Calming the Storm
There is a correlation between violent crime rates and intense entertainment violence, but the correlation is the opposite of what the usual hypotheses would suggest. The entertainment industry's bloodiest peaks come after real crime has come to dominate the news media and national conversation.
The late 1920s saw a rise in crime and the newspapers' preoccupation with bootlegger wars. By 1930, public opinion polls showed that "lawlessness" had become the leading concern of Americans. That same year, a low-budget entry in the minor genre of gangster movies, Little Caesar, became an unexpected box-office smash. Over the next few years, the public devoured a cycle of ever more brutal crime movies with an appetite that the Hollywood factory was barely able to meet. In 1931, the surprise success of Dracula and Frankenstein launched another violent, lurid genre. Many psychologists, politicians, and religious leaders blamed the movies for inspiring the lawlessness, but crime rates began dropping after 1933, when crime and horror movies were still going strong. Those movies began losing box-office steam only after the majority of Americans had begun calming down about crime.
Thirty years later, rising crime rates, assassinations, and the war in Vietnam were raising public fears of violence to unprecedented levels—and then intensely violent, horrific movies like Bonnie and