Type: Review
Pages: 9 | Words: 2534
Reading Time: 11 Minutes

Hollywood films abound in violent scenes of different types, and it is inevitable that their influence on society is negatively large. Prince states “movie violence today is an inescapable part of the film business”. Hollywood is not one company and, as well as other film producing companies, they do not care about the content of racism or violence. Seems that all what they care about is profit. Therefore, they use negative means to attract the viewer. As research shows, frequency of using general violent scenes and scenes of racism in Hollywood films is different. While in the beginning of the XX century racism in films was so wild and uncontrolled, other expressions of violence such as shootings, fighting, and others, which seems to be naive for nowadays’ viewers, were seriously controlled. That is why it is necessary to examine Hollywood racism separately from other forms of violence. Nevertheless, the consequences of any violent act in films can be tragic.

Racist Scenes in Hollywood Films from the Beginning to Nowadays

The films shoot in the US has been the source of racism from the very moment the kinetoscope was invented by Thomas Edison. Then Hollywood as the American film industry was established. Such a serious accusation must be supported by solid evidences and these evidences can be found in the US history of film making. The most striking examples of racism in the film industry are connected with attitude to Afro-Americans. That is why it is worth to inquire a question of humiliating and careless treatment, which Afro-Americans has been experiencing for decades.

The racist mechanism of Afro-American abuse was initiated and then became strongly rooted in the US filmmaking with the first film where one of the characters was Afro-American. It was a twelve-minute film “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, created by Thomas Edison in 1903. The thing is that, in those times, it was an unspoken rule which forbade black people to entertain white people. As a result, in the first film with a black character, the role was played by a white actor in blackface. That is how the chain reaction of humiliating attitude was caused by this demeaning ethnic substitution; the practice, which had been put by white film producers until the development of sound in 1927. Ironically, the stereotype that music and rhythm were inherited features and all Afro-Americans have them, black actors started to appear in so-called Hollywood musicals. For instance, all black musicals were “Hearts of Dixie” and “Hallelujah”. Despite the beautiful musical numbers, films were built on all the stereotypes about Afro-Americans which will be discussed further in the paper.

Other examples of what Jefferson calls “a national sickness” are the images of Afro-American people in feature films. The black characters created by white actors resulted in solidification of the racist mentality. By 1914,,the racist ideology and prejudiced opinion had been defined and has been kept and developed with years. The mistaken perception of Afro-Americans, which, thanks to white filmmakers, were willingly adopted by American society started with “Ten Pickaninnies” released by Edison in 1904. Black children in the film were featured as clowns without a hint of dignity. Another obese image of Afro-Americans introduced by Hollywood was the obese with the lack of sexuality, sometimes aggressive and arrogant black female image lasted for about fifty years. We can observe the examples representing Afro-American women according to this very image in “Coon town suffrages” (1914). Many talented actresses, like Louise Beavers, Ethel Waters, and Hattie McDaniel were exploited to develop the image. What is more abusing, the image sometimes was transformed to the contrary and women were shown as “sensual and immoral sex-animals” (e. g. “Hallelujah” in 1929). The same thing was happening with a black man image. Jefferson states that starting with Griffiths’ “Birth of nation” and for the next fifty five years Afro-American men were used for the roles of idiots, clowns, jesters and coons without a hint on sexuality, dignity or professionalism. For instance, white producer Roy Cohen started the tendency to introduce Afro-Americans of such professions as doctors, lawyers etc. as ignorant and incompetent workers.

Since the racist film “Birth of a nation” and others exploited bad images of Afro-Americans, some can say that things have changed, and characters in movies have become complex and stronger. However, they still contain a lot of negative features. Actor Laurence Fishburne said: “Stories that come out of the black American community are by and large films that deal with gangsterism, rap music, things of that nature”. For instance, the images like that can be found in such movies as “Menace II Society” and “Boyz N the Hood”. Violent criminals, drug addicts and gangsters – popular Afro-American images, which, according to observers, will be dominating because they are sold well and seems to be the most realistic to studio executives. Filmmakers who care only about profit do not think much about all the harm they do to society which readily absorb all stereotypes conducted by Hollywood movies and form their views and opinions according to the stereotypes. How the tolerate attitude to people of different skin color can be rooted in society if the opposite is highly advertised in films? For instance, let us take the example of using the “n-word” in movies. This racist word is widely used there and filmmakers who are responsible for this claim that they just want to make their movies more realistic. Academy Award winner Denzel Washington says: “I was in a film where they felt the word nigger had to be used every fifteen minutes in order for it to be effective”.

The Progress of Violence in Hollywood Films since It was established and Control of it

Starting with the year 1909 the New York Board of Censorship demanded in a letter from the Motion Picture Patents Co. to create a proper policy to deal with demonstratiob of violence in films, saying in the letter: “the Board desires to express disapproval of scenes which represent the mixing of potions of poisons for the purpose of committing murder”. This shows that society was concerned about the problem of violence in films from the beginning of film making, though the scenes of violence during this time had “an overtly theatrical quality and mode of presentation” as in such films as “Great train robbery” (1904) and “The toll gate” (1920) (Prince, 2003). Filmmakers were put under control and limitations, and the first city where the first movie censorship ordinance was adopted in 1907 was Chicago. With the understanding that entertainment and art influences society a lot, 1927 the Studio Relations Committee (SRC) created the list of prohibited scenes in films which contained such things as “profanity, nudity, the drug trade, prostitution, miscegenation, and ridicule of the clergy”. After that, in March 1930, the Production Code was adopted by The Association of Motion Picture Producers, Inc. and The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc.. The Code “makes reference to crime, wrong-doing, criminal, and evil” and cautions that films should not enlist audience sympathy for any of these elements of a story”. The Code worked until 1968 and as XX states, before the late 1960’s, violence, in its nowadays’ sense of the term, did not exist. Looking at the films that were released after the Code stopped its existence, as, for example “Bullit” (1968), “Soldier Blue” (1969), “The Godfather” (1972), “Taxi driver” (1975) it is clear that strive for profit became more important than moral health of society (Prince, 2003). Scenes of violence became more elaborating and spectacular, and it was a success with the public that brought more money than less violent movies. What is more, as the Federal Trade Commission reports, “film industry currently aims its violent films at an adolescent audience”. For instance, only between 1995 and 1999 the Commission examined 44 violent R-rated films (films that are restricted to children under 17 and watching of which requires parent’s accompanying) and 20 violent PG-13 rated films (films with some scenes that are inappropriate for children under 13). The research showed that 80 percent of the R-rated films target children under seventeen, using advertisement on radio and television, and “distributing promotional materials at “strategic teen hangouts” such as shopping malls, sporting events, and arcades”. The evidence of such state of things can be the words of one studio representative: “Our goal was to find the elusive teen target audience and make sure everyone between the ages of 12–18 was exposed to the film”. In current time, the situation is still the same. According to the Gulf news’ report, “violent content has long been its stock in trade — leading creators of movies…” and Hollywood filmmakers just do not want to feel responsible for violent incidents, mass shootings and cruelty in the real life.

Profit is the Reason to Use Violent and Racist Scenes in Hollywood Films

The claim, which was made in this paper earlier, is that the main thing Hollywood filmmakers care about is profit. The example, which is given below, can not only support this idea but, what is more, can strikingly illustrate the occurrences of racism in Hollywood movies. This example is a comparison of audience reaction to two Hollywood films that convey opposite ideas, and the consequences which followed after the films were shown. The first film is one of the most racist motion pictures has ever been shown “Birth of nation”, which was shoot in 1915 by David Wark Griffith. It contained provocative scenes representing Afro-Americans as vindictive rebels and thieves who solicited white women and white people who wore white hoods and sheets and defeated the dangerous ex-slaves as brave defenders. Photo historians reported that while showing such scenes white audience was so angered with the behavior of black men demonstrating in the film that they screamed and clapped in approval when the hooded white men punished Afro-Americans. The second film is “Darktown jubilee” which represented an Afro-American in the lead. As Jefferson mentions: “Its showing caused a riot because whites refused to see black men in any role but demeaning”. Consequently, Hollywood filmmakers tried to stick to the stereotype that Afro-Americans cannot show such features like braveness, dignity and cannot lead because it was profitable.

The Scientific Evidence of Violent Scenes in Films Affect on Youth and Grown-ups

The question is whether the aggressive behavior of people can be stimulated by violent scenes in films. To prove the fact that it can, examples of several scientific researches are included in the essay. The psychological research entitled “The influence of media violence on youth” was made by several scientists of different educational institutions in order to set experiments and estimate accurately the response of children to media violence, which also includes violent movie scenes. The results of the research show that watching violent television and movies by children and teenagers increases likelihood of violent behavior “in both immediate and long-term contexts”. Scientists found out that long-lasting effects of violence are stimulated by media and films in the way of rooting the “aggression-supporting beliefs about social behavior and by reducing individuals’ normal negative emotional responses to violence (i.e., desensitization)”. XX states that the scenes of violence, which have become more elaborating, when the damage done to the human body can be visualized in great detail, can provoke “aggressive predispositions in some viewers”. This is the fact which is proved not only by the psychology researches of “The influence of media violence on youth” but, as it is stated in the same research paper, had been proved by many scientists earlier. For instance, in 1969 Geen and O’Neal conducted an experiment which showed that violence in movies especially evoke aggression in people who tend to be easily emotionally excited. Other researches Donnerstein and Berkowitz in 1981 in their experiment combined violent movie scenes with sexual stimulation of males and detected that, after such combination, the viewers are more physically assaultive toward women.

The Registered Incidents of Racism and Violent Acts Performed by Young People

It is extremely hard to clarify whether some of the acts of violence were directly stimulated by aggressive scenes of Hollywood movies. However, relying on all the historical facts and scientific information listed above there is no doubt that the Hollywood industry influenced society and its culture. Hollywood films introduced the certain models of behavior which are especially followed by young people. Following examples illustrate what violent and racist models are adopted by our society.

The example of how films largely affect not only separate people but also the community on the whole can be seen in “Birth of nation” which sets a specific model of behavior towards Afro-American people. The film was adopted by society which caused a lot of violent assaults. Ku Klux Klan was given a boost by this film. The aggressive behavior and intolerance were built on stereotypic perception of the world and stimulated by Hollywood films. The presence of such behavior in nowadays society, especially among teenagers, can be illustrated by following examples. On 26 of February in 1998 nine high school students of Killian High School, in the Miami suburb of Kendall, were arrested because of hate crimes. They published an underground booklet where they use a lot of racist language and suggested the act of violence against their Afro-American school’s principal. The booklet contained not only vulgar words but also racist pictures like “a bloody combination fork-and-spoon protruding from the forehead of a man with “an African disease”” (Lee, 1998). Another, even more horrible incident of display of youngsters’ racism happened in Jackson, Mississippi on June 26 in 2011. Daryl Dedmon, Jr and John Aaron Rice, two eighteen year old white boys killed a black man because of his race. One of them after the incident boasted to his friends: “I ran that nigger over”. 

On July 20, 2012 James Holmes, twenty four year old student from Colorado, kills 12 people and injures 58 in a movie theater of Aurora city. It was a premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises”, the sequel about Batman adventures. It is still not proved that the incident was reasoned by the film. However, Warner Brothers released a statement in which they said that they were “deeply saddened” and they “extend sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time”. What is more, the company canceled a red-carpet premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Paris and some cable channels stopped running advertisement for “The Dark Knight Rises”. It goes without saying that if to continue cultivating such behavior through media and movies, this kind of incidents will not stop to occur.


Hollywood films negatively affect community is the fact that was proven in the research paper and supported by the data from the valid sources of information and by different examples. Though, the studies of such influence should be continued, it is now obvious that the influence should be lessened. In order to do that, it would be a good thing to control the containing of film footage like it was in the era of Promotion Code. A good solution could be the reduction of advertisement of films containing violent scenes in media. Additionally, it is a good idea to educate people about the risk of movie-violence impact on children and youngsters.

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