Marginal Revolution: Do violent movies cause violent crime?

Monday, October 23, 2006
Marginal Revolution: Do violent movies cause violent crime?: "No, at least not in the short run. Rambo gets the bad guys off the streets. And for a while they even seem to calm down: ...."


truepeers said...

I think it's true that all culture comes into existence to defer violence. By substituting signs, or representations, for real things we avoid immediate competition over scarce worldly objects. However, in so producing signs we also increase the level of conscious desire that has to be deferred by the world of signs. And since in time any sign will lose its power, if there are not new signs to take the place of those that no longer have a hold over us, real violence can erupt (often along the lines of the old myths about the gods that we have now assimilated to human worldly actions).

Thus it's easy to accept a study that violent movies defer violence in the short term. But as the study asks, what about the long term? It suggests there must be a continual progression of new, and likely ever more violent, movies, to defer the violent desire that movies themselves help engender - we must recognize the paradox that a violent movie will simultaneously both defer and increase desires - the desire, in the imagination, to have godly/filmic power over life and death. And while movies may generally defer violence, there will be times when we can show a direct link between a movie and a violent crime, a crime that would not have been committed in this shape or form if not for the movie on which it was modelled.

If movies have been one of the major tools by which twentieth-century Western civilization has deferred its violence, what happens when the possibilities for innovation in filmic violence run their course, in the progression from, say, Chaplin to Tarantino? New cultural forms will have to develop if society is to maintain its order. Hence we see Hollywood losing ever more of its business to gaming and the internet.

Likewise, if a religion cannot continually evolve to renew its connection to fundamental mysteries which act to humble us and defer our desires, then the religion becomes a dead end and should be allowed to die (its members converted) instead of being turned into a worldly political projects.