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The Film Text “A Clockwork Orange”

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The effects of violence in the media are undoubtedly one of the most controversial topics in current media debates. There is a major media influence in our everyday lives through ideologies and set values with which we use to guide the way we perceive things and control our moral values. The influence of media is constantly scrutinised for the rare and possibly consequential copycat acts. An example of this is the James Bulger case (1994), there was an extreme mass hysteria questioning whether violence in films affected the moral judgment, not just of children but with adults as well. It was feared that there was a general decline in public civility and morality, because of this an explanation was needed It’s possible that events such as the murder of James Bulger by the two boys that claimed they got the idea from Childs play, 19911, would not have occurred if such movies did not exist, but if this is so then why are other adults and children not affected?

It has not occurred to the media or behaviorists that theoretically if it affects others so easily than it could potential harm themselves

The effects model is known as the hypodermic needle, this is because it metaphorically “force-feeds” an active audience, providing them repetitively with ideas and ideologies which are then used in their own every day life; they rely on realism effects in order to provoke the audience into subconsciously relating situations to their own for example stereo types. The recent attack on America was a massive shock to western culture and once again there has been a major division of “them”, middle eastern society cultures who are portrayed as murderers by emotive wording in the news media2, and “us”, the western society who are the victims and the heroes for saving capitalism, Propp. The media creates binary oppositions, Lvi-Stauss, to distance us away from those who could potentially destroy our equilibrium, Todorov.

The force feed action comes from reinforcing dominant ideologies, which become common stereotypes and therefore become ideologies and accepted as normal codes and conventions.

Television and cinema can fulfill four needs with their photo realistic and the ability to document reality in a mediated reality:

Diversion and escapism:

It allows the audience to escape the general pressures of life, indulging them selves into a specific media text such as film, with a degree of generic verisimilitude, understanding only what is common within genres but unable to identify this with real life. This to some viewers could become confusing, as they may identify with the text so much so that they begin to think it is real ultimately becoming unable to distinguish fact from fiction.

Personal relationships:

The escapism of the media allows the viewer to become closer to the characters of a certain text as a voyeur; this offers companionship and the chance to develop relationships in a mediated reality although this could possibly become a negative effect, as it may prove “real” relationships to be increasingly hard to form in later life

Personal identity:

This allows a viewer to identify with characters in a text, either by appearance, emotions, personality etc. They view common ideologies of stereotypes


This allows the viewer to “keep up” with what is going on in the world, although this is not specifically true, even in news as there is no true representation of the truth in the media.

Although the media serves a large part of our lives influencing what we define as wrong and right, the media can be taken as an extreme. I.e. people may become dependant on the satisfaction of escapism, voyeurism and the realistic effects. This may be the cause of some copycat acts; the viewer is no longer willing to see the scene as a voyeur.

The BBFC (British Board Of Classification) provides strict classification for mainly British hybrid film and videos, in order to prevent

“The innocent audience, young and old, from any damage such as screen violence and their ill effects”6

The BBFC classifies film violent and immoral acts; if these acts fall into a certain category of content they are given a specific classification.

The aim of this essay is to investigate how violent behavior can be linked to media texts, in particular A Clockwork Orange, Crash and Natural Born Killers.

A Clockwork Orange

The themes within this film provoke a degree of antagonism within the public perception; it plays on reactions using ultra violence and undesirable perversions to shock the audience. Stanley Kubrick, who is already known for his alternative pieces, aims the themes of clockwork orange at societies taboo’s, moral issues and also tries to target his own pain of the murder and rape of his own wife. He uses much explicit binary opposition, which has been adapted from the novel by Anthony Burgess, such as love and hate, love for the performing the acts but hatred in the nature of the acts. The main character Alex is a fifteen-year-old boy who is the ringleader of an elite gang, whom he affectionately calls his Droogs. They commit horrifically violent acts whilst remaining disturbingly happy

“Alex makes it clear that he has chosen evil as a deliberate act of spiritual freedom in a world of sub-human conformists.” (85) When Alex is treated to become sick at the thought of violence, this choice is impossible to make, turning him into “A Clockwork Orange”. Or as the prison chaplain says: “When a man ceases to choose, he ceases to be a man.” (Burgess).”

The film itself nearly defies the theory proposed by Propp. Propp suggests that the lead character is usually that of a hero of some sort, but in this text the lead character is rather the villain, who doesn’t purposefully capture the audiences sympathy but manages to in a subtle and implicit way. He is portrayed as the villain throughout the film and doesn’t try to deceive the audience by implying anything else, yet despite his horrific acts and perverse thoughts, he appears to be an ordinary boy who lives with his parents. The only time in which his fetishes become apparent is when he is with his Droogs. The diversity of these two personalities is particularly strange and could even be a mediated reality as Alex uses a dialect with his Droogs, which wasn’t uncommon amongst teenagers at the time of the writing of the book. They could plot their evenings in front of adults who would not understand what they were talking about, keeping plans secret

Mass hysteria appeared over this film due to copycat rapes by people dressed as Alex dresses with his Droogs, although the film has graphic implications of violence and screens sexual violence, it was not banned by the BBFC, It was in fact banned by Kubrick because of the attacks on his family.

Within the text, sexual violence is addressed with awe and admiration for those who perform these horrific acts. An example of this is in the script when Alex is being “cured”


the sounds were real horror show. You could slooshy the screams and moans very realistic and you could even get the heavy breathing and panting of the tolchocking malchicks at the same time. And then, what do you know, soon our dear old friend, the red, red vino on tap. The same in all places like it’s put out by the same big firm, began to flow. It was beautiful. It’s funny how the colours of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on a screen.

As well as confusing the audience due to the fact that before hand we are taught throughout our lives that acts such as these are bad and wrong and should not be committed, thus the reason as to why there is a mass hysteria over potentially harming texts, There is also a hint of irony as it is common knowledge that “reality” in the media is in fact mediated reality and only a verisimilitude of everyday happenings but with a large sense of escapism involved, but Alex states that it doesn’t seem real until he views it on the screen which could imply that he has an illness which could fool him into thinking that what he is doing isn’t real or even wrong. The same way that clockwork orange was aimed as a criticism of the media, Natural born killers was also intended as a blast at the current media because of its extremity and content and its media satire. It aims its obscenity towards media critiques that willingly condemn violence and sexual violence, whilst all the while glorifying the scenes themselves. The amount of news media that is received, over such controversial films is unbelievable, whilst all the while the audience is trying to make a valid point on the obscenities within the film, they are also aiding the profit made from the text and news coverage. Allowing globalization and eventually perhaps news coverage and sensation in different countries.

Behaviorists have been trying to analyze the effects of violence in the media for adults and children for years by conducting various tests and surveys etc. One very famous test was the bobo doll of 1973, a group of small children were shown a video of an adult repeatedly performing violent acts on a plastic doll, once they had watched it they too were placed in the room and as the psychologists had predicted the children copied the acts on the doll. There is a lot of controversy over the censorship of films and exactly what makes a film unsuitable, due to the fact that children’s mind are thought to be very sensitive to their environment, a lot of car needs to taken to ensure that they are not subjected to violence through the media, therefore the British board of film classification is used to draw these lines and provide certification. I.e. if there is moderate bad language the film will be classified as a twelve, if there is nudity it will become a twelve, although if there are implications of sexual activity the certification will become a 15.

There is also a large political factor as to why there is such violence in films, the need for verisimilitude and escapism, to be part of a bad natured act but not suffer the consequences, this is the struggle for power, this struggle is evident in everything we do and watch through the media from explicit things to political broadcasts and the struggle to become a leader, to implicit things such as films, the act of rape within films may not necessarily be meant as a violent sexual act, but in fact the lust for power. Society today is still described as a sexist society, men have distinct privileges that even after post modernism are still unavailable to women, the media represents women with stereotypical values such as being submissive and male dominancy in a patriarchal culture. This leads men to think of women as objects rather that people and provides them a sense of power. Whether this is true or not, this is the message given through the media.

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