The Matrix Effect
What effect does the entertainment industry really have on the general public? In 1999 two high school students dressed in black shot and killed 13 people at Columbine High School. In 2002 one adult and one minor drove the DC i95 area of Virginia into chaos with sniper attacks. They became known as the DC Snipers. In 2003 a 19 year old gunman dressed in black boots and a black jacket shot and killed his parents. All of these cases have something to do with the popular Warner Brothers movie trilogy, “The Matrix,” which features dramatic violence. Griffin writes “Most people who decry violence on television are worried that all-too-receptive young viewers will imitate aggression on the screen.” (Griffin 349)
With the incredible amount of graphic content becoming more and more readily available today through movies, music and video games, one must wonder how society will react to it. Is there even an effect? We know from our text that people seem expect more violent outcomes when they are exposed to violent situations through media. An interesting note that Griffin writes is “Children who are habitual TV watchers agree that it’s “almost always right [to hit something] if you are mad at them for a good reason.” (Griffin 353)
The idea that media that contains dramatic violence effects audiences in a negative manner comes from cultivation theory. Heavy TV viewers may not show negative signs for many years. Griffin notes that by the time someone has graduated high school they will have seen 13,000 deaths through media (Griffin 351). So the question here is, does the Matrix Effect, or violence in media actually contribute to violence in society. The 19 year old gunman mentioned above clearly mimicked one of his favorite movies, “The Matrix,” in the shooting of his parents. He even bought a gun similar to the one in the movie deliberately. The picture above depicts Neo, main protagonist of “The Matrix.” Note his clothing and compare it to that of the columbine shooters, and the young man who killed his parents. Lee Boyd Malvo, the minor in the DC Snipers mentioned above, blamed the “The Matrix” while pleading insanity to his crimes (Schone, 2003). Of course, all of these events were played up by local news sources which leads to what is known as the Mean World Syndrome. This makes people more afraid, or not trusting of the world around them, due to being exposed to media violence.
So the question remains, are movies like “The Matrix” responsible for violence in society? It is important to understand how different kinds of media can possibly change the world around us, even indirectly. Awareness is key in this issue, understanding the problem can lead to a solution.
Griffin, E. (2009). A First Look At Communication Theory. New York: McGraw-Hill. 349, 351, 353
Schone, M. (2003, 11 09). The Matrix Defense. Retrieved 06 2012, 07, from Boston.com: http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2003/11/09/the_matrix_defense/