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IV. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BRUTALITY AND VIOLENCE IN MOTION
PICTURES AND ADOLESCENT BEHAVIOR
Mr. William Mooring gave an example of a brutal lust murder committed by a patient of borderline mentality who had just witnessed a rape scene in the film, Johnny Belinda.2. As stated previously, the subcommittee feels that there can be no relationship established between the viewing of a scene depicting any type of behavior and the behavior committed by an individual. However, even though there is a lack of well-founded evidence that could define this relationship, there is a body of opinion of clinically trained professional people that can give a good indication of the relationship between mass media and behavior. The subcommittee made a survey of approximately 180 psychiatrists, physicians, and clinical psychologists who come into day-to-day contact with juvenile delinquents and young criminals. These professionals are members of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the Medical Correctional Association. Two of these professional men testified at the Los Angeles hearings on the relationship between adolescent behavior and violence as portrayed in the movies. One of the members of the Medical Correctional Association, Dr. Frederick J. Hacker, supported the contention that movies may not actually cause delinquency but may contribute to its commission when he stated that
Social scapegoating attempts to single out the modern media of mass communication-movies, television, comic books, etc.—as the main culprits responsible for all that ails the world. Obviously, no such simple cause-and-effect relationship exists. In the intricate pattern of modern society, every so-called effect is produced by innumerable related causes and itself gives rise to manifold other effects.
Therefore, it cannot be stated with any degree of dispassionate scientific accuracy that movies or other mass media cause juvenile delinquency, but innumerable clinical observations prove that they not only describe but often contribute to or at least shape the content of, criminal activity.13
One of the most frequent criticisms of movie content is that there is extreme emphasis on brutality for brutality's sake; i. e., unmotivated, and that violence is the ultimate answer to problem-solving. In discussing this point, Dr. Hacker stated:
Movies, as a whole-much more adult and restrained than television or comic books-show awareness of social responsibility by voluntary submission to a code. This expresses the basic conviction that even entertainment and realism have to live up to some minimal educational and moral standards. Pictures may have become better than ever, but, while only a few of them stimulate and exploit vile, aggressive impulses, many of them depict extreme brutality as a natural function of ordinary living, and most of them relý heavily on the outcome of physical combat as an imminently satisfactory means of solving human problems."
Dr. Hacker further explained that the technical perfection of the movies provides an excellent identification and crystallization model for the vague and unformed attitudes of the adolescent. The often prevailing general atmosphere of violence in movies and other media of mass communication promotes hero worship of the criminal, ridicule of thoughtfulness or sensitivity or any type of intellectual pursuit
1: Mooring. William, op. cit., p. 77.
13 Hacker. Dr. Frederick J., statement in hearinys before the Subcommitter To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency, Motion Pictures, C. S. Senate, held on June 16, 1955, pp. 96-97.
14 Ibid., pp. 96-97.
and thus produces the confusion of brutality with rugged masculinity. The code's strictly enforced taboo against over salaciousness frequently permits the uninhibited display of orgies of brutality which are in fact hostile manifestations of a perverse sexuality. This deterioration of the American dedication to action into violence for its own sake represents a distinct social danger and there is probably a definite, though extremely complex parallelism between the general brutalization of our youth and the increased violence in media of mass communication.
The subcommittee has continually urged that research projects be developed and grants be made to universities to investigate the causal relationship between the mass media and human behavior. Dr. Hacker reiterated this idea when he said:
To investigate in detail these relationships may be one of the most important tasks of psychological and sociological research of the immediate future.
When questioned whether or not emotionally disturbed children may gain ideas or support regarding brutality, sadism, or crime as presented in movies, Dr. Hacker replied:
I think there is no question about it because I see it daily in my practice, that they actually (copied some of the violence as depicted in movies. Of course, it could be argued, on the other hand, that if they would not copy that pattern they might possibly copy another one.
That, therefore, the description of violence in the movies may just act as a trigger mechanism and not be an essential cause.
But we certainly do see in our clinical practice, without a question of a doubt, innumerable crimes are distinctly influenced in their conception, in their perpietration and even in some details by certain models that were gained by the mass media of communication—movies, television, comic books, etc."
Of all the media of mass communication, Dr. Hacker singled out the movies as having probably the greatest impact on children because of the technological developments of recent years; i. e., such things as stereophonic sound, ('inemascope, Vista Vision, etc. Dr. Hacker said:
I think the very marvelous and technically very admirable combination and blending of auditory and visual stimuli, of hearing and seeing, produces certainly a heightened and cumulative effect, so that I would think that movies and television, but particularly so the movies, are in their social effect much more important than all reading matter taken together."
Dr. Hacker was questioned as to whether looking at scenes of extreme brutality or of violence might not act as a vicarious relief for certain aggressive impulses on the part of children. He replied that undoubtedly there is sometimes some relief of tension or anxiety or some vicarious satisfaction. However, as the subcommittee has previously stated, this relief is only temporary and the frustrating situation that produces the aggression still persists after the child has viewed the movie.
When queried about the long-range implications of the vicarious reduction of aggressive impulses, Dr. Hacker agreed that through this mechanism the probability of a child reacting aggressively is greatly increased through the continual focusing of his attention on scenes depicting violence and brutality. This means that the child's frame of reference is changed to the extent that one of his methods of reacting
15 Ibid., pp. 97-98. 10 Ibid., p. 98.
to a frustrating situation may include blind aggression instead of trying to solve his problems and that he may change his aggressive impulses from fantasy to a real-life situation.
When questioned about the long-range dangers of exposure to violence and brutality in the mass media and the possibility of imitative behavior on the part of juveniles, Dr. Hacker said:
Yes, I think there is a very distinct danger. I think another witness pointed out that the tremendous voraciousness of modern mass media that swallows up material at a tremendous rate, that the only way that some producers help themselves is to constantly raise the emotional angle. In order to produce the same effect of emotional impact they have to make the scene so vile it is more and more emphatic and more and more distinct and more overt, and that they may then lead, not only may lead, but very frequently does lead, to a stimulation of an otherwise predisposed youngster."
Dr. Hacker went so far as to say that the continual bombardment of youth with brutality and violence in the mass media coupled with the existing world situation may lead not only emotionally abnormal youth but also emotionally normal youth into behavior of this type.
The subcommittee has previously stated that the movies, comic books and television have made, or theoretically could make, certain portions of the population impervious to violence and brutality. When asked if we are becoming immune to human suffering, Dr. Hacker stated :
Yes, and accept brutality and violence as part of ordinary human living. And particularly also to feel * * * that to constantly describe the so-called hero, meaning the one that gets the girl in the end, is the one who is particularly good in physical combat and who usually wins the last fight, as if that makes him eligible not only for the possession of the girl, but also for the heroic solution of all other problems that may confront him in life.
So that implicitly, without actually saying it, an atmosphere is created in which there is emphasis placed on a kind of brutal ruggedness that appears of doubtful value in the solution of national, social, international, or any other kind of conflict.is
Dr. Marcel Frym agreed with those authorities in the field of psychiatry who state that there is a relation between certain exhibitions of mass media and delinquency. He believes that it cannot be denied that certain juvenile criminality is extremely affected by signs and by character descriptions in movies and in television shows. Dr. Frym stated:
It cannot be denied, and I wish there would be more research material available to endorse his view (Dr. Hacker's). I am personally quite concerned, and quite convinced that these mass media are a very serious contribution t.) delinquency."
In explaining his feelings on the subject, Dr. Frym continued : Any type of criminality is an act of aggression, a rebellion against restrictions imposed by law and by moral codes.
Now, we have learned in modern psychology, that extreme rebellion and ag. gression is usually generated by fears, by states of anxiety, by insecurity, and very often by anxieties related to the sexual position of the human being, if the man is sufliciently masculine, and the woman is sufficiently feminine.
As a matter of fact, I would like to state in this connection that in my opinion most vicious and extremely brutal crimes have a strong underlay of homosexual intentions. It is not necessary the person has had, has ever had, any homosexual experience, but they have had, at least, been tortured deep below the level
17 Ibid., p. 99.
19 Frym, Dr. Marcel, statement in hearins before the Subcommittee To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency, Motion Pictures, C. S. Senate, held on June 16, 1955, p. 103.
of their consciousness about the insecurity about their sexual position. And, therefore, I want to say, unwittingly and unknowingly it is in pictures and other mass media which stimulates and overstimulates this basic mechanism.
I want to say I am extremely opposed to those views which would try to censor mass media at large. I want to point to the tremendous importance of pictures like, for instance, Snake Pit which has demonstrated very outrageous conditions in mental hospitals and alarmed the public to these conditions.
I believe it is not the job of movies just to produce or present sugar-coated unrealities. It should show caste conditions and alarm public indignation, but I personally am very, very leery about those pictures which have no message whatsoever, or just pretend a message and really only capitalize on viciousness and brutality.
The subcommittee was concerned about those juveniles who do not receive any type of sexual education either in the home, in the school, or in churches and who may receive ideas from the mass media of communication that will develop in them socially harmful attitudes toward sex, marriage, and family life.
When asked if this were a possibility, Dr. Frym stated: Yes. By all means. You see, our basic concepts of right and wrong behavior are shaped in accordance to suggested examples, and the characters that are created and depicted in a mass-communication media are very suggestive examples of right and wrong.
The hero is not the good guy in this type of picture we are now concerned about. Actually glamorized is the brutal, vicious guy who succeeds only by muscular strength."
In view of the strong biological urges present in adolescents, and in view also of the many social controls we have over sexual behavior today, Dr. Frym was questioned as to whether he felt the mass media may stimulate sexul desires in youth that probably cannot be properly satisfied because of these existing social controls. He indicated that this was a distinct possibility.
Dr. Frym also agreed with Dr. Hacker's statement that a criminally dispo ed or an emotionally up. e' yomgster by going to a movie might be exposed to scenes that could act as trigger-mechanisms for his already existing aggressive impulses.
RESULTS OF A SURVEY OF PROFESSIONAL CLINICIANS BY THE SUBCOMMITTEE
In order to obtain as much expert opinion as possible, the subcommittee surveyed several hundred clinical psychologists, medical men and psychiatrists who were members of the Vedical Correctional Association and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. These people daily come into contact with thousands of delinquents. The following responses to the subcommittee's questionnaire, it is felt, accurately reflect up-to-the-minute psychological knowledge on the relationship between behavior and brutality, sadism, and illicit sex as portrayed in many motion pictures. The responses received by the subcommittee, while all covering the subject under discussion, varied slightly in their emphases. That is, they discussed the problem of the violent motion picture and its effects at different levels. The following brief excerpts touch upon the various social-psychological ramifications of violence and brutality in the media of mass communication and specifically in the motion picture.
$ Thid.. pp. 103-104, 1 Thid.
EFFECTS OF CRIME AND VIOLENCE FILMS AT THE CULTURAL LEVEL
Dr. Rudolph V. Basso, psychiatrist at the Dayton State Receiving Hospital, directed his remarks to the effect of crime and violence movies on the ethical values of young children. He wrote:
I wish to point out that I am under the impression that improper movies *** exercise undue influence upon the mind, especially of youth. They destroy the sense of ethical values and, therefore, contribute to juvenile delinquency.
In recent years, motion pictures and television performances have been getting more and more obscene and objectionable. Obscene pictures depicting criminal acts of brutality or corrupting morals are detrimental to youth, which deserves a measure of protection from moral pollution.
The following excerpt is from the communication received from H. M. Janney, Medical Director of the Bureau of Prisons, who directed his remarks to the mass media and spoke in terms of the overabundance of sadism in them and their deleterious effects on personality development:
I am certain that many of our programs constitute a grave hazard to the proper development of our young citizenry. The average youthful mind is extremely active and highly imaginative. These youngsters are at the most impressionable time of life and the daily bombardment of vicious, gory, and sadistic material to which they are subject is bound to cause some degree of personality distortion in many of them. The child from an otherwise happy, balanced, and kindly environment can often observe these programs without obvious harmful effect. However, the neglected and underprotected child from the poor environment is not ordinarily as well equipped to handle his emotional problems and the highly charged offerings of much of our modern so-called entertainment might easily be the deciding factor toward delinquent behavior.
Dr. James L. McCartney, of New York City, wrote:
There is no doubt in my mind that these programs, as well as the comics and other pathological literature, are showing their effects on juveniles. Repeatedly, as I have examined these young people they have made references to their interest in this material. For several years, I was director of classification for the New York State Department of Correction, and during those years as a psychiatrist, I examined upward of 10,000 juvenile delinquents. Since the war I have been a consultant to the district attorney and the children's court here in Nassau County and will continue to examine young people in order to get a psychiatric opinion. One cannot escape the conclusion that although there are many factors which influence the formation of personality, the printed page, movies, and television very definitely have an effect which is not at all healthy.
Hector J. Ritey, fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, former chairman of its section on legal aspects of psychiatry, stated that in his opinion
The deep causes for the appalling increase in the number of cases of juvenile delinquency are tied to a complicated interaction of social, historical and psychological factors. Mass media are a ring in a vicious circle.
Leaders in the mass media industry take advantage of an existing condition to increase their popularity and their financial gains by catering to a morbid emotional appeal whose roots stem from the above-mentioned causes. In tur:1, they become a link in the perpetuation of such morbid interests by keeping its manifestations alive. Their vicious action is to strengthen the unhealthy atmos. phere which is responsible for its very existence.
DIFFERENTIAL EFFECTS OF CRIME AND VIOLENCE MOVIES ON CHILDREN
Dr. William Corwin, of Miami, Fla., directed his observations to the differential effects movies may have on the delinquent and the frustrated (but not yet delinquent) child. In referring to his clinical experiences, he wrote: