How do crime films create ‘real­life’ criminals? Essay Example

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How do crime films create ‘real­life’ criminals?

How do crime films create ‘real­life’ criminals?

There is a continuous debate and controversy whether films encourage people to behave aggressively or violently. Psychologists and sociologists have designed studies to examine whether films influences actual behavior of human beings. Politicians and advertisers spend a lot of money on the assumption that media has influence on human behavior. Violent crimes prove to be ubiquitous, the same to violent films. Additional, films can set trends in dress, alcohol consumption, career choices and even speech. Therefore, the assumption that films can cause antisocial behavior relies on the history of film censorship and regulation. There is a good reason to conclude that there is a relationship between watching violent films and criminal behavior. This essay examines the question how do crime films create ‘real­life’ criminals using various examples.

Crime or gangster movies are developed based on the actions of gangsters or criminals, and in particular underworld figures or bank robbers who steal and violently murder innocent lives (Ferrell & Hayward 2011). Crime stories in this kind of films portray the life of a crimes victim or crime figure. The movies further glorify not only the rise but also the fall of a particular gang, criminal, murderer, bank robber or lawbreakers in conflict with law officers or personal power (Rafter 2000). Moreover, in gangster movies, crime reports, or real-life gangsters have been used. The settings are usually in crowded cities with an intent of providing the secret world that criminals live: dark streets or nightclubs. There is an anecdotal evidence that violent films cause crimes. For example, the night Boyz N the Hood was aired, the audience became violent immediately after the screening an incident that leftmore than thirty viewers injured and two dead. Surette (2007) argues that film at times lead to copycat crimes, for example, there is a famous incident where President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckey due to his immense obsession with Jodie Foster who was an actress. the obsession developed after watching he watched her taking the role of a prostitute in the violent film Taxi Driver. Hinckley watched the same film 15 times.

Rafter (2000) argues that media characters always take a leading role, and viewers perceive them as role models. Therefore, if viewers see aggressive characters are being rewarded and not punished, they are likely to imitate the violent behavior. Greer (2008) adds that violent video leads to priming, whereby violent film plants violent and aggressive cues in the mind of people. The cues react with the emotional state of the viewers, thus increasing their possibility of developing aggressive behavior. For example, the Siege Film, which is about terrorists attacking New York, three years prior to 9/11 attack. The movie opens with bombing of the Saudi Arabia army barracks. There is a high number of causalities as well as a terrorist cell under the leadership of fundamentalist Sheikh Ahmed bin Talal. The film’s actions are later shifted to New York city, where there was a series of terrorist attacks, making the film more significance. Hayward (2004), images of terror not only shapes human reality but also frames and organizes their social world. Moreover, film remains one of the sources through which people get terrorism ideas. Therefore, it can be argued that The Siege Film led to or contributed to the 9/11 attack as there are some similarities between the two.

Furthermore, various experimental studies have proven that single exposure to violent films increase aggression particularly in an immediate situation. For instance, Kaj Bjorkqvist carried an experimental study where he assigned children between five to six years to watch violent films while others to watch non-violent films (Rafter 2000). The raters of the study were not aware the kind of films the children had been exposed to, and were asked to observe them playing together. Children who watched violent films showed high rates of physical assault and other forms of aggression (Williams 2012). Other studies have also shown that exposure to violent films can result into more aggressive emotions, aggressive thinking in addition to tolerance for aggressions, all the mentioned factors are known for later violent and aggressive behavior (Ferrell & Hayward 2011).

Some experts disagree with the notion that violent films create violence in real life, because if it indeed it does, there would be billions of incidents where viewers watched the violent films and imitated the behavior. However, most experts agree that violent films lead to aggressive behaviors (Surette 2007). For example, John Murray who is a developmental psychologist viewed the existing studies in the influence of violent media on children, and concluded that watching media violence is linked to both long-term and short-term in aggression values, attitudes and behavior (Kitzinger 2004). Therefore, the effects of film violence is not only strong but also real.

In conclusion, from the arguments presented it is evident that media is perceived as a criminogenic factor, and violence in films have both short term and long term effects on some individuals. The more heavily consumers depend on violent films for entertainment, the greater their disposition to criminal tendencies. However, it is a premature to simple suggest that films make people to commit crime. This is because there are other factors that influence human behavior.


Ferrell, J & Hayward, K 2011, Cultural criminology: theories of crime, Ashgate, Farnham, Surrey, England.

Greer, C (ed.) 2008, Crime and media: a reader, Routledge, Milton Park, Oxon.

Hayward, KJ 2004, City limits: crime, consumer culture and the urban experience, GlassHouse, London.

Jewkes, Y 2011, Media & crime, 2nd edn, SAGE, London.

, Pluto, London.Framing abuse: media influence and public understanding of sexual violence against childrenKitzinger, J 2004,

. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Shots in the mirror: Crime films and societyRafter, N. H. 2000.

Surette, R 2007, Media, crime, and criminal justice: images, realities, and policies, 3rd edn, Thomson/Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.

. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Textbook on criminologyWilliams, K. S. 2012.