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The Dark Knight and the Media Effect Debate

Introduction

 Throughout the history of the film industry, there is no time when children were exposed to violent films as they are in the contemporary society. In the United States, for instance, children watch more than 17,000 instances of murder through films (Wainer, 2014). This is also inclusive of other forms of violent actions, such as torture, and bullying. Despite the vehemence, there are also a few wise and admirable characters that are cast to be watched in these films. Violent films, comic book, and video games have been cited as contributing factors to the increase in violent behaviors among citizens of different countries (Desilet, 2014). The main objective of this paper is to conduct a critical study on the extent to which the film The Dark Knight can be viewed to be the main cause of violence in Aurora. In addition, this research paper will also assess the extent to which comic books and video games influence human behavior.

The Dark Knight

            The Dark Night is a blockbuster film in which Christopher Nolan, the director, presents an allegorical depiction of the post 9/11 counterterrorism initiatives to protect the US. Being a metaphor, the film is relatively subtle compared to the comic books created by Frank Miller on Batman. In this film, Batman is depicted as the sole protector of Gotham City against terrorist attacks by the Al-Qaeda. It is important to note that through this film, it is possible to identify parallels counterterrorism and the war on terrorism (Desilet, 2014).

            Inasmuch as a blockbuster movie does not provide a platform for opinion leader to begin discussions of war on terrorism, it has some power of influence over its audience. This is largely because instance of mass murder that are perpetrated by villains coupled by the revenge missions of Batman are a clear presentation of violence against innocent and guilt individuals (Wainer, 2014). The impact that such a film has on the perception of its audience on matters of the law and governance generates the desire to be active participants in solving societal problems. The solutions to these problems as depicted in the film are through violet actions against those considered as foes.

            The film The Dark Knight earned about $500 million in the United States alone, and is considered as one of the highest earners in the film industry today. Despite the earnings that the film draws, there are questions regarding the effects of its images on its audience (Desilet, 2014). This also leads to questions concerning the possibility that the film has a way of altering the perception of its audience, especially children on the best techniques to seek solutions to existing challenges (Wainer, 2014). 

The Dark Knight and violence

The question of the relationship between The Dark Knight and violence among its audience has become common considering the availability of instance when individuals have attacked innocent civilians while dressed in masks and attire depicted in the film. These questions revolve around the desire to copy that which an individual watches in a film and perceives in the real world (Desilet, 2014). Through such instances, there have also been questions concerning the relationship between the movie and the effects it has in the psychology of the individuals concerned. The mass killing in one of the midnight screening of the film The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora is considered as evidence that violent movies inspire violence among innocent civilians. The suspect, who rigged and tripwire explosives, was dressed in attires of the Joker a character in the film (Desilet, 2014). In addition, preliminary police investigations discovered Batman mask and movie poster in his apartment.

The question of whether a film characterized by violence can inspire violence in the real life is considered as a psychological question. It is grounded on the personality of the individual who is affected. There is a common belief among filmmakers that one piece of violent entertainment can be used in understanding the direct cause between such films and those which commit actions of violence (Wainer, 2014). Just as a beautiful and romantic film can have an effect on the relationship between spouses or the relationship between families, there are movies that can inspire the negative aspects of life. This explains why it would be dishonest to deny the existence of a connection between The Dark Knight and the shootings in Aurora, Colorado (Desilet, 2014). 

From a psychological perspective, it is possible to argue that the perception of an individual concerning his or her environment is largely dependent on the factors prevailing in the environment (Wainer, 2014). These factors are considered as the socialization agents, which inspire different types of behavior. In addition, individuals often gain some form of emotional connection with these factors, and this influences their likes and dislikes (Desilet, 2014). In the film The Dark Knight, Health Ledger who is cast as the Joker, depicts a psychopathic, atrocious, and schizophrenic clown who has no tolerance or empathy to anyone. Ledger is depicted as a demonic figure that is cold, bloodthirsty, and calculative (Desilet, 2014). The relationship between James Holmes, the perpetrator of the mass murder in Aurora, Colorado, and the activities of the Joker are almost similar. This is because just like the Joker, Holmes had planned his attacks months earlier (Wainer, 2014). His intentions as demonstrated by merciless shooting were to murder, cause chaos, and destroy property. He was acting in revenge against Batman and his fans (Wainer, 2014).

            Psychotic individuals comprise egocentric and socially deviant individuals. According to existing studies, these individuals are more likely to accept violence as a means of settling disputes, especially after having access to movies with high levels of violence (Durand & Leigh, 2011). This is based on the assumption that the socially deviant, for instance, desire fast and effective solutions to problems, especially while acting against those perceived as enemies (Wainer, 2014). In addition, such individuals often identify with other individuals in the movies that portray socially deviant attributes (Desilet, 2014). These attributes are unacceptable to members of the society both in the movie world and in real life. The feeling of rejection makes socially deviant and egocentric individuals to relate to those with those they share similar attributes, and their success in the film depicts inspires them to desire that form of success. Their violent nature in the real world is often aggravated by the murder of their hero in the movies (Desilet, 2014). This lead to some form of outrage against any member of the society in support of the enemy. In the film The Dark Knight, Joker is the villain while Batman is the hero (Wainer, 2014). However from a socially deviant individual’s perspective, Joker appears as the hero and the fights that characterizes his fights with Batman is considered as an inspiration. The death of Joker through Batman causesoutage among the fans of this villain, and this explains the atrocious and merciless shooting as propagated by Holmes (Desilet, 2014).

            In the view of psychologists, movies, especially those with violent content often have an impact in terms of the simulation of the psyche and the subconscious part of the brain on the need to satisfy a desire (Wainer, 2014). The desires maybe considered as non-violent by the individuals considering that it was a movie that was publically allowed to air in cinemas. In the movie The Dark Knight, the desire to depict that which is in the movies reached its climax with the shooting in Aurora (Desilet, 2014). In the reports following the shooting, it is important to note that children as young as four years old were also part of the fans that were ready to watch a movie characterized by graphic violence, mass killings, and large scale destruction of property. This leads to the question of the role of the society, especially parents in the provision of the necessary guidance to their children. This is largely because of the possible effects of the violent movies, such as the The Dark Knight may have on the psyche and the spirituality of young children (Wainer, 2014).

            It is possible to argue that violence is part of life, and that the objective of the movies is to reflect reality in motion picture. Despite the fact that it is inherent in this supposition, it is also possible to argue that movies also form an essential part of life, and the society has the responsibility of regulating the content with the objective of ensuring that desirable values are depicted while at the same time violent and atrocious values are shunned (Desilet, 2014).  

The Role of Comic Books, Video Games and Films in Influencing Behavior

The debate on the effects of comic books, video games, and films on human behavior are largely considered controversial. This is because there are those who advocate for children to be active of these platforms while there are also those who oppose the participation of children and the adult population on the claim that comic books, video games, and films inspire negative behavior, leading to social deviance in the society (Wainer, 2014). 

Those in support of comic books, video games, and films as agents of socialization argue that these platforms present their audiences and fans with a depiction of real violence. This has an ability of improving the intellectual capacity of the children considering that those engaged, especially the children who begin to develop an understanding and differentiation between real violence and virtual violence (Durand & Leigh, 2011). Such children develop techniques through which they are able to understand the motivational factor towards violence and the impending consequences. This however does not necessarily mean that the children who engage in the reading or watching of violent action in the media will begin applying that which is in the virtual world (Wainer, 2014).

It is a fact that reading, watching, and playing activities that are a depiction of cruelty are therapeutic. This is because the appearance of violence in a screen or a book teaches those engaged the meaning of certain aspects in life, such as death. It also teaches on the consequences that accompany those who choose to participate in violent deed. These are teachings and the participation of an individual in the teachings does not make them evil but socially responsible and understanding individuals (Wainer, 2014).

Whenever mass shooting occur in the United States, as in the case of the Aurora, there are often efforts to determine the real cause of the shooting. It generates into debates on gun control, the culture of pop psychology, and the need to insure those involved to seek psychiatry help (Packer, 2007). In addition, there is often a ritual of blaming violent movies, comic book, and video games. Inasmuch as these blames may be deemed preposterous, there is a link between an association with violent material and the resulting behavior (Durand & Leigh, 2011). The television or the big screen, which forms an essential socialization agent can be said to be playing a contributory role in the development of violence among those who eventually engage in mass shooting (Durand & Leigh, 2011). The use of these screens to showcase violent video games influences the behavior of a young child. The process of socialization requires an interactive agent, yet this is an attribute that is lacking in the visual and print media. When comic books, films or video games depict violence as witnessed in the film The Dark Knight, children often develop a feeling that they are engaged in an interaction while in the real case they are not. This helps children in satisfying social needs, such as entertainment but fails to provide social skills (Desilet, 2014).

Failure to provide the necessary instructions to children through an interactive platform may be a reason to explain the development of deviant behavior among those who are frequently exposed to violent forms of media (Falk, 2013). Repeated exposure to violent conditions can lead to the acceptance that violence is a normal phenomenon. This is because the perception of that which is normal is relatively based on that which an individual experiences. If fictional violence as that depicted in The Dark Knight forms part of that which an individual perceives as normal, then it is possible to argue that such an individual may become desensitized to violence and may be gullible to engage in violent situations (Desilet, 2014). Such an argument can be used in the explanation of Colorado shooting where James Holmes had been accustomed to violence as a normal part of his life and it was easier for him to plan, kill, and injure different people who were on the side of the enemy, Batman (Desilet, 2014). The solution to such levels of exposure would require censorship of such material as a way of reducing exposure and limiting the possibility of developing deviant behavior in the society.

Violent films, comic books, and video games can be perceived as a curriculum of virtual violence. Such curriculum socialized children and other individuals into the belief that violence can be an effective way of addressing societal problems (Falk, 2013). Video games, such as Halo 4 and violent films, and comic books that depict the violent relations of Batman and Joker provide essential lessons concerning the relationship between violence and the development of effective solutions (Wainer, 2014). It is plausible to think that people who are exposed to the use of this material are more likely to consider violence as an alternative. In addition, while emulating these movies and games, sometimes these people are inspired to dress or speak like their heroes while engaging in violent activities similar to those depicted in the films (Packer, 2007). The realization of such impact of violent movies on the behavior of different individuals within the society generates more suspicion on the essence of the development of such movies, books, and games. Entertainment is often cited as the main reason but this fails to prove its worth considering the lasting impact of violence on the lives of those affected and the surrounding members of the society.

Despite the existence between exposure to virtual violence and the desire to participate in violent activities, these materials do not form part of a necessary condition for an individual to be involved in violent behavior. There is a necessary causal condition that is a necessity if violent effect is to occur (Packer, 2007). It is true that human beings have been engaging in violence prior to the development of video games, films, and writing of comic books. This means that films and video games cannot be the causative agents of violence as there would have been no violence until the invention of virtual material. Exposure to such movies cannot also be cited as sufficient cause for violent behavior. There is a need for the society through different experts to assess the conditions necessary for violence and understand the role of exposure to virtual violence in exacerbating violent behavior in the real world (Falk, 2013).

This assumption is based on the assertion that millions of people have been engaged in reading comic books, watching violent films, and playing video games. However, among this group, there are people who have never engaged in violent activities because of exposure to violent material (Falk, 2013). Such exposure is not a sufficient condition for the development of violent behavior. A possible causal factor is that exposure to violence is just a contributor to violent behavior. This is because too much exposure is a contributor to a person’s tendency towards violence and this makes it a causal factor. It is important to note that the level of influence varies in people because of the differences in psychological abilities and personality types (Packer, 2007). This means that inasmuch as there exists a seemingly weak association between the level of exposure to violence and the development of violent behavior, it is important to control the level of exposure to minimize the possibility of the relatively weak personality types from developing violent traits and socially unacceptable behavior (Falk, 2013).

Conclusion

The question of whether a film characterized by violence can inspire violence in the real life is considered as a psychological question. It is grounded on the personality of the individuals who are affected. Violent films, comic books, and video games can be perceived as a curriculum of virtual violence. Such curriculum socialized children and other individuals into the belief that violence can be an effective way of addressing societal problems. There is a need for the society through different experts to assess the conditions necessary for violence and understand the role of exposure to virtual violence in exacerbating violent behavior in the real world.

References

Desilet, G. E. (2014). Screens of blood: A critical approach to film and television violence.

Durand, K. K. J., & Leigh, M. K. (2011). Riddle me this, Batman!: Essays on the universe of the

Dark Knight. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co.

Falk, G. (2013). Twelve inventions which changed America: The influence of technology on

American culture. Lanham, MD: Hamilton Books.

Packer, S. (2007). Movies and the modern psyche. Westport, Conn: Praeger.

Wainer, A. (2014). Soul of the Dark Knight: Batman as mythic figure in comics and film.