Ill Effects: The Media/Violence Debate

By Martin Barker; Julian Petley | Go to book overview

(Philo, 1999:37). On the basis of this reading, the children were then asked a number of questions which revolved around the notion of 'coolness', such as 'Who is the "coolest" person in it?', 'Why is he/she "cool"?', 'Who is the next "coolest"?-Why?', and 'Who is "uncool" in the film?-Why?' Hardly surprisingly then (and this is what the press inevitably picked up on), the violence in the film, and the related issues of power and control, are discussed by the children almost entirely in terms of 'coolness', although it's interesting to note that, even given the discursive limits within which the film was discussed, 'six children saw coolness in terms of values of power/control, four had reservations about the violence, and two of these made it clear that, for them, being cool was about having different values from the enjoyment of interpersonal power and "jumping down people's throats"' (ibid.: 48). Perhaps, though, the most interesting comment came from a girl who wanted pictures on her bedroom wall of the John Travolta character carrying a gun: 'the point of the film is to make them look cool and you just go along with it. If the point of the film had been to make them look violent and horrible you'd have gone along with that' (ibid.: 49). This comment, to us, reveals quite a sophisticated understanding of one of the ways in which fictional universes work and how we relate to them-and what it immediately acknowledges is that the film could have been different, and so could her response. In Philo's monocular vision, however, it is 'an extraordinary testament to the power of the film' and demonstrates 'how the images, style and excitement generated by the film could overwhelm other possible responses to cruelty and killing' (ibid.: 49). Once again, the search for some simple account of the 'power of the media' has interrupted any chance of any sustained analysis of these children's responses to the world of Pulp Fiction, which they clearly recognised as indeed fiction, and its relations to the real world in which they lived.

7
We had hoped to include an essay by Dave Cullen in this second edition. Sadly this proved impossible. Some of his existing work is still available at www.salon.com. A book of his writings about Columbine is to be published in 2001.

REFERENCES
Barker, Martin and Kate Brooks (1998), Knowing Audiences: Judge Dredd, Its Friends, Fans and Foes, Luton: University of Luton Press.
Barker, Martin, Jane Arthurs and Ramaswami Harindranath (forthcoming 2001), The 'Crash' Controversy, London: Wallflower Press.
Buckingham, David (1993), Children Talking Television: the Making of Television Literacy, London: Palmer Press.
Buckingham, David (1996), Moving Images: Understanding Children's Emotional Responses to Television, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Buckingham, David (2000), The Making of Citizens: Young People, News and Politics, London: Routledge.
Cherry, Brigid (1999), 'Refusing to refuse to look; female viewers of the horror film', in Stokes, Melvyn and Richard Maltby, eds, Identifying Hollywood's Audiences: Cultural Identity and the Movies, London: British Film Institute.
Clover, Carol J. (1992), Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, London: B.F.I.
Fiske, John and Robert Dawson (1996), 'Audiencing violence: watching homeless men watch Die Hard', in Grossberg, Lawrence and Ellen Wartella, eds, The Audience and its Landscape, Boulder, Co.: Westview Press.

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