Morality in the Media

This chapter of Our Movie Made Children by Henry James Forman argues that movies are ruining the morals of the American youth by exposing them to situations that are violent, inappropriate, and questionable. While arguing over the morality of movies, Forman quotes Dr. Blumer saying the quick absorption of movie themes and information is what causes film to be a great form of communication. The vividness and visual interaction in movies makes it easier for people to take in what they see and process what is being broadcasted to them (1).

According to Forman, the film industry destroys the innocence of American youth and to blur the line between what is right or wrong that schools, their parents, and the church have tried to maintain (2). It also provides an inaccurate account of real life and causes people to have unrealistic expectations of the world. An example of this was the increased interest in a college education, based on the portrayal of college students and education in movies. Some of the girls quoted said they expected college to be more like what they saw in films, which focused solely on the social aspects of a high education (3). I wonder if there was actually a spike in college applications when these movies came out, or if Forman was just able to find on or two accounts that supported his argument. As we discussed in class, Forman’s argument relies on the public being unable to think critically. Essentially, anything the people, specifically children, see, they must believe. Visual communication is incredibly powerful when used correctly, however, this excerpt only focuses on films as a medium that corrupts minors. How was what child saw in movies different from what they saw in real life or from what they read in newspapers? For example, Al Capone and other gangsters were active before there were movies about them, so how would films be the only thing to blame if they drew on real life experiences and stories? This ties into the question of whether movies influence people or if people and real life events influence movies. I think it’s nearly impossible for any movie to avoid influences from everyday life. Forman only focuses on movies when there could be an infinite amount of other factors that affect the behavior and attitudes of children.

This chapter proposes that violence in movies is directly related to children acting out and an increase in criminal activity. However, I don’t think the data proposed necessarily supports that. Forman states that according to Dr. Blumer’s research, supposedly 77 million Americans went to the movies weekly (4). Now, this is such a massive number it’s hard to clearly imagine it, and, according to Forman, the minors in attendance were subjected to such morally questionable scenes, their minds were molded into something outside from what is dictated by their parents or society. Aside from a few vague numbers and random individual testimonies, there is no concrete evidence provided that proves films with violence depicted is the direct cause of delinquency. I’m not saying there isn’t a relationship between the two, but from this excerpt I don’t see enough evidence to condemn the film industry for ruining the morals of young Americans. Another question of mine is were there more individual studies done at this time on the matter that used more specific data or smaller test groups to make a more solid connection between movies and morality? Where Forman’s argument was based a little more on quantitative evidence did someone focus on qualitative studies at this time or later? Also, once televisions were introduced into homes, would there arguably be more of an opportunity for an impressionable audience to change their morals, or since parents could monitor the television more closely than movies would that affect the results?

1.) Henry James Forman, “Molded by the Movies,” Our Movie Made Children, (New York: The MacMillian Company, 1935), 177

2.) Ibid., 182

3.) Ibid., 174

4.) Ibid., 158

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3 thoughts on “Morality in the Media

  1. I can see where you are coming from with this argument, but I would have to disagree. Not all kids are the same, and I don’t want to point my fingers, but many kids who are playing video games and watching very violent and crime movies are being affected. The more they play that game the more they learn about different kinds of guns and then the more they think they can really shoot one without any trouble. I don’t think watching these movies is causing it, I think it is the age kids are watching these movies is what is the problem. In class when Dr. Adelman was talking about taking his son to see Star Wars, was not what I am talking about. With the parents enforcing what is right and wrong, and what is fact and what is fiction is the difference. It’s the kids going to see movies like the beloved Godfather, with out knowing that this is something that is fiction and not fact. Even though I disagree I loved your post about your view on the reading.

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    • I can certainly see where you’re coming from, but I think it is a little much to blame the altering of children’s behaviors solely on the film industry. As I said, I’m not denying that there is a connection between delinquency and violence in movies, but there are definitely more factors in play than just the types of films children watch. These factors include the age at which kids see movies, like you point out, as well as their home life and communities. However, to just have a blanket statement that violence and sex in movies are ruining America’s children, like in the article, isn’t accurate especially without more data and case studies conducted.

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      • I am glad to see that the two of you are engaging in a respectful debate here, because I think it highlights the fact that Forman’s argument, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, is still relevant.

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