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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

“are shows like Dexter to blame for inspiring violent crimes?”

From the Guardian:

It didn’t take long for veteran homicide detectives to make the connection. Their suspect, a Canadian filmmaker, had left a complete trail of evidence pointing directly to his muse: Dexter Morgan, vigilante serial killer, of Showtime’s popular television series.

But the debate over Mark Twitchell’s horrific crimes, which became known as the “Dexter Killer” case when it drew international intrigue, thankfully didn’t focus on blaming the ultra-violent show for what happened. Some of Dexter’s creative team, however, began disputing that a link even existed at all. It was “pretty stupid,” according to Dexter’s creator Jeff Lindsay, to accuse his fiction of inspiring a murderer. As if it was impossible to consider such a proposition for a show having entered its eighth and final season.

The reality is that serious crime has always been tied to pop culture…. But the scientific evidence backing up such a link has never been very clear, leading many to quite rightly discount the level of influence. After all, we’ve been killing each other long before violent books and movies existed. Maybe it’s a case of these killers simply seeking out dark content because they are deranged, rather than becoming deranged by consuming such fiction?

Unless and until we get some evidence that violent pop culture makes people kill (or rob banks, or rape) who otherwise wouldn’t have done so — and as far as I’m aware, we do not have such evidence — I think we need to call bullshit on anyone who suggests otherwise. (As, it must be said, the Guardian’s Steve Lillebuen pretty much does.) Most people are not violent, and most people do not commit violent crimes, and for most people (I think; I hope) the idea of committing a violent crime is not something that ever crosses their minds… and watching CSI or Law and Order or even much more graphic violence onscreen isn’t going to suddenly make them think that kidnapping a drifter, hacking up his body, and dumping the bits in the woods might be a cool way to fill a weekend.

To repeat: No one who wasn’t already inclined to murder would be moved to commit such a heinous crime simply because they watched a TV show or movie about a serial killer.

I mean, obviously. No?

Maybe we need to worry about the people who insist there is such a connection, however. What secret impulses are they struggling to keep tampened down?


posted in:
Net buzz | tv buzz
  • RogerBW

    The censorship argument again. I’ll believe there might be something to it when someone says “I have become more violent as a result of watching this” rather than “those poor other people, who are not as special as me, are at risk”.

    Sure, anyone who takes a TV show as a model for life is going to be pretty messed up, but such a person probably is messed up already.

    (I think the subliminal content of TV shows is much more concerning: like CSI, where if you’re a woman who’s anything other than monogamous and vanilla you’re probably either a murderer or a murderee.)

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