Analysis of an Argument
Prompt: “As evidence in movies increase, so do crime rates in our cities. To combat this problem we must establish a board to censor certain movies, or we must limit admission to persons over 21 years of age. Apparently our legislators are not concerned about this issue since a bill calling for such actions recently failed to receive a majority votes.”
The argument states that violence in movies is the reason for the increase in criminal activity and that to combat this problem; we must either establish a board to censure certain movies or increase the age of movie goers to these violent movies to 21. In addition, the author assumes that because a censorship bill did not pass with a majority vote that legislators are not concerned with the effects of violence in movies. The conclusion of this argument relies solely on assumption, has no foundation in facts, and is full of deficiencies.
First, there is no correlational evidence stated in the argument to support the author’s premise that an increase in exposure to violent movies will in turn produce an increase in crime rates. Many studies have concluded that there is little to no direct correlation between cinema violence and crime. In fact, one study published in the Journal of Economics found a decrease in criminal activity during and after the hours of exposure to movies containing violence simply because those individuals who would normally be out committing crimes are now incapacitated during the hours that the movie is in progress and subsequent hours following the movie. Furthermore, Japanese movies are well-known for their extreme violence, yet they have a very low crime rate. This argument also does not take into account that there are other external factors such as the faltering economy that could be responsible for an increase in crime. Unemployment is on the rise and the stresses of how to make ends meet may give rise to crimes such as domestic violence and theft.
Second, the author states that if we are to hit this problem head on, then we must create a board to censor certain movies or prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from being admitted into movies that contain violence. The purpose of the Motion Picture Association of America is to assign one of six ratings to movies. Although its rating system is subjective, the MPAA, has been fairly successful in informing the public of the graphic nature of the movies being released. In keeping in line with the first ammendment, the decision is then left up to the consumer on how to proceed based on the ratings. Establishing a board to censor these already rated movies would be redundant. However, over the last few decades and perhaps as a result of overexposure and desensitization to all forms of media and artistic entertainment, our view of explicit material has narrowed and these ratings have become more lenient. There is a new generation of movie watchers that doesn’t consider the same material as graphic as the generation before. Children are being exposed to violence through interactive video games and dramatic 24 hour news and radio programs detailing events of war and effects of natural disasters like the 2004 Tsunami in Asia. It sufficed to say that crime rates could have increased as a result of exposure to these other forms of uncensored media. Moreover, by curtailing the age in which people are allowed to attend certain films only serves to force them to find other means of entertainment that, as mentioned in the study above, could lead to drinking and subsequent criminal activity.
Finally, the assumption being made that legislators aren’t concerned about the issue of censorship in violent movies because the censorship bill did not receive a majority vote to pass is feeble. The argument doesn’t take into account other reasons for the bill not passing, for instance, the bill being unconstitutional. It is a violation of the First Amendment for government to censor any freedom of expression, for example, art, which comes in many forms including cinematic art. The government cannot limit expression just because the listener, or even the majority of a community, is insulted by its content.
Although this is a logical topic for an argument and continues to be a source of ongoing debate, the author’s conclusion that the causality between the increased exposure to violence in movies and a rise in crime rate is weak and unsubstantiated. This argument could be strengthened by the inclusion of statistical evidence to support a parallel correlation between cinema violence and criminal activity as well as by eliminating other probable reasons for the increase in crime.