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Research Paper

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Fresh off the press... I just submitted it to my professor for grading.

I wasn't going to post this... but it has to do with the topic concerning the "Moussaoui Verdict" from Life and Experiences.

"I don't really want to try to convince you all to not hate this dude... but.. I want to ask you all to open your minds a little. Everyone does everything for some kind of reason. Although his reasons and his actions were DOWNRIGHT wrong... it still does not mean that you should wish any person suffering.. regardless of what they've done..."

I hope this reseach paper will help you gain insight as to why I thought what I thought.

Shan Chen

April Miller


May 4, 2006

Negative Influences: Television and Film Corrupt Morals

Imagine the following two scenarios that illustrate the blurred line that divides correct and incorrect violence. John, a 10 year old child, walks home from school on a Sunday afternoon. The sun shines brightly, and the birds chirp happily. Another student, James, approaches John. James begins to pester John about a conflict between them earlier that day. Although John repeatedly requests to be left alone, James is persistent. After a few minutes, the provocation escalates into a fight. John feels justified to throw a punch because he was provoked. James feels justified to punch back although he did not start the fight. At the same time on the other side of the world, a homicidal criminal named Jake enjoys a killing rampage across many states. When caught, police officers question him. “Why did you kill these innocent individuals?” Jake replies, “I killed them because I enjoy the feel of a knife through flesh.” One scenario depicts a situation where neither party understands that they were wrong, and no one is more incorrect. The other scenario depicts a man who does not understand that what he did was wrong, but, from a moral standpoint, his actions were obviously wrong. Together, they depict situations where each individual feels justified in committing acts of violence. Although there are many reasons for aggressive actions, there is a fine line between what is considered correct and incorrect.

Professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, Kenneth Moyer classifies seven different forms of aggression: predatory, inter-male, fear-induced, irritable, territorial, maternal, and instrumental (Aggression). However, in cases similar to Jake’s, a new category dubbed irrational aggression must be proposed. Jake’s aggressive nature frequently embodies characters in media such as television and film. Sometimes, a character with Jake’s personality is glorified by given a protagonist’s role. Because of this, television and film tend to blur the line between correct and incorrect aggression. Thus, media often inadvertently provides a subliminal message that encourages aggression. Also, because television and film affect a wide range of audiences, such a subliminal message may impact a majority of society and its perception on acceptable behaviors. An examination of Fight Club’s plot (directed by David Fincher in 1999) and its effects on society demonstrates the current corruption of morals, and an examination of Gundam Seed’s plot reveals the possibility of everlasting corruption of morals. These two examples are diverse because each targets a different age group, and the examples are pervasive because they are very popular.

Many events in history show that a corruption of morals yields disastrous results. For example, Adolf Hitler utilized different films that targeted a diverse range of audiences. Because a majority of the population viewed these films, the actors’ behaviors within the films became examples of correct behaviors. The propaganda within these films corrupted the audience’s morals. Thus, these films caused many German citizens to participate in war. In another example, during the early Communist occupation of China, Chairman Mao Zedong advocated the Cultural Revolution. Because Chairman Mao needed to retain his political power, he gave power directly to the Red Guards, teenagers who led the Cultural Revolution to purify the Communist Party from those who Mao considered corrupt. Propaganda that idolized Chairman Mao spread: citizens erected statues of him and his face appeared on banners everywhere. His words induced many students to discriminate against those that were currently in power, whether it would be teachers or other rich citizens. The Cultural Revolution was devastating because much of China’s cultural heritage was destroyed and many Chinese intellectuals were imprisoned. “In the summer of 1966, in all ninety-six schools covered by this research, students physically attacked teachers. A total of twenty-seven educators were identified as being beaten to death by students. In other cases, teachers were seriously injured and some committed suicide after suffering humiliation and torture” (Wang). Because Chairman Mao advocated filling students’ minds with propaganda, these students’ morals were thus corrupted, and its effects can be seen through historical references. Much like Chairman Mao’s propaganda, television and film have a profound impact on their audience. Thus, if there is excessive violence within these, it can induce a change in the viewer’s inhibition towards violence.

Television and film often convey the status quo for behavior in the real world. Celebrities in movies wield many powers of persuasion. For example, a new fad or trend started by a celebrity may induce thousands of people to imitate the celebrity. This is why many companies hire celebrities to endorse products. The celebrity’s endorsement of a product generates many customers. Similarly, a producer of a film attempts to find popular celebrities to cast because it will draw a larger audience. Because the television and film industry go to extreme lengths to retain high ratings or sales, they also depend upon utilizing emotional shock effects on the audience (i.e. excessive violence). However, this tactic may be detrimental to the audience’s ability to behave appropriately. “Survey research and longitudinal studies found correlations between exposure to television violence and overt aggressive behaviour” (Volavka). This implies that violence in television can affect decisions over future actions. This in itself is not dangerous to society because many individuals are educated enough to understand that excess aggression is detrimental to society and is thus not morally permissible. However, the problem lies in television and film’s effect on children who have not been educated. “A study shows that children exposed to violent media are more aggressive than children who are restricted from viewing excessively violent media” (Browne 702). The media’s blurring of the distinction between correct and incorrect violence forever muddles a child’s perception of violent actions.

A man’s violent, unjustified actions signify a corruption of morals. The corruption occurs during childhood through peer influence or media influence. Thus, if a child’s perception of correct and incorrect violence is muddled, the adult’s perception will be solidly rooted in the wrong position and cannot be altered. A criminal fits the profile of “an immoral person, a sort of throwback to primitive man who had not developed to the same biological level as the modern, non-criminal man” (Gado). Many children are being exposed to such violence. Thus, television and film that include excessive violence has the potential to push excessive aggressive behavior into a morally permissible light for future generations. If unchecked, the corruption of morals does not only occur within individuals, but rather, through populations.

The extensive influence of television and film affects everyone. In addition to the exposure gained by media, there is a wide variety of programming that appeal to a diversity of individuals. For example, anime, Japanese animated television and film, appeals to children because the animation gives it a cartoon’s look. “Whereas Americans treat animated films as a single genre, nearly every genre imaginable is represented in anime films, and filmmakers working within the medium don't hesitate to mix them or subvert them to fit their own personal vision” (Saito). Because of this variety, both children and young adults are exposed to anime and the complex adult themes contained such as excessive violence or moral theory. In addition to anime, popular films appeal to audiences in the same way. In Fight Club, because the viewer relates himself to the narrator, the film suggests that the narrator may be representative of the viewer. This is also suggested original storyline in the book. “By intentionally masking the narrator's identity in the novel, Palahniuk engenders him with the representational qualities of an everyman” (Boon 274). Palahniuk wrote Fight Club with the middle and lower class as his target audience.

Tyler Durden, a main character, exclaims to his Fight Club members, “We have no great war. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives.” With this statement, the audience recognizes the direct influence this movie generates on middle or lower class workers who hate their jobs. By utilizing comedy and lightheartedness, the movie encourages aggression in these individuals. Tyler Durden declares, “This week, you’re gonna start a fight. You’re gonna start a fight and lose.” This version of fighting causes the audience to laugh because the methods used are comical. A Fight Club member squirts water at innocent people walking past, a shoe goes flying high into the air, and a man who hits a Fight Club member immediately says, “Sorry” when the Fight Club member attempts to punch back; also, comical music plays in the background. Because the mood is so light-hearted, the audience is loosened to the idea of fighting. However, the narrator’s actions against Richard Chesler, his boss, subtly suggest a mental illness present within the narrator. When he fights himself, he mentions, “For some reason, I thought of my first fight with Tyler.” Because this moment is so evanescent, the audience does not understand that Tyler Durden is the narrator, but instead, laughs at his exploitation of society’s corruptions.

Instead of understanding that the narrator suffers from a mental illness, the audience cheers for the valiant narrator no matter how illegal his actions were. From a moral standpoint, everything that the members of Fight Club executed is corrupt. By impeding on others’ liberties, they violate Emmanuel Kant’s moral philosophy: “If you wouldn’t want everyone else to act in a certain way, then you shouldn’t act in that way yourself” (Feldman 98). Kant is an influential moral philosopher who had advocated this Golden Rule. This type of aggression, instead of seeming morally wrong, becomes socially acceptable by the general audience. The movie provides plenty of scenes where normally insane acts are twisted into an accepted manner. Tyler Durden burns the narrator’s hand with lye while saying, “You have to consider the possibly that God does not like you. He never wanted you, and in all probability, he hates you… we don’t need Him.” This cynical view of the world is ordinarily not acceptable in American society, no matter one’s religious beliefs. This view of God generally conveys to others a hateful heart. However, Tyler distracts the audience by presenting a different perception on reality, “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” When he mentions this, the viewer, now on the edge of his seat while watching the narrator’s excruciating pain, considers the possibility that Tyler is right. As Tyler pours the vinegar onto the narrator’s hand to neutralize the lye, the viewer is able to breathe a sigh of relief with the narrator. When the momentary climax is over, the audience is drawn into Tyler’s view and accepts what he says willingly. Although the film kills off Tyler in the end, the narrator never admits that Tyler’s actions were wrong. He only mentions that, “This is too much” when the buildings are being blown up. It is this rationale that is the root of the moral corruption presented in the movie. Fight Club draws the line for committing excessive violence at blowing up corporate buildings.

The effect of excessive violence in Fight Club is deleterious to an individual. Although one may suggest that no rational person will place the line between correct and incorrect violence at exploding corporate buildings, can one suggest that correct violence be placed at the actual Fight Club level? Inflicting pain upon others is depicted as a cathartic experience in the film. Fight Club as a movie is detrimental to society because of the theme it represents. “The wounding and masochism of Fight Club are key to the text's construction of masculine identity” (Friday 42). Because of this, many may use the defense of their masculine identity as justification for fighting in a real-life fight club. Furthermore, there are people who have been inspired by the movie to commit acts similar to the illegal ones shown in the movie. Harmony Korine is a man who wanted to create a movie based on citizens’ aggressive response. “I'd have to say whatever it took to make someone fight me. I'd get in their face and I'd say anything, it didn't matter, to get them to throw the first punch. And then once they threw the first punch it was on. And we just went, y'know, mad” (Korine 28). By picking only people larger than him, he felt he could make his movie funnier. However, this is still not justification for personally harming innocent individuals. Clearly, the effects of Fight Club have seeped into his head. If such a movie could influence an educated adult, other media must have even more profound effects on young adults and children.

Gundam Seed depicts many excessively violent or sexual scenes. Because Gundam Seed affects the young adult audience, there are greater effects resulting from its screening. In the television series, the main characters, Kira Yamato and Athrun Zala, are best friends, yet, they lie on different sides of a war. Because they do not understand each other, they reluctantly vow to kill one another. This feeling of hatred persists throughout the series until the climax when Zala believes that he kills Yamato. Killing former comrades or friends during war is a common occurrence in history; however, the method by which Zala performs this action has the potential to corrupt morals of a young audience. Because Yamato killed a friend of Zala’s during battle, Zala is engulfed with rage. In his frenzy, he kills a friend of Yamato. This cascade of events causes both parties to fight with vengeance. In addition, within those scenes, Zala’s friend is depicted being sliced in half (Figure 1), and Yamato’s friend is killed by a weapon that pierces his midsection. His helmet flies off as he is impaled (Figure 2). There is excessive violence portrayed in these scenes to demonstrate the pain felt by both Zala and Yamato. Zala then attaches his machine, the Gundam Aegis, onto Yamato’s Gundam Strike and self-destructs both. This kamikaze maneuver demonstrates the most violent manner in which a person can kill another. Without regard to his own life, Zala focuses only on taking another’s life. This is the type of excessive aggression that Gundam Seed conveys to its audience.


Figure 1. Yamato kills Zala’s friend. The friend’s mouth is screaming in pain as his midsection is being sliced open.


Figure 2. Zala kills Yamato’s friend. His friend’s helmet flies off after the weapon crushes the body and the plane.

At the end of Gundam Seed, its message is: We shall not kill ever again. Zala and Yamato work together at the end of this series to end all fighting within mankind. When they have achieved the goal of disabling weapons of mass destruction, they shun the use of their own weapons of mass destruction, the Gundams. Although this is a virtuous conclusion, the sequel, Gundam Seed Destiny, concludes: We must keep on fighting no matter what the cost. Zala and Yamato fight against a leader who wants to eliminate free will from all humans in order to maintain peace among everyone. Zala and Yamato fight for the freedom to be aggressive. This conflict of ideals concludes that there is no right or wrong. Contrary to almost all moral theory, this television show presents a hypocritical message. Fighting, pain, and war is rejected, yet peace is also rejected. A moral theory strives to explain what is right. However, in these television series, nothing is right at all.

Because Gundam Seed and Gundam Seed Destiny have no conclusions about a moral correctness, the only content it portrays are the violent scenes throughout the show. This excessive aggression is conveyed to young adults, and without any moral advice the audience only picks up the excitement in the fighting sequences. These violent images stick in these young adults’ minds, and like Korine’s passion to create a film about fighting innocent civilians, there will be individuals affected by Gundam Seed who, if given the power, may try to mimic the fighting they see. Gundam Seed and shows similar to it plant seeds of violence into children and can profoundly affect their morals.

One may argue that aggression in itself may not be bad because nature created us this way. When aggression is observed in nature, the words “Kill or be killed” comes to mind. “Aggression, far from being the diabolical, destructive principle that classical psychoanalysis makes it out to be, is really an essential part of the life preserving organization of instincts. Though by accident it may function in the wrong way and cause destruction, the same is true of practically any functional part of any system” (Lorenz). Scientist Konrad Lorenz seems to find no fault in excessive violence. He observes that no system is perfect, and thus, nature’s system of aggression instilled within humans is not perfect. Although the system is not perfect, all aspects of aggression are still intended, and thus, excessive aggression is a natural part of life.

Although Lorenz’s argument holds true for animals, humans may be considered at an elevated level than animals because of self-understanding. Because humans can be educated, a level of enlightenment may be achieved by humans that animals will never accomplish. Humans understand that cooperation effectively yield better results than competition through aggression. Competition is detrimental to both parties while cooperation promotes achievement. Because of this understanding, morals start to form that enhance the progress of the species as a whole. Thus, humans are capable of being more virtuous than animals, and so, excessive aggression is not morally permissible. Fight Club and Gundam Seed represent a broad spectrum of what television and film provide their audience. Since television and film blur the line that defines correct and incorrect violence, they cause the corruption of morals within individuals and may inhibit mankind’s progress towards a better understanding of morality and towards higher enlightenment.

Works Cited

“Aggression.” Wikipedia. <>.

Boon, Kevin Alexander. “Men and Nostalgia for Violence: Culture and Culpability in Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club.” Journal of Men’s Studies Vol 11 Issue 3 (2003): pg. 267.

Browne, Kevin D and Hamilton-Giachritsis, Catherine. “The influence of violent media on children and adolescents: a public-health approach.” Lancet Vol 365 (2005): pgs. 702-710.

Feldman, Fred. Introductory Ethics. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1978.

Friday, Krister. “A Generation of Men Without History: Fight Club, Masculinity, and the Historical Symptom.” Postmodern culture Vol 13 Issue 3 (2003): pg. 38.

Gado, Mark. “The Born Criminal.” Crime Library. 27 April 2006. <>.

Korine, Harmony. “Harmony Korine’s Real-Life Fight Club.” Harper’s Magazine (1999): pgs. 28-29. 27 April 2006. <>.

Lorenz, Konrad. On Aggression. New York: Bantam Books, 1966.

Saito, Stephen. “Dawn of a new 'Millennium:' Where American animation is faltering, Japanese animation is picking up the slack” Daily Texan Online 22 October 2003. 29 April 2006. < 2003/10/22/Entertainment/Dawn-Of.A.New.millennium-535053.shtml>.

Volavka, Jan MD PhD. “Book Review for: Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression.” Canadian Psychiatric Association. 4 May 2006. <>.

Wang, Youquin. “Memorial for Victims of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.” 4 May 2006. <

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