Sunday, February 06, 2011

Mean World Syndrome

Most of my time recently has been spent grading papers turned in by my students, detailing their analysis of media effects in television shows they viewed.  When I do take a break, I've gotten hooked on the TV show "Castle".  Collectively, these two inspired today's blog post.

"Castle", if you haven't seen it, is a pretty excellent show.  I'd highly recommend it as a series with interesting characters, well-written dialogue and some clever plots.  Nathan Fillion stars as mystery writer Richard Castle, who teams up with the NYPD when a serial killer starts imitating the way his victims were killed in his books.  After solving that crime, he stays with the NYPD as an assistant/observer, using the main detective Kate Beckett as his inspiration for the main character in a new book series.  The reason watching this show connects to my students' papers is because it reminds me of a Media Studies theory, Mean World Syndrome.

The central premise of Mean World Syndrome is that exposure to violent media leads viewers to believe that the world is more dangerous, or "meaner", than it actually is.  For instance, the tendency of news shows to focus on crime, while understandable, is thought to increase this by making viewers believe crime is more common than it actually is.

While I haven't studied this syndrome in awhile and don't know what the contemporary assessment of its accuracy is, I do occasionally have to wonder if it's affecting me.  Living by myself and having a very active imagination, I have already spent a few nights waking up from a dream convinced that someone is in my apartment.  Rather scary at three in the morning.  Now I'm curious if occurrences like these might be partially influenced by what I'm watching on TV.  Guess we'll find out if watching "Castle" has an impact!  It's a relatively non-violent show (while containing dead people, it rarely shows them getting killed or even a lot of blood), but I'll definitely be keeping my eyes out.  What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I'd agree that it does seem that way sometimes. I know I always thought it was strange when my mom would get so overly protected/worried about going certain places. I can remember her saying something along the lines of, there are alot of sick people out there you know.

    I suppose I can't disagree, I'm sure there are some to which I would tag "sick". The trend I find in Worcester though is just straight up mean. So many neighbors bickering about who does what on their land. Arguing about where everyone is snow-blowing their snow. It has gotten a bit ridiculous.