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Film Studies - Media Violence and Violent Behaviour
Purple Splat Check out some old movie reviews at the cinema, or stay here and read up on the problems with the argument that media violence causes violent behaviour.

There are many failings in the argument that violence in film, television, newspapers and other forms of media are the cause of violent behaviour. Violence in the Postmodernist film: Natural Born Killers will emphasize the problems in the argument with references to current newspaper articles where appropriate.

Arguments for the link between violence in the media and real life focus on the perpetrator of violence being unable to acknowledge the difference between reality and the fiction portrayed in film. However, these opinions are frequently results of opinion polls from the public who use violent films as a scapegoat for physical facets that shape people's lives. Social issues such as divorce, unemployment, stress, homelessness and other factors have a prevalent role in people's lives.

Throughout Natural Born Killers , one can see examples of reality and fiction blurred within the confines of the film itself. Whilst the opening sequence of almost unprovoked attack could appear needlessly violent, this simply provides a surreal insightful view of the two main characters, Mickey and Mallory Knox. Flying bullets momentarily stop, a knife slows to allow its victim to turn and flee, before being cut down - these are not characteristics of real life. Natural Born Killers does not deliver realistic brutality in a modern world, but a bizarre, twisted sequence of events inspiring amusement to the infamous couple. It is obtuse to state that Natural Born Killers glorifies violence with the detailed depiction of brutal killings of innocent people. Then again, illustrating the absurdity of extreme violence is the entire point of the film. Over-the-top examples of violence are identifiable in any of many short scenes that make up the film. Even a less intelligent audience will see the more ridiculous the violence the humorous the film appears to be.

Violent behaviour cannot realistically be seen as the message of Natural Born Killers , but focuses on the general media duplicity, in addition to the appalling attitudes within the penal system. The film criticises the brain-dead television culture with whimsical wit and acrimonious sarcasm. Channel surfing, stressed on the opening and closing sequences, is deployed to show the overall influence on the main characters by the media in terms of inspiration and the source of violence. Resulting in the final witness, a reporter's camera, carves up the gravestone for the hyperactive Wayne Gale. The sacrifice of Wayne at the end of the film offers an ironic development to the media success brought about as a result of Mickey and Mallory's escapades.

Looking at the killings through their eyes only serves to empathize with their victims, before the scene changes to another setting and another time. Furthermore the diverse range of visual mediums used in Natural Born Killers allow the film viewers a glimpse of Mickey and Mallory's mind showing their motivations in behaviour and inner demons. In turn, this demonises the acts of murder that they partake in, leaving real perpetrators, no basis for their crimes.

Equally, Natural Born Killers acknowledges the circle of violence between the serial killing couple and the eccentric host, Wayne as the media story generates a storm that finally ends Mickey and Mallory's killing spree. They are attracted by the media interception into their own affairs, from the semi-romanticized past of Mallory in the form of a situation comedy, I Love Mallory, to the media's understanding of the death of Mickey's father. The latter indicates the importance of media representation, causing Mickey to take immediate offence to the remarks made by Wayne. Gale's entire interview is not aimed at finding out more about the life of Mickey, but rather sensationalist questions with the intention of receiving a like answer Mickey. The resounding joy produced from Wayne, just before the commercial break, are not due to the concealed meaning of the words, but simply that his ratings will shoot through the roof. This highlights the pure sensation-seeking plight of the modern media, where ratings are directly proportional to revenue. The scheduling of the interview is certainly not coincidental, using a very popular baseball game to keep viewers tuned in.

Mallory's sitcom view on her past offers a sanitised picture of daily life, the real American Dream, achieves dramatic contrast with other early sitcoms such as Leave It To Beaver, Married With Children, The Honey Mooners and the very similar, I Love Lucy. In addition to the sharp contrast, the sitcom has always followed the similar plots and dilemmas where a small nuclear family learn valuable moral lessons in their weekly appearance. In the United States people would have seen Rodney Dangerfield in less savage roles, at this time he is portrayed a drunken lasting father to a torn family. I Love Mallory covers similar lessons in life, but with far more extreme connotations with the audience seeing only the superficial humorous side that sitcoms are famous. Sitcoms in general only offer pre-packaged messages that everyone knows do not occur in segregation from other predicaments in real life.

Violence in film and television has been shown that it does not influence people to cause violent acts. The killers of James Bulger, Robbie Thompson and Jon Venables, have allegedly been influenced by Child's Play 3, preferred violent films because of their exposure to violence at home. Another film in the same series was also the influence on a child when they murdered Suzanne Capper, aged 16, with taunts from the film mentioned before setting her alight in December 1992. Violent behaviour significantly increases the likelihood that the perpetrators enjoy watching violent films.

The huge fan following only two weeks, through following the progress of Mickey and Mallory, optimises absurdity of the modern media. Portrayed in the film, the media glorify the acts of these two and incite people to follow the events closely on television to the point of holding demonstrations bearing placards such as: "Kill Me". Evidently, sequences, such as these, highlight the satirical look at the modern media, rather than the exaggerated horrific murders that take place. The aim of satire is to provoke deliberation on certain ideas or subjects using a humorous approach ensuring that the method of delivery is evidently unreal. The sitcom at the start of Natural Born Killers is so appalling that Mallory's only manner of contemplating such events is through this medium. Should anyone take the scenes in Natural Born Killers literally; then they are missing the grand illusion. Good film gives you the chance to find your own message within the film, this message is not violence for violence's sake, but a wide range of other issues on the general state of the media and Western culture as a whole.

Stone's experience in Vietnam, during the war he killed people and he knows that death is a reality that many try to avoid. Through Mickey, Natural Born Killers deals with the fine divide between thinking violent thoughts and violent actions. Practising Buddhism, some of Oliver Stone's philosophies brought out through this character, the notion of this fine divide is evident in Buddhism. Coming from Thailand, after converting to Buddhism, Stone saw the huge contrast between the Thailand's non-violent culture and the money oriented society of the United States, complete with sensational television shows and raw media aggression.

Analysing the decadence of western societies, in particular the United States, Natural Born Killers serves to enlighten people through the absurdity of the media through violence. Media violence is a result of the violent world that we live in; this violence does not cause people to become violent. However, the media can cause people to change the manner of their violence, clearly in evidence through Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers .

Child's Play 3 (Jack Bender, 1991, USA)
Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 1994, USA)

BBC News, 7th January 1998, No Conclusive Link Between Videos And Violence.
Oliver Stone, December 29, 1994, Rolling Stone, Interview

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