Over the last couple of weeks or so, there’s been an interesting mini-debate of sorts taking place via the Shooting People Screenwriting bulletin along the lines that exposure to film and TV images can have (supposedly) a corrupting influence.
Here’s Alan McKenna:
It seems exposure to violent images predisposes us to greater tolerance of violence. Not a lot of doubt I'm afraid.
And here’s Allen O’Leary:
I've come across some interesting research lately about TV watching and behaviour. Take a read of this http://esciencenews.com/articles/2008/09/25/risky.behaviors.tv.may.be. (...)
Precis: If you haven't had the experience of a risky sexual behaviour and you watch programs that show that risky behaviour you are more likely do it later REGARDLESS of whether the consequences of the behaviour are shown to be bad in the program.
That's very interesting indeed and implies there is a critical failure in programs that supposedly model bad behaviour as an 'educational' device - they could back-fire horribly...
And here’s Elisabeth Pinto:
My conclusion... was it was nigh-on impossible to make an anti-war film even if the film explicitly set out to do so. Not for physiological reasons per se but because of the nature of film narrative (which may amount to the same thing). By giving a sense of control over events (A happens, followed by B, followed by C etc), it is only too easy to project yourself into the action in a positive way. Which you end up doing because film romanticises and mythologises everything. And we all know how human beings yearn for myths...
With all due respect to these good people, I’m convinced that they are all totally, utterly wrong. But instead of merely stating that they’re wrong and leaving it at that, armed with my Psychology A level, I’m going to dig about and unearth some evidence as to why. In the meantime, here’s I.C. Jarvie from his book Towards a Sociology of the Cinema:
While people believed (believe?) that film and television do influence their children, and that if the programming is bad, then their children will be, too. Studies such as those done by Himmelwit (TV and the Child, London, 1958) and Schramm (TV in the Lives of Our Children, Stanford, 1961) reveal that this is untrue. Film may influence us toward good or evil, but if it does, then the way we are is much more complicated than what it seems to be on the surface, and it could even possibly be counterintuitive.