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July 1996, Week 5


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Birgit Kellner <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 01:50:08 +0900
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (79 lines)
At 09:42 1996-07-30 -0400, Chris Worsnop quoted the following statistics
from the Toronto Star, Sunday, July 28, 1996:
> Japan (125 mil pop)       38 homicides by gun     (0.3 deaths per million pop)
> U.K.   (58 mil pop)       137                      2.3
> Canada  (29 mil pop)      172                      5.9
> Switzerland (6.9 mil)     96                       13.8
> U.S.A.  (260 mil)         16,315                   62.5
One would have to connect this figures with data on the availability of
firearms or the preference for other lethal weapons in the respective
countries. I hear that stabbing is much more popular in Japan than shooting
(honestly, no joke intended).
Two remarks on the recent introduction of Japanese screen/TV-violence.
(1) First of all, the consideration whether and how the astonishingly low
level of criminality (other than bank-frauds, as goes without saying:)) in
Japan reminds me of a recent discussion on another mailing-list, i.e.
whether the present, to some deplorable state of Japanese society on the
whole is due to the decline of genuinely altruistic religions or not. It is,
for instance, sometimes claimed that the fascination of the intelligentsia
with Aum Shinrikyo would not have happened, had there been more genuine
religious concern in Japanese society, or had there been more decent
religious education in schools and universities. I usually argue against
such claims by pointing out that one has to be more careful than that -
first, the role and function of religion in society, its importance for
public life and private morals has to be clarified, then, it may be possible
to arrive on judgements. I think Ulf Dalquist (sp?) made a similar point
when asking for more detailed considerations on the role of media/state of
society (if I remember correctly, he wrote something along the lines of
"heightened sense of social control") before jumping to conclusions on the
interrelation between crime and on-screen violence. In both these
discussions, violence and religion-decline induced social misery, it apears
that people who are familiar with one segment of a certain foreign society
(religion/media) tend to over-emphasize the influence of that segment on the
state of that society on the whole. Religious studies people would blame
religious matters, media studies people would blame/credit media-related
matters for just about every societal phenomenon. Having said that, I would
consider links between high percentage of on-screen violence and low
crime-rate (what kind of crime, anyway? does bullying in schools count?)
inconclusive in either way, before Japan can be adduced as evidence to prove
either opinion.
(2) From my TV-experience, I have come to notice that there is a genuine
trend in Japanese game-shows to exploit loss and humiliation. A friend of a
friend of mine works for a small provincial TV-station. Everybody there
knows that she's afraid of heights. But she gets sent to climb a steep
mountain, for a silly game-show. The woman is scared, but goes along with
it, for fear of losing her job. She is properly secured, yet, because of her
fear, she falls some times, hanging helplessly in the air. One camera is on
her face all the time. When she finally makes it, she breaks down in tears
of relief -the camera doesn't let go of her face one single second, and we
are not so much lead to sympathize with the pityful woman, but rather forced
to witness, like a researcher looks at the dissection of a mouse. A similar
air of distanced curiousity for desaster and public humiliation can be seen
in the present coverage of the Olympics. Japanese athletes are not doing
very well, but instead of emphasizing the few medals they win (in order to
instill a little more of that fighting spirit), the painful losses are shown
over and over again. Certainly, humiliation and exploitation plays a part in
American/European/... TV, too, but on the whole, I have come to think that
American game-shows go for the winner rather than the loser, whereas here,
losers definitely get more air-time. I am not sure how that can be related
to violence/crime rates, but here it is, anyway.
Birgit Kellner
Department for Indian Philosophy
University of Hiroshima
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