lead to violence, in any significant way. Maybe once in a while.

Desensitization is an issue but that would be something that leads movie-watchers to not care about suffering in the world, rather than commit crimes themselves.

BTW this isn't a very busy board so you might want to try Film General with your question, it has a lot more participants.


"Did you make coffee...? Make it!"--Cheyenne.

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

I personally don't believe that graphic violence in movies leads to crime or violence in real life. There was violence before movies and there are people who committed violent crimes without seeing graphic violence in movies.

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

The fact that there was violence before movies doesn't mean movies can't provoke violence. One doesn't follow from the other, as violent behavior can have many causes independent of each other.

My real name is Jeff

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

Only if the individual was already mentally unbalanced prior to having viewed such material. So, in short, no.

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

No, they don't. Similarly, that's why they make porn: just like that, not to arouse people (and cash in from that).

We can't be lost; we don't know where we're going.
All that matters is that we're going.

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

If you're doing research on this subject matter, I highly recommend checking out the history of A Clockwork Orange. Kubrick was harassed and abused by the media for the rest of his life after this one because of the number of young people who claimed inspiration from his film, which they wrongly interpreted. White power critics called Kubrick a creator of "crank" culture in Britain and America and stalked him the rest of his life, largely inspiring Eyes Wide Shut. A Clockwork Orange had nothing at all in it that would obligate viewers to follow him, and criticisms like this, even with criminal confessions of being inspired by Kubrick, when held up to scrutiny, largely demonstrate the same pattern of violent outbreak and public panic that groundbreaking filmmakers like Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino supposedly "inspired." All of these filmmakers are considered legendery, especially Kubrick, despite "inspiring" some of the most publicized violence and criminality associated with its misinterpretation; and you can backtrack all of those claims and find stories associated with each filmmaker like this. But ever film history student knows those directors would have never made history had they been held back.

"You were acting like a different person." -Sheila, Lost Highway

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?


White power critics called Kubrick a creator of "crank" culture in Britain and America and stalked him the rest of his life,


What is "crank culture"?

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

Bandura's 'Bobo Doll' experiment would provide some good background research to cite when discussing how children can be affected by observed behaviour.

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

Lots of factors to consider - the type of film, story, messages, characters, etc etc etc
Also of course, critically, the viewer.

But can visual media like movies alter behavior?
Yes of course - advertisers spend millions doing exactly this. And they can make us do very stupid things, like waste money on stuff we don't want or need, or even slowly kill ourselves by consuming products bad for our health. Then there's propaganda, which at one extreme is brainwashing. By creating a negative shared image of some 'other' group/ belief/ whatever - many will be persuaded to sign up to go kill. And if the idea that a proportion of the population has psychopathic tendencies (?10%) is correct - many will not need much of an excuse.

However depending on the movie - violent horror might lead to a reduction in violent crime. It would depend to some extent on the intentions of the film-makers, and their skill in communication.

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

Nobody really can say for sure. There are two big problems. First, people often try to answer questions like this by using anecdotal evidence based on a few incidents (like the Bulger thing). That's like going to a town and seeing one or two guys who are very tall and assuming everyone in the town is tall.

Second, you have to eliminate all other lurking factors. For instance, if being abused as a child causes you to be violent AND like horror movies, you can't say whether the horror movies also cause the violence or whether they're both purely effects of the child abuse, and the horror is correlated with, but not a cause of the violence. It's like if you have a runny nose and a cough because you have a cold, you can't say the runny nose CAUSES the cough. To eliminate these lurking factors you either need to do a controlled experiment, which is pretty impractical for something like this, or you use a technique called multivariate regression where you mathematically account for all other factors. That is very difficult too (I do it for a living).

Most people just base their answer on their own experience. I watch tons of horror movies and they don't make me FEEL any more violent. It's not real. It's like asking if watching Roadrunner cartoons makes me feel violent towards coyotes in real life. . .

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

Dear bioinspiration:

Your response naively assumes that the average person is oblivious to the different discrete functions of mass media.

When a person watches advertising he knows at some level that he's in a situation where someone is trying to sell him something. This normal, though subtle anticipation in someone watching or reading advertisement "sets them up" to be sold to some degree. So, yes, effective advertising does, to some degree "cause" people to buy goods and services that they sometimes don't even want or need. But this would never happen if the viewer of that advertisement didn't already "set himself up", didn't anticipate the function of the advertising that he was about to view. It's like the guy who spends 2 hours whining & complaining with the salesman at the used car lot before giving in and buying the car. It's all BS, because if the guy didn't already "set himself up" before he left his house, if he didn't already decide at some level that he was ready to buy a car when he left his house then he would never have gone to the used car lot to start with. My father was a small businessman who told me many times when I was a kid that "people want you to sell them something, so don't be afraid to give them your sales pitch", and to a great degree he was right. People who just don't want to be sold something just won't buy, and people who are in their "buying mode" by being at a point of sale, be it a TV set or a furniture store are just more inclined to buy. So it is the person's anticipation of being sold something in conjunction with effective advertising that generates sales & not effective advertising alone

Your references to "propaganda" and "brainwashing" are similarly naïve for the same reasons. When a person is watching a news broadcast about the affairs of his nation, for instance, he is predisposed to "propaganda" or "brainwashing" because he recognizes at some level that a news broadcast about the affairs of his nation will invoke his feelings and attitudes about "patriotism", "duty to the fatherland", and such. Again the mass media viewer "sets him self up" by anticipating the behavior and attitudes that are appropriate for him in his viewing of that discrete mode or function of the mass media. If a citizen didn't "set himself up" by already viewing a news program & by already having "patriotic" attitudes, then no amount of "propaganda" or "brainwashing" would have the desired effect. To wit, all the "unpatriotic" hippies in the 1960's who didn't buy the BS propaganda stories on the news about Vietnam & went out to protest, rather than enlisting in the Army.

So, as far as violence in films "causing" violent behavior by the viewer elsewhere, it's just BS because the function of Hollywood films is not to "sell" the viewer anything, nor to "propagandize" him in any way. When a typical person goes to see a movie, any movie, he also "sets himself up", he "anticipates" but here he "anticipates" being entertained, and nothing more. The movie theater is a location where the average person anticipates pure entertainment, and nothing else. So, even if a movie went as far as to try to "sell" the viewer to become violent, or went as far as to try to somehow "brainwash" the viewer to become violent, because the average person just doesn't "set himself up", doesn't anticipate being "sold". or being "propagandized" while watching a movie, it just wouldn't work because he anticipates being entertained, and nothing more. In short, our cultural values just don't teach us to anticipate being "sold" or "propagandized", or taught anything while watching a TV show or a movie. They just teach us to sit back abd enjoy the show, and nothing else.

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

Interesting. But I disagree. Sorry I don't have time for a detailed reply - essentially I believe people are more suggestible than you suggest! Why do we want the things we think we want or need? Things which do us, others or the environment harm?

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

If you need primary research on the topic of whether horror fiction has any effects on society, you will need to look at actual primary research - studies that carefully try to look at the effects of horror fiction on people and their actions. Asking for our opinions probably does not constitute "primary research," if you are using the term as often used in science.

As far as anectodal evidence and opinion go, I would just point out that people who have committed violent crimes have frequently stated to authorities and the media that their violent actions were at least in part inspired by the violence they have seen in particular movies and television shows, or in written fiction. I will leave it to you to decide whether to believe the statements of the perpetrators in individual cases, but if you want primary research you will have to look at studies done on actual test subjects and the opinions of experts on human behavior who have read the primary research.

My real name is Jeff

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

can visual media like movies alter behavior?

A lot of people think it does. I'm not so sure. I will believe violent movies induce people to commit violent crimes when I see movies with religious themes inducing people to become preachers and missionaries. Haven't seen that one yet.

Millions upon millions of people watch violent horror films, but we only hear about that tiny percentage of them who go out and commit violent crimes.


Life ain't easy for a boy named Sue.

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

As far as people who commit violent crimes blaming a particular movie or a particular TV show for "causing" them to commit that crime, that just doesn't impress me at all. Most of the people who commit mass killings or are serial murderers are people who had BIG mental problems long before they became violent. Also, these sick, sick people usually have very little insight into their own behavior and their own emotions. These are people who are primarily in an "acting out" mode because they just can't, or they just won't get into a "self reflection" mode and think about what they are doing, or why they are doing it. So, when these sick, sick people are finally apprehended, and end up in an interrogation room with a detective relentlessly grilling them for hours about "Why did you do it, HUH?", these clueless sick people JUST HAVE TO come up with something to get this Dick Head detective off their backs & they just come up with the first TV show or movie that comes to their mind as the "cause", the "reason" for committing this violent act while, in reality, being the clueless. sick person they are they really and honestly don't know why they resorted to violence. If you think that this is BS, then Google "wrongful conviction" or "Project Innocence" and discover how many innocent people have been sent to prison in this country for crimes they never committed because the cops have ways of making you confess even if you didn't commit the crime. I think that these sicko's who blame a movie or a TV show are just another example of "coerced false confession", although in this case the guy did do the deed, it's just that he's so screwed up in the head that he really doesn't know why he did it.

I'm not too concerned about films or TV shows of any kind "causing" people to become violent because when the average person is watching a film or a TV show, his head is in an "entertainment mode", & not in a "buying mode" that would predispose him to advertisements, & not in a "patriotic mode" that would predispose him to believe propaganda based news broadcasts, or some sort of official government edict, or such. People respond to the various discrete functions or modes of the mass media according to the way they are subtly taught by our culture to respond to a particular discrete mass media function or mode. And our culture subtly teaches us that when watching a TV show or a film that it's time to just kick back & to enjoy the show. Our culture subtly teaches us that a TV show or a movie is "make believe" and not reality, & that its only function is to distract us from the drudgeries of everyday life, to "escape". So, I don't believe that people, even sick in the head people, will be caused by a TV show or a movie to commit violence because they know that what's on the screen is essentially a fantasy, regardless of the genre, and that its a fantasy that simply "fun to watch" and nothing more. Moreover, I don't see how a 2 hour movie or a 1 hour TV show is long enough to cause any such psychological damage anyway. Cops have to grill people for many hours to extract a true confession in many cases, much less a false confession. Al Quaida prisoners at Gitmo and Abu Ghraid or in CIA "black houses" often have to be interrogated and tortured for weeks before they "break", from what I've read. So, I don't see where a 2 hour movie or a 1 hour TV show id going to make that much of a difference.

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

Before the invention of moving pictures in the late nineteenth century the world was a peaceful, idyllic place. Read the Bible, no violence. Read Shakespeare, no violence. Read history pre-1890, no violence. There was also no sex before 1890.

"Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects". Will Rogers (1879-1935)

Re: Do Graphic Horror Films Lead to Violent Crimes?

Yes.

Violence in media leads to violence in real life. Without a doubt. Yes.
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