I put a kettle on, the water boils… So who is responsible, me or the kettle? For years people have been blaming media for their problems. The media says I’m too fat, the media says I’m too thin, the media made me more violent, the media makes us racist. But who controls the media? Is today’s society run by secret intelligent monkeys assigned to play some kind of sick trick on us? Or are we too in denial to admit that we, ourselves, in fact influence what we see and read, and the way we then act based on that? As new forms of media enter our worlds, it seems that individuals begin to blame them for the world’s violence issues.
In the 18th century, Gothic novels created immense anxieties; due to the way this media platform affected its audiences. Throughout these gothic texts, there was a recurring notion of terror or horror. Ann Radcliffe, suggests ‘terror’ in gothic novels, “does not show horrific things explicitly but only suggests them.” This, she thinks, “expands the soul” of the readers. In contrast, Radcliffe argues that horror “freezes and nearly annihilates” the senses of its readers, as it shows atrocious things too explicitly. She believes “this is morally dangerous and produces the wrong kind of excitement in the reader,” therefore creating an anxiety of violence in society.
In 1828, along with rapidly increasing literacy rates and greater availability of mass print news media, the broadcast of the Red Barn Murder famously whipped the public into hysteria. In the 1950’s Comic books came under fire for producing violent images to children and even Rock and Roll music was criticized for corrupting innocent individuals. This concern, that seeing violent and disruptive images will create violent and disruptive people, is based on the Bobo Doll Experiment, which explores the notion that, if somebody is exposed to something enough, they will learn it and then carry out that behaviour.
It is clear that with all new forms of media, aside from the circumstances, concerns about its effect or way in which it may influence audiences, will arise. Various media platforms, video games, movies and music videos are recurringly criticized in today’s society for having an immense negative effect on the audience. Audiences in the past were seen as passive. Individuals would simply receive messages and themes explored through films, video games and music videos through solely the images shown. Though now, with easy access to technologies like the Internet, audiences are able to view R-rated films, violent video games and explicit music videos and create images from these situations, then respond to and alter the information given. According to the APA (American Psychological Association) Taskforce there is a “consistent relationship between violent video game use and increases in an individual’s aggressive behaviour, cognition, and affect.” The task force also argues “no single risk factor consistently leads a person to act aggressively or violently, but rather it is an accumulation of various risk factors that leads to the aggressive or violent behaviour of individuals.”
In my opinion, myself watching hours on end of violent material would discourage me from acting brutally or violently, in oppose to going out and committing violence. Therefore, ‘Media Effects Model’ and other types of research and studies tend to lose sight of the fact that it is the individual interacting with the media, and based on their personality and existing psychological state, is how they will react to the media form. Ivan Milat, the Backpack Murderer, had a dirt-poor upbringing, growing up he was exposed to family death and dysfunction, domestic violence and neglect; therefore it wasn’t violent video games or movies that resulted in his actions, but his existing psychological state. So again, I put the kettle on, the water boils… Who is responsible, me or the kettle?
“Individuals use different media platforms to do ‘good’ things and to do ‘bad’ things… Maybe it’s not the media that we should be questioning… but the people.”