There is a high rise of controversy in the world of film. Usually, it's almost foreseen which films will be faced with controversy. If you focus on certain individuals in the film industry, like producers and scriptwriters, you can virtually be guaranteed of controversy. Some movies attract public debate, some minor, some fairly widespread, despite their benign or escapist premises. Sometimes, the controversy raised is minor or less legitimate. The most interesting thing about movies is that what seems obvious and inflammatory to some may go completely overheads for others. There are many types of controversies in the film industry and this paper is specifically going to look at violence in films, its causes, its effects and how to address it.
It is a fact that nowadays, violence in films has been on the constant rise.
The high rise in the amount of violence that is regularly exposed in films has been a cause of concern for some time. Such films make the audience believe that violence is exciting, entertaining, and even to be something that can be emulated (Saleem M., & Anderson CA 2012). However, it is crystal clear that this development has created problems in our society. Violence in films can be classified into various categories which are; comedic violence, horror with gore, sexualized violence, sadistic violence and extreme interpersonal violence.
Ever since the early days of cinema, filmmakers have had a fascination with violence. As production rules and surrounding censorship relaxed after every year, more movies began to emerge which pushed the boundaries of on-screen violence. Throughout the 20th century, movies have released all manners of mass killings on the silver screen from slow- motion shootouts to the horror excesses.
High levels of violence in films may have negative effects on individuals and the whole society at large. Firstly, they create negative effects on children's mental health. For example in the United States, there are no restrictions on content in cable TV programs that air content that contains violence. As a result, children that are exposed to such content tends to imitate undesirable actions. In 2009, Policy Statement on Media Violence, the American Academy of Paediatrics said that evidence from research shows that media violence that young people are exposed to can contribute to aggressive behavior, experiencing nightmares, desensitization to violence, and also, individuals are overcome by fear of being harmed. Also, the increase of violent content in films these days may support a lifestyle full of aggressive behavior and may lead to erosion of many moral values. This means that, when people watch too many violent stories, they can be obsessed and alternate their point of view. As a result, communities could be full of inhumanity and selfishness.
Studies show that individuals who act violently have exposure to content full of violence. Gentile D.A& Bushman (2012) did acknowledge that some individuals who are mentally ill are easily influenced by violence that is represented in a graphic manner. They continue to state that violent individuals are naturally more vulnerable because they are they are sick, and they may misinterpret something. For example, in a case whereby two teenage boys killed their schoolmates and a teacher, at the same time injuring others in a certain high school in Colorado. Research shows that the boys were so much exposed to violent video games and films.
People who enjoy watching films full of violence consequently stop associating violence with its negative effects in the real world. They eventually lose their senses of reality and consequently start to take violence less seriously. They neither show any sympathy to people who experience violence. This is not good for both individuals and for the society at large. According to Bauer, Georgeson, McNamara, Wakefield, King& Olympia (2017), there is a tendency that raises concern is that in such films, heroes who are mostly the main characters are depicted as people with admirable characters even when they tend to exhibit violent characters. This leads to non-violent people to believe that they can also gain respect and admiration by imitating that aggressive behavior of main characters in the film. As a result, the levels of violence increases, especially in major cities throughout the world.
Basically, violence in great films will make someone lose his right senses of thinking about an action. They make an individual to exercise his/her own judgment and thought beyond the real world. Representation of violence in a complex manner will lead to critical analysis and reflection of the events that are happening in the film storyline. This becomes a defining moment whether to judge a film as controversial or not.
Some people especially the young people start to cheer when watching a film that exhibits violence. Therefore when they are faced with a crisis or conflict in real life, they take to violent measures to solve a problem. For example, when they enter into confrontations with one another, they result in fighting. According to Donovan, B.W. (2009), movies with complex violence narratives can make us think deeply about this strong desire to turn to violent solutions whenever we are confronted with trouble. Therefore, when such movies have been produced, we are faced with an intellectual puzzle in relation to reasons for violence usage. However, we cannot stand on the sideline and allow a powerful film lead to questioning of our intellectual integrity. We have to take a stand even if it is meant to condemn the film. Essentially, the movie producers and directors usually have a purpose to present us with a piece of work with the intention of shocking or provoking. It is also the hypocrisy of the highest order for the artists to complain when people criticize or condemn their work when in the real sense, their intention was to portray acts of violence in a symbolic way.
Hollywood films, together with many other foreign films depicts that historically, violence was commonly applied in the service of power. People's understanding of democracy was based on their ignorance to using violence to make some people or groups submissive to those in power. Sometimes, this violence cover-up is exposed allowing us to have a look at the real face of the power and those in power. Thus, it is necessary for us to understand some violent narratives and how they relate to the roots of this societal power control.
In addition, if you have a belief in disturbing violence portrayals, then it is important to prepare yourself to experience disturbed and angry reactions. These are the feedback that movie producers and directors expect the film to do, and thus they should address its effects on those audiences. They should not confront audiences that react with anger but they should initiate a talk and dialogue as the art demands. Then, targeted audiences will not be involved with other people who push for violent experiences. The film producers should face the fear and confusion of the targeted audiences.
The limitation that the scriptwriters and movie producers have is that they use violence in films as a tool to entertain and excite. Among the most powerful films of the past few decades with disturbing content was Michael Haneke's movie called Cache. The movie explores the impact of restrained and organized aggressive behavior of an individual. It is moderate and precise in the way it presents violence, but the impact of the film is long-lasting. After watching the film, it still resonates in my mind, making me question the contribution of individuals and society at large in tackling of historical violence. It forces other people too to critically analyze and reflect on the methods that society uses prevent historical violence and their roles as individuals in this prevention. Instances associated with violence, in reality, can also force us to focus on what is right and what is wrong in the film industry.
There are many other movies full of violence. For example, the movie City of God. It is about the lives of gangsters its nature is aggression. It involves the life of criminals who are on the wrong side of the law. It also tackles dangerous zone of recklessness and immorality. The most exceptional thing about violence is the age of those involved in violent acts. The film is based on real life experiences in Rio de Janiero. It exposes the murderous actions of the young gangster children. The most shocking thing is that, its brutal insight into the way in which poverty gives rise to crime, which in turn breeds a particular type of psychopath.
There should be measures to be put in place to address the problems that arise from watching violent movies. Firstly, so as to prevent the exposure of the underage to violence on screen, parental tools are inevitable (Sege & Augustyn 2016). Parents have a responsibility to control what their children watch at the same time teach them about basic ethical values in life. Secondly, there should be laws that regulate and restrict contents deemed unsuitable for young children at a certain time and extra fees tacked on to limit the access of a community as a whole to programs featuring unhealthy activities.
Lastly, justified violence approved by the national government or other forces in society is usually a clear indication of the limits of a society of what is allowed, what is not allowed, and who is in charge of controlling these limits. We need to think about what those boundaries are, who they benefit and who they do not benefit, and how they are justified as normal. The government has a responsibility to combat the problem by taking a definite action. The government should regulate the film industry and also, provide a better education for its citizens. Producers must be prevented from exposing violence with no meaning as being fun in there movies. Instead, films could emphasize that there are tragic consequences related to violent acts and this would educate people specifically the youths and children to realize that violence exists in real world.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2009). Policy Statement--Media Violence. Pediatrics, 124(5), 1495-1503.
Bauer, M., Georgeson, A., McNamara, C., Wakefield, B. H., King, T. S., & Olympia, R. P. (2017). Positive and negative themes found in superhero films. Clinical pediatrics, 56(14), 1293-1300.
Donovan, B. W. (2009). Blood, guns, and testosterone: action films, audiences, and a thirst for violence. Scarecrow Press.
Gentile, D. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2012). Reassessing media violence effects using a risk and resilience approach to understanding aggression. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 1 (3), 138-151.
Saleem, M., & Anderson, C. A. (2012). The good, the bad, and the ugly of electronic media. Using social science to reduce violent offending, 83-101.
Sege, R. D., & Augustyn, M. (2016). Television and media violence.
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