“Mean World Syndrome”
In the film, “The Mean World Syndrome”, George Gerbner argues that people who watch a large amount of television tended to think of the world as an intimidating and unforgiving place. Gerbner researched the effects of television on society. He focused on the commercial media system that thrived on violence, stereotypes, and the cultivation of anxiety. The film argues that the more television people watch, the more likely they are to be insecure and afraid of others. Is it the media that makes us more violent or do we become more scared of violence happening to us?
Mass media made viewers believe that the world was more dangerous than it actually was. The film showed how these media-induced fears and anxieties provided grounds for intolerance, extremism, and a paranoid style of politics that threatened basic democratic values. He talked about the government’s power over the mass media that leaves Americans in a state of perpetual fear. The result was a fascinating and exposed introduction to debates about media violence and media effects. Yet across the board, on issue after issue, studies have repeatedly shown that the very things that scare Americans the most have little to no basis in fact. Media violence inundated every home with choreographed brutality. It was and still is a relentless exposure to violence.
All of the information that he provided was astonishing and really opened my eyes. A few statistics that he talked about where that children see on average 8,000 murders by the end of elementary school and 200,000 acts of violence by age 18. This is absolutely ridiculous. It makes me think twice about letting my children someday television. There is even “happy violence,’’ meaning that most fairytales, artistic shows, or journalistic features lead to a happy ending. It’s simply sugar coated with humor or “happy violence.” Now really thinking about it, it is so true. We don’t even realize it but mass media messages have a direct influence on the audience.
As I am writing this paper I have the news on and 80% of the news seems to be negative. It is all about killings, stabbings, robberies, fires, or some sort of crime in the area. In the film they stated that 61% of all stories on the news are crime, violence, deaths or fires. This Mean World causes us to magnify our fears. In a violent and threatening world we are readier to fear ‘others’. We mistrust more, and retract into our groups in pursuit of the protection. A Mean World is a more divided world, less able to achieve compromise and progress. A Mean World makes us more prone to the ill effects of chronic stress. And as Gerbner put it “…a society in which most people or many people already expect a higher degree of victimization, sooner or later they are going to get it.”
Media doe project violence every day into our homes and lives. A world that feels more violent and threatening than it is makes us all more worried than we need to be. For me this film has opened my eyes about what I read and what I watch on the television. I think Gerbner did a great job of bringing awareness to this issue. Now with all the mass killings that have gone one, we really have to look at what our young children are watching and listening to these days. If the mass media is pumping this violence into our homes and lives then maybe it really does have a long term affect on our culture.
“[Viewers] integrate and absorb a sense of danger, of mistrust, of meanness in the world – it is what we call the Mean World Syndrome.” – George Gerbner