Criminal dramas on television create distorted views of reality
In a world where school shootings are not all that uncommon and suicide bombers make the news nearly every day, one would think that programs like Anderson Cooper’s ’360′ or Wolf Blitzer’s ‘The Situation Room’ have all but stunned us to death. Nearly every day they highlight foreign and domestic atrocities that don’t exactly give me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. But they aren’t the only ones constantly alerting us of evil running ramped in the world. Your favorite crime show does that too.
Criminal drama series, most notably the ‘Law & Order’ and ‘CSI’ franchises, can alter the way we see things, if we watch them enough. Van Phung, a sophomore international relations major, used to consistently watch every new episode of the hit series ‘Law & Order: SVU,’ among others.
‘I know it’s not real,’ Phung said, but she is glad that she doesn’t live in the cities from the show.
Others, such as senior political science major Camille McKnight, are less affected. McKnight said she watches ‘Law & Order’ spin-offs while doing her homework.
‘I’m careful, but I don’t live like I’m scared,’ she said. ‘I have a pretty realistic grasp on the real world.’ McKnight did admit, however, that the violent news she sees on television every day is what would make her more cautious of her surroundings.
But studies have generally shown an association between heavy viewing of certain programs and changed behavioral patterns in the viewer.
‘The effects are there,’ said psychology Professor Leonard Newman. ‘I won’t say that the opinion (of social scientists) is unanimous, but there is a broad consensus that media depictions of violence and aggression do affect people’s behavior.’
Years of research and longitudinal studies have proven this. Newman also agreed that, in some respects, people can be more distrustful of one another after watching too many of these dramas.
‘These shows definitely create a distortion about the prevalence of certain kinds of crimes,’ he said.
Professor Robert Thompson, director for the Center of Television and Popular Culture and a professor of television, radio, and film at the Newhouse School, cited the cultivation theory, which says that some people have a warped perception of reality after heavy viewing of a particular program.
‘These T.V. shows and movies privilege crime over other things,’ he said. Thompson added that individuals who have more experiences to draw from tend to be less susceptible to the influences such media can have on us.
While Thompson conceded that it is hard to make generalizations in social science, he believes that more often than not scientists see a link between excessive viewing and altered behavior in society.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that these shows lack quality or that they don’t deserve to be on the air. That would be a mistake. But the show can have far-reaching effects on certain people. They give us a false sense of reality and can manipulate our opinions about everything that goes on around us.
Daniel Longo is an undecided freshman in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications whose columns appear biweekly in The Daily Orange. Email him at email@example.com.
Thomas Wolfe is leaving his position as senior vice president and dean of student affairs to become the new president of Iliff School of Theology… Read more »
UPDATED: MAY 15, 4:35 p.m. Syracuse University students will soon see new living options in downtown Syracuse, after a new construction company revamps a vacant… Read more »
THEY'RE BACK: Syracuse pulls off furious comeback win against Yale to return to final four after longest absence since 1979
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Brian Megill sprinted over to Dominic Lamolinara and catapulted into his arms. The game was over. The unthinkable was no longer… Read more »