Sunday, November 24, 2013

"It's a cruel, cruel world"... Is it?!

Take a minute to think of your favorite Television show...

Gossip Girl: Drugging, Fights, physical altercations.
Law and Order: Sex Crimes, Murder, Suicides.
Pretty Little Liars: Death, Threats, Fighting.

Can you find a common link between these shows? Sure, they all have engaging and addictive story-lines but they also have VIOLENCE.

I'm not talking "Oh, she shoved me on the playground", "We got into a bar fight" type of violence. These shows have SERIOUS violence. The kind of stuff that sometimes makes you want to crawl under the covers or keep the lights on when you sleep.

This isn't just me. There is actually a communication theory based on violence in media. It's called the Cultivation Theory.

People watch a lot of T.V. I mean the talk around town the next day is usually always about what was happening on tv the night before. Especially in our culture, exposure to large doses of television each night is quite common. There are Heavy Viewers (over 4 hours a day) and Light Viewers (less than 2 hours a day).

T.V. tells us what is right, what is important, what is happening. It's our "storyteller". While we all love a good story.

Take my favorite show: THE VAMPIRE DIARIES 

(Personal plug: watch it, it's soooooo good).

This show is on a big network, the CW, has good viewership and has been on for 5 seasons. So you have to figure that its reaching quite a bit of viewers. Probably most of those between 10 and 30 years old.

It also comes with large doses of violence.

Made my case. The violence is never-ending. I mean people getting their necks snapped, people getting their hearts ripped out (literally), being hit by cars, drowning, stabbing, people getting their blood drained. I mean two of the main characters tortured their girlfriend/best friend/other main character.

If you don't know this show, it started off about two vampire brothers and one human girl. The show has gone much deeper and deals now with vampires, witches, werewolves etc. You would think that people watching this show would get that it's all fantasy. But... according to this cultivation theory, it actually rubs off on us.

There are some main effects we see from TV violence. Those "Heavy" viewers we talked about, they can develop exaggerated perceptions about the world. They get something that the theory calls, "Mean World Syndrome".

Just think of it like this: People from watching TV and violence from it, see the world as a much colder, harsher, and dangerous place than it really might be. Part of the theory talks about 4 cultivated attitudes that come along with this.

1. Chances of involvement with violence
2. Fear of walking alone at night
3. perceived activity of police
4. General mistrust of people.

Who could blame them people from having these perceptions? In a show like Vampire Diaries, not particular risqué in content, people are still seeing the world differently. These attitudes develop because they see dozens of people being murdered on the show, without thought or emotion and often in brutal ways. They see people getting attacked. They see people torturing their own family. When you watch these shows, it starts to make you think that things like this happen all the time.

This "Mean World" attitude is stemmed from violence on television, but it has some real world consequences. It can make people believe that this is normal, that everyone does it, and that it's a good way for us to solve problems. It makes us numb, we no longer see these acts as violent though they tend to be quite extreme.

I think what it also does is makes us paranoid, at least for me it does. It makes me think that something is always out there, that I'm not always safe. What people, and I, need to do, is realize that the world isn't quite as mean as T.V. makes it.

You have heard this theory, so now it's time for you to be the judge. Is T.V. creating this mean world view? Is violence on T.V. translating to violence in the real world? Are we becoming desensitized to it?

As always I hope you enjoyed this post.

Now let me get back to my show... 

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