Does Media Violence lead to the Real Thing? By Gary MatterEarlier this summer the actor Jim Carrey, a star of the new superhero movie “Kick-Ass 2,” tweeted that he was distancing himself from the film because, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, “in all good conscience I cannot support” the movie’s extensive and graphically violent scenes.Mark Millar, a creator of the “Kick-Ass” comic book series and one of the movie’s executive producers, respondedthat he has “never quite bought the notion that violence in fiction leads to violence in real life any more than Harry Pottercasting a spell creates more boy wizards in real life.”While Mr. Carrey’s point of view has its adherents, most people reflexively agree with Mr. Millar. After all, the logic goes, millions of Americans see violent imagery in films and on TV every day, but vanishingly few become killers.But a growing body of research indicates that this reasoningmay be off base. Exposure to violent imagery does not preordain violence, but it is a risk factor. We would never say: “I’ve smoked cigarettes for a long time, and I don’t have lung cancer. Therefore there’s no link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer.” So why use such flawed reasoning when it comes to media violence?There is now consensus that exposure to media violence is linked to actual violent behavior — a link found by many scholars to be on par with the correlation of exposure to secondhand smoke and the risk of lung cancer. In a meta-analysis of 217 studies published between 1957 and 1990, the psychologists George Comstock and Haejung Paikfoundthat the short-term effect of exposure to media violence on actual physical violence against a person was moderate to large in strength.Mr. Comstock and Ms. Paik also conducted a meta-analysis of studies that looked at the correlation between habitual viewing of violent media and aggressive behavior at a point in time. They found 200 studies showing a moderate, positive relationship between watching television violence and physical aggression against another person.
- Spring '14
- Writing, Mark Millar, media violence, Jim Carrey