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Harmful Effects of Violence in Films on Audience on the Example of 'A Clockwork Orange'

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The most remarkable changes in humans’ collective exposure have been the introduction of mass media. The introduction of media has been an increasingly and rapid form of communication between human beings. The uses of radio, television, film, video games et cetera, has become an ever so present thing in humans’ lives and holds a great value in all aspects of societies across the globe. Although these forms of media were not created to cause harm to others, through the mutilation of others the use of violence has been an increasingly problem particularly in film.

The presence of violence in film has been highly present since its infancy. It has caused huge controversy streaming since the movies of the 1930s of gangster gunplay, to the slow-motion shootouts of Arthur Penn’s landmark 1967 film ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ to the rivers of blood flowing in Quentin Tarantino’s movies. The depiction of violence in film has long polarized critics and audiences in which the debate continues today.

The human species are evidently violent creatures, from domestic violence within households to the countless globe-spanning wars. Humans have an everlasting habit of acting on aggression. Violence is part of human evolution, it is the by-product of the thousands of years of adapting to new environments, fighting for food or shelter, etc. Evolutionary psychologists believe that violence is built into the human species, adding that the violent past of ‘humans’ can be seen in the archaeological remains of traditional societies, our primate cousins, and human anatomy. The hallmarks of our ancestral history of violence are literally written on our bones. Skeletal remains, unearthed from archaeological excavations of ancient human societies, provide direct evidence of injuries suffered by a violent transgressor (Goetz, A., 2010). From the conclusion of this statement, violence is deeper than meets the eye. For this reason, it is extremely ingrained in human’s DNA which has been passed down from their ancestors, the likely hood of violence being around humans’ everyday lives is evidencable.

Film is the projection of real life; it is although the viewer is looking through glass of another world and seeing chaos, when it is just a reflection of what is truly happening around them. From the beginning of film, violence has had a major impact Edwin S. Porter’s famous western showcased a man being bludgeoned to death by a piece of coal and close-ups of a gun being fired at the camera (as thought the viewer is being killed themselves), which audiences thought the gun sequence to be extremely realistic that they believed they were in fact going to be gunned down themselves to Stanley Kubrick’s X-rated best picture Oscar nominee film ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971), which featured extreme violence and a graphic rape. Its deeply disturbing images and message made it a cause celebrate around the world. Which Kubrick would eventually withdraw the film from distribution in the United Kingdom because of copyright crimes.

The violence in the media, pacifically film, is believed to be a potential contributor to the growth of antisocial behavior in children and youth. As they absorbed what is happening around them, it is evidencable that children and the youth are going to pick up on those actions that are showcased in the media. A study, conducted by the international schools in Kuala, studied two hundred and sixteen middle schoolboys to research the effects of watching violence movies and the attitudes concerning aggression among them and how it can have an impact on their future and future actions. The data was collected using four instruments: the demographic questionnaire, the media viewing habit questionnaire, the affection toward movie violence scale, and the attitudes concerning aggression scale. The results indicated that adolescent boys spent a significant amount of time watching movies which contained high levels of violence. Further results showed that there is a significant difference between heavy and light viewers of film violence in any dimension of their attitudes about aggression. Adolescents with ‘violent’ movies preferred, however were significantly more supportive of the attitude that aggression is acceptable and warranted, as compared to those who prefer movies with little or no violence. Additional results demonstrated that the ‘aggression acceptable’ attitude was significantly related to a set of variables. This study can go hand in hand with the plethora of research that looks into aggression and violence within the male population. Though the production of testosterone the higher the levels of this hormone the increased amount of violence that is inflicted. As teenagerhood is a crucial time for young people this can have a result in what they seek to look at while watching films. Although, to point out this does not only have an effect on boys but also on girls. Nevertheless, to say girls can still display the effects of violence within media. Although it is extremely complex, the hormones that are produced do play a crucial part: “Hormonal differences between the sexes may precipitate differences in aggression or nurturance behavior and these provide the building blocks for evolutionary development” (Curran, J. Smith, A. and Wingate, P., 202). As the case maybe, this might be the reason why many cases of violence that are committed in real life and have a connection surrounding around a particular film are committed by men due to their biological imposes. Young girls on the other hand can still show signs of this aggressive behavior, but especially around the age of 11 to 12, when they are exposed to the influence of mass media on their role in society and have behaviors that can shape and change their view of the world and how they will respond to certain situations.

Another study, conducted by Wilson, B. J., looked at media violence and aggression in youth and what effect short term and long-term exposer has on those individuals. This study found the media messages differ in their strength or potency for encouraging youth aggression. Children and teenagers differ in their susceptibility to the messages produced on screen but what consigned with the violence and aggression that was produced by them was their own personality, cognitive functioning and environmental situation. This could mean the violence in the media only brings out what could potently be there already rather than creating the violence altogether. With more access to film this could increase the amount of young people that are not only expressed to the violence but how they could potently act them out.

The studies into how violence in the media can have the ability to influence people has been an increasingly documented, especially in young people. Studies have been conducted on a multitude of occasions, it is a common debate within the science and even the media industry. In 1998, The Guardian released a story featuring a headlining ‘Film Violence Link to Teenage Crime’ and the subhead line read ‘Vulnerable Young People May Be Influenced by Screen Killings’. Other publications such as The Times and Daily Telegraph started as their headlines: ‘Research Fails to Link Crime with Video Violence’ (The Times) and ‘Research Fails to Link Crime with Video Violence’ (Daily Telegraph). To contradict those claims the Daily Express realized a heading stating ‘Violent Videos Are Linked to Real Life Brutality’. This claim was later backed up with a report commissioned by the Home Office in 1995 from Kevin Browne and Amanda Pennell, who was a part of the Forensic Psychology Group at the University of Birmingham intended to do more research into these findings after the wake of the possible influence of violent video has on the two schoolboy who murdered toddler James Bulger in 1993. The research that was conducted centered around this case only focused on the videos in which the young criminals sort out to watch. This study was viewed as a misleading as it didn’t truly focus on the effects of video violence on young offenders as the headline presupposed. This does not in fact dismiss the claim that violence does have an effect on people’s emotions or reactions.

Referring to the statement made ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) is a prime example of the ill effects of watching violence due to the cases of copyright crimes that stemmed from the viewing of the film. The name of the film itself refers to a person who has the appearance of an organism lovely with color and juice, but is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil. Throughout history God, religion, good and evil has been the foundation of many acts of violence. So, the name of this film can put forth the outcome of the narrative.

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As stated by The Telegraph, it follows the story of a deranged gang leader Alex and his gang of ‘thugs’ that committed ‘ultra-violence’ in their community and beyond, and his ever-going battle of incarceration and rehabilitation through aversion therapy.

The key themes of the film being fate and free will, morality and ethics, manipulation, good vs evil, power transformation and evidently violence. All in which can have/ has had an impact on the viewers who have watched the film. Within the first 30 minutes of the film the audience is introduced to the main protagonist performing criminal acts such as robbing, doing drugs, gang fighting, reckless driving, vandalism, rape and murder. Inevitably having an impact especially on the film’s young viewers.

The consequence of all of these negative and violent effects in one film made the viewers of the film see it in such a way that it became deeply disturbing but thought provoking. Many audience members may have not been exposed to that kind of content which made it later be seen as a cinematic masterpiece because of the ‘raw’ content. On the other hand, during its initial realize it causal huge controversy due to the copycat crimes that were committed, which in turned made the film get banned. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) was withdrawn from circulation in the UK which was requested by the director Stanley Kubrick. The film was not shown to mass audiences up until Kubrick’s death in 1999, according to The Telegraph.

Although the film was shown to be disturbing it wasn’t until a year after its release that copycat crimes were reported and seemed to be connected to the film. As the crimes and some of the scenes in the film were so closely linked it was seen as inevitable that the violence in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ made some of the viewers react in the same sort of fashion. Some of these violent copycat crimes involved a group of men from the north west of England assault a 17-year-old girl while playing ‘Singing in the Rain’, which was a copy-cat take of the brutal scene at the beginning of the film. Another crime saw a 16-year-old boy kill an elderly homeless man, the reason behind the killing according to young man was due to a scene in the movie. The alliance between the film and the copycat crimes gave Kubrick a sense of distress due to the fact it had made individuals commit those heinous crimes based on the acts that were in the film. The film enlivened the debate behind the societal influence of violence in film and how it can have an impact on audiences. Kubrick initially didn’t believe that the film was responsible for the alleged copycat crimes. He maintained the belief that there was always a form of violence in all the history of art and literature. Examples being from the Bible, Greek myths and Shakespeare. He did not accept that people can be influenced by the media/ film which could create people to commit crimes through their own fantasy.

Although it contradicted with Stanley Kubrick’s views on how violent films can truly impact viewers of film, he decided to withdrawn ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) from being shown in the UK in acknowledgement of the apparent rise in violent crime centered around the film. As claimed by The Telegraph, Kubrick never spoke on his decision and up until the day he passed he was devoted to the idea that his art did not produce violence.

Nevertheless, the frenzy that centered around ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) made the film all the more popular. A particular number of the crimes that were allegedly taken directly from the film’s contents, the perpetrators had not seen the film. They had just merely heard of the acts that were produced in the film and decided to commit those crimes. The outrageous behavior of those crimes was seen to be far more treacherous than the actions that were committed in the movie itself. ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) hit UK screens in 2000, a year after Stanley Kubrick’s death.

In spite of the fact that it could be argued ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) did not directly have a link to the alleged copycat crimes, but it did spark up a conversation around violence in film. It was one of the first times where a film has been pulled out from the box office by its own director due to the reason of the amount of violence it contained. Some may have thought this was a start of cracking down on the use of violence in film but this was only just the beginning. The effects violence in films has had over the generations has grown. The only way to crack down on these effects is to not produce films that contain high levels of violence.

The violence in the media especially film will not be slowing down. As the further development within the film industry expands, the increasingly threat and exposure of violence that mankind will be settable to will be unstoppable. Although, there has been many studies that agree with the statement that violence in film has an effect on people there are also studies that contradict these claims. The debate whether these claims are true or not is down to the individuals own research. But due to the outstanding number of documented examples of the impact of violence on humans, it is increasingly believed that it has a negative effect. It would be advised to those watching violence content to not expose it to young children as they are increasingly susceptible to picking up the content shown and dramatizing those actions into real life. For a personals mental state of mind, it would be beneficial to decrease the amount of violence they take in by watching the content.

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Harmful Effects of Violence in Films on Audience on the Example of ‘A Clockwork Orange’. (2023, January 31). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 29, 2023, from
“Harmful Effects of Violence in Films on Audience on the Example of ‘A Clockwork Orange’.” Edubirdie, 31 Jan. 2023,
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Harmful Effects of Violence in Films on Audience on the Example of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Jan 31 [cited 2023 Sept 29]. Available from:
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