Prepared by the researcher : Dr. Marian Tadrous – Ph.D. in Strategic Media – School of Communication and the Arts, Liberty University United States
Democratic Arabic Center
Journal of Afro-Asian Studies : Eighteenth Issue – August 2023
A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin
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The current paper aims to study addressing violent crimes in American films on YouTube and their impact on the Perception of the reality of crime in American society. Literature reviews neglected the mixed approach in studying films, focusing on the quantitative or qualitative analysis of films. Therefore, the current paper uses the mixed approach and exploratory sequential design to analyze violent crimes comprehensively. In the first stage, the qualitative method was used to analyze the content of a sample of five American films on YouTube produced (2017-2022); the content analysis results helped to develop a questionnaire. In the second stage, the quantitative method surveys a YouTube user sample (100 individuals) to measure the users’ Perceptions of violent crimes in society. The results indicated an integration between the qualitative and quantitative analysis results, which confirms the cultivation hypotheses about the relationship between the pattern of exposure to films and the level of interest in crime. Thus, the initial qualitative phase helped design the questionnaire tool to measure participants’ perceptions of the reality of violent crimes.
American films play an important role in revealing the development of violent crimes in society. Spina (2017). emphasized that movies are the most widespread and popular means of portraying crime because they focus on crime, its consequences, and its relationship to society. Therefore, this paper examines addressing violent crimes in American films on YouTube and their impact on the Perception of crime in American society through a mixed-method approach. Sink and Mastro (2017).
Recommended analyzing the content of mass-produced stories to document recurring patterns in the themes and images that populate the entertaining dramatic content; to know the dominant characters on the screen. Literature reviews generally focus on films’ qualitative or quantitative analysis, while there is a deficiency in mixed research on films. Therefore, there is a need to combine quantitative and qualitative research when analyzing violent crimes in films to add more understanding and depth to studying the phenomenon.
Hence, the research problem investigated by using a mixed method approach and the exploratory sequential design: The qualitative method used to analyze the content of a sample of American films to find out how violent crimes are addressed in movies, what are the most frequent violent crimes, and the extent of punishment for criminals. In the second stage, A quantitative method was conducted through a questionnaire on a sample of viewers to determine how American films shape their Perception of violent crimes in American society.
The exploratory sequential design uses a quantitative survey to measure new variables based on qualitative data (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2017). Thus, the main research question becomes: What is the role of American films in addressing violent crimes? How do these films shape viewers’ perceptions of realizing violent crime?
RQ1: What is the plot through which the violent crimes were portrayed?
RQ2: What types of violent crimes are committed in American films?
RQ3: What are the characteristics of violent crime perpetrators in American films?
RQ4: What are the methods of confronting violent crimes in American films?
RQ5: What is the film’s goal in addressing violent crimes?
H1. There is a statistically significant correlation between the rate of watching American
films and the Perception of the reality of violent crimes in American society.
H2. There is a statistically significant correlation between the rate of watching American
films and the level of interest in crime.
H3. There is a statistically significant correlation between the rate of watching American
films and the expectation of the probability of crime.
H4. There is a statistically significant difference between the rate of watching American
films and the demographic variables (gender, educational level).
The current research used a mixed approach that combines quantitative and qualitative data and provides a complete understanding of the research problem by taking advantage of the strengths and compensating for weaknesses facing both quantitative and qualitative research (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2017). The study was also based on the use of a sequential exploratory design that begins with collecting and analyzing qualitative data in the first stage (qualitative analysis of the content of violent crimes in American films) to develop a measuring tool (the questionnaire) in the second stage. Thus, the quantitative results were built on the preliminary qualitative results (Asenahabi, 2019).
The Qualitative Method and Measures Used:
The current study used a qualitative method and narrative analysis to interpret and analyze the dramatic story elements (plot, conflict, characters, etc.). Roller (2019) indicated that qualitative content analysis is one of the research methods used to analyze textual data, such as language or dialogue characteristics. According to Manimozhi and Srinivasan (2018), qualitative content analysis aims to provide an understanding of the phenomenon by interpreting the content of narrative dialogue after the themes or patterns have been systematically identified. The current study was based on content analysis of textual data from the narration (dialogue, clips, etc.) in the American films of the study sample.
- Study Population: American films that depicted violent crimes
- Study Sample: Five American films on YouTube; the data collected from 11/15-11/20.
Define Categories of Analysis:
The study analyzed the theme, characters, plot, dialogue, soundtrack, and visual content using narrative analysis. The codebook was written to put a definition for each category. Erlingsson and Brysiewicz (2017) provided a guide to qualitative research steps. First: Determining the main topic in each movie from the study sample to get the main ideas about violent crimes. Then the visual texts were divided into meaningful units or scenes, depending on the purpose of the study and the plot elements identified.
Second, defining, formulating, and organizing symbols into categories that describe different aspects or similarities (motives of violent crimes, victim characteristics, traits of criminals, type of punishment, etc.). The icons were put into categories that answered the questions who, what, when, and where? Categories consisted of codes dealing with the same subtopic.
The Quantitative Method and Measures Used:
The study examined the impact of American films in shaping viewers’ perceptions of the reality of violent crimes in American society. The data set was collected from a convenience sample of 100 American movie viewers.
A questionnaire was drawn up for a sample of the audience who watch American films on YouTube; the sample included demographic diversity in gender, age, and educational level. Survey data was collected through the main research questions:
How do American films influence viewers’ Perceptions of violent crimes in society?
The Study Variables:
The independent variable is the rate of watching American films; it was divided into three levels of viewing (Heavy viewers, moderate, and light viewers).
The dependent variables are the Perception of the reality of violent crimes in American society, the level of interest in crime, and the expectation of the probability of crime. The data were analyzed by (SPSS) to calculate the frequencies, mean, standard deviations, and correlations between variables using Spearman correlation, T-Test, and One-way ANOVA.
The study’s results were divided into three axes: The qualitative analysis of American films, the survey results, and the hypothesis testing results.
First: The Content Analysis Results
- Den of Thieves Movie: (Gudegast, 2018)
The dramatic plot begins with the opening scene, which presents the first violent crime in the film, the armed robbery of a bank. The crisis began amidst escalating events and the repetition of armed robberies. Policeman Nick started investigating the theft while Merrimen and his gang members prepared to steal the Federal Reserve from old banknotes. After an extended scene of severe assaults on bank employees and hostages, the gang Killed one of them and escaped with the money. The police continued to chase the gang, and shots were exchanged again until some police officers were killed, and Merriman, the head of the gang, was also killed, while the police could not recover the federal bank’s money.
Policeman Nick visited Donnie’s bar and noticed Fed employees frequent the bar; he also discovered a picture of Donnie and his friends and realized that Donnie was the robbery’s mastermind. He collected the information from federal agents in the bar, shipped the money to Panama, and escaped to London, and the movie’s end remained open in punishment of the criminals. The crisis in the film was not resolved, which is the recovery of the Federal Reserve funds. Violent crimes were the film’s focus, and the tools for executing violent crimes were the weapons. The motive behind violent crimes was to obtain money and quickly get rich. The film focused on monitoring armed robbery crimes in society and provided no solutions to confront them. The film focused on the scenes conveying the details of the crime, which was an undesirable effect that may teach the viewer how to repeat it. The film supported armed robbery crimes because they achieved quick riches, as Donnie escaped with 30 million dollars without punishment or imprisonment.
- Ambulance Movie: (Bay, 2022)
The film’s opening scene begins with Sharp feeling disappointed because he cannot pay for his wife’s cancer treatment; he asks his brother Danny for financial help, and Danny suggests that he can rob a bank to treat his wife. Sharp was an ex-Marine, so he refused the suggestion, but he was forced to accept later, and thus the film justified the crime of armed robbery, as the motive behind the crime was to save his wife’s life regardless of the lives of others, which is the contradiction revealed by the dramatic plot. The crisis began when Danny persuaded his brother to participate in the armed robbery, and Sharp became internally conflicted between abandoning his principles as a veteran and abandoning his wife’s treatment.
The violent crime began with the gang attacking the police officers and exchanging fire during the armed robbery of the bank. The brothers escaped with $16 million from a California bank. The criminals hijacked the ambulance while transporting a police officer for treatment. The police tried to end the crisis by negotiating with the criminals to hand over the injured officer, but they refused. The dramatic plot shows the internal conflict when Sharp ends his heroic history and decides to help his brother in an armed robbery to support his family.
The crime was the film’s focus, and the criminals used firearms to carry out the crimes of assault, kidnapping, and theft. Despite the film’s justification for committing armed robbery crimes, it showed the impact of the crime on the individual when Sharp felt remorse after causing the disintegration of his family. The film focused on monitoring, analyzing, and fighting crime, while there were no solutions to counter them. The movie conveyed scenes of crime details, starting with scenes of arranging the crime, showing details of committing the crime, and scenes of tracking down criminals that lasted for a long time without the police arresting them.
The film’s attitude toward crime was to reveal violent crime and its impact on the individual’s family and society. Crime addressing aimed to educate the community about crime’s dangers. The film succeeded in providing just punishment for the criminals, resolving the conflict, and ending the crisis after one was killed and the other was arrested.
- Malignant Movie: (Wan, 2021)
The film’s opening scene starts with several murders in a hospital. Dr. Florence discovered that a patient named Gabriel had shot the staff and nurses. The next scene is when Madison, a pregnant woman, is violently beaten by her husband. During the night, a criminal entered their home and killed her husband. The film depicts crimes of domestic violence, especially violence against women. The dramatic crisis appeared when the police investigated the murder of the husband, Derek, without knowing the killer’s identity or motive.
The same killer managed to assault Madison without discovering her identity and began communicating with her by recording voice messages. The crisis was complicated when Detective Shaw arrested Madison, believing that she committed all the murders, while at the same time, he received a call from Gabriel threatening him to retrieve his sharp tool. The events revealed that the motive behind the murders was revenge against the psychiatrists researching Gabriel’s condition as an incomplete human being.
The crime was the film’s focus, the events revolved around many scenes of murder, and the means of executing the offense was the same in all scenes, which is the sharp tool. Due to his mental illness, Gabriel was avenging all the doctors who wanted to research his condition, so he killed them all. The film monitored the murder caused by mental illness without developing a vision to confront him. The general attitude toward crime in the movie was to alienate from it through repeated murder scenes and blood scattered everywhere. The police tried to stop the criminal, but they could not arrest him, so the film’s end remained open to the viewer, and thus the final act in all violent crimes was not punishing the offender.
- 21 Bridges Movie: (Kirk, 2019)
The opening scene began with the first violent crime in the film about a struggle between two criminals and one of the cocaine manufacturers over the theft of a large amount of cocaine. Events reveal that the criminals from the veterans stole 50 kilograms of cocaine, killing eight police officers and escaping. Officer Davis and Detective Frankie are tasked with catching Michael and Ray criminals before they leave New York State. The dramatic crisis was complicated when the criminals burned their car and stole another car to continue escaping, and thus it became difficult to track them down.
The police found the location of Michael and Rice and raided the place, but the criminals escaped. In the next scene, Michael assaulted Officer Burns and took her hostage, so the criminals managed to run for the third time. The struggle continued through the police pursuit throughout the events until Michael was killed, who handed his USB to policeman Davis before his death, which contained the names of the police officers involved in corruption and drug trafficking cases to improve their income. The police officers attacked Davis and tried to kill him after he revealed their corruption, so they decided to take revenge. The violent crimes in the film focused on urban areas in New York. The motive for committing crimes was getting money. The film focused on analyzing and fighting crime by killing criminals, killing corrupt police officers, and arresting others; thus, the film aimed to address crime through awareness, detecting a deviation in society, and punishing all criminals.
- Til Death Do Us Part Movie: (Stokes, 2017)
The dramatic plot begins with husband Michael assaulting his wife, Madison, by beating and slapping her because she wanted to have a child. The problem was complicated when she learned that he had given her Testosterone Steroids to prevent her from having children. Madison insisted on having a child, and when she told him she was pregnant, he threatened her, so she ran away from the house before he tried to kill her. Michael felt remorse after his wife escaped and was injured in a car accident. The events revealed that Madison deceived her husband into protecting herself from her husband’s beating and saving her child’s life. The crisis escalated when Michael learned that his wife was still alive and began to threaten her again.
The crime of domestic violence was the focus of the film. The motive behind committing these crimes was the husband’s mental illness which made him nervous and unable to control his actions. The husband’s violent behavior contributed to his family’s disintegration and deprived him of his wife and son. The film’s addressing method was based on monitoring, analyzing, and fighting crimes. Michael continued to watch his wife and went to her; she cried and begged him to leave her and her child, but he refused and threatened her. Alex tried to save her, but Michael hit and almost killed him, so the wife decided to end this tragedy by killing him in self-defense. The criminal suffered from a psychological crisis when he learned of the death of his parents in a suicidal accident. The film’s attitude toward crime was to intimidate and alienate it by revealing the harmful effects of family disintegration and divorce. As for the film’s goal of dealing with crime, it was represented in raising awareness of the dangers of domestic violence and revealing deviation in society. The repetition of the scenes of the husband’s violence towards his wife led to the criminal being punished by having his wife kill him. In this way, the film justified the violent crimes in American society.
Second: The Survey Results:
The results indicated that most respondents watch American movies for 4-7 hours 49%, followed by American films for 1-3 hours 36%. Also, most respondents watch 2-3 movies per week, 36%, followed by more than four movies, 44%. People prefer watching crime movies to gain experience avoiding criminals 38% and learning how to commit violent crimes in society 28%. While the disadvantages of watching crime movies are that they do not provide solutions to the problems 40%; it makes people lose confidence in others 27%. The most prevalent violent crime in society is killing 35%, beating and assault 25%, armed robbery 22%, and domestic violence 18%. See Appendix B for additional sample items.
Regarding the measure of realizing crime in society, 27% of the sample agreed that urban residents are more likely to commit crimes than rural residents (M= 3.47, SD=1.38). This is followed by a constant increase in the number of criminals in society by 29% (agree) (M= 3.42, SD=1.36). Also, 27% (agree) that there is no real punishment for the criminal, and he often escapes punishment (M=3.26, SD=1.39). These results are consistent with the qualitative content analysis of a sample of American films. See Appendix B for additional sample items.
However, regarding the measure predicting the probability that a crime will occur, 31% (agree) that violent crimes are much greater than in the films depicted (M=3.48, SD=1.35), while 27% (agree) that they hide their money so that people don’t steal it (M= 3.42, SD=1.36). This means that the study sample viewers exaggerate the number of violent crimes compared to American movies and believe they may be involved in crime. Finally, in the level of interest in crime, the highest average for a phrase learning the role of justice in protecting the rights of victims was 31% (agree), (M=3.53, SD=1.34), followed by learning how to deal with criminals by 32%(agree), (M= 3.48, SD=1.33). See Appendix B for additional sample items.
Third: Hypothesis Test Results:
H1: There is a statistically significant correlation between the rate of watching American films and the Perception of the reality of violent crimes in American society.
Table (1) The Relationship Between Exposure to Films and the Perception of the Reality of Crimes
|Variables||Exposure to American films|
|The Perception of the reality of violent crimes in American society||Spearman’s correlation coefficient
- The previous Table (1) shows no statistically significant relationship between watching American movies and Perceiving the reality of violent crimes in American society. The value of Spearman’s correlation coefficient is 0.04, a non-statistically significant relationship at a P– value = 0.66, more than 0.05. The H1 is rejected, and there is no statistically significant correlation between exposure to American movies and Perception of the reality of violent crimes in American society. This result differs from Krongard and Tsay-Vogel’s (2020) study, which found a statistically significant correlation between viewing violence programs and global perceptions of the world.
H2: There is a statistically significant correlation between the rate of watching American
films and the expectation of the probability of crime in the real world.
Table (2) The Relationship Between Exposure to Films and the Expectation of the Probability of Crimes
|Variables||Exposure to American films|
|The expectation of the probability of crime in the real world||Spearman’s correlation coefficient
- The previous Table (2) shows no statistically significant relationship between watching American movies and the expectation of the probability of crime in the real world, and the value of Spearman’s correlation coefficient is 0.145; it is a non-statistically significant relationship at a P– value = 0.15, which is more than 0.05. The H2 is rejected, and there is no statistically significant correlation between exposure to American movies and the expectation of the probability of crime in the real world. This finding differs from Scharrer and Blackburn (2018), who found that exposure to TV contributed to predicting aggressive behavior as presented in dramatic situations.
H3: There is a statistically significant correlation between the rate of watching American films and the crime interest level.
Table (3) The Relationship Between Exposure to Films and the Level of Interest in Crime
|Variables||Exposure to American films|
|level of interest in crime||Spearman’s correlation coefficient
- The previous Table (3) shows a statistically significant relationship between watching American movies and the level of interest in crime, and the value of Spearman’s correlation coefficient is 0.19; It is a weak direct relationship. It is a statistically significant relationship at a P– value = 0.05. The H3 is approved, and a statistically significant correlation exists between exposure to American movies and the level of interest in crime. This result agrees with Obert-Hong’s (2019) study, which found a statistically significant correlation between watching violent media content and the level of interest in violent programs of YouTube users.
H4. There is a statistically significant difference between the rate of watching American films and the demographic variables (gender, educational level).
Table (4?) The Difference Between Exposure to American Films According to Gender
|Gender||N||Mean||Standard deviation||T||Degree of freedom||Sig||F|
- The previous Table (4) shows that the independent-sample T-test was used to measure the differences between males and females in exposure to American movies. The results indicated statistically significant differences between (males and females) in watching American films at the significance level of 0.004. The 55 Male participants in the study (M = 1.96) compared with the 45 Female participants (M = 2.37) significantly differ in watching American movies, t (98) = -2.92, P= 0.004 (one-tailed).
The H4a is supported, and there is a statistically significant difference between (males and females) in watching American movies at the significance level of 0.004. This result agrees with Krongard and Tsay-Vogel’s (2020) study, which found a difference between males and females in watching violence in TV Series.
Table (5) The Difference Between Exposure to American Films According to Educational Level
|Source of variance||Sum of square||Degree of freedom||Means square||F||Sig|
- Table (5) shows that the One-way ANOVA was used to measure the differences between the respondents’ educational levels and their exposure to American movies. The results indicated statistically significant differences between (academic levels) in watching American movies at the significance level 0.000. The 45 bachelor’s degree participants in the study (M = 1.84) have significantly higher levels of watching American movies compared with the 49 high school participants (M = 2.55) and postgraduate (M = 1.16). Also, the sum of squares between groups (2) = 17.88, P= 0.000, and the sum of squares within groups (97) = 34.86. So, H4b is supported, and there is a statistically significant difference between (educational levels) watching American movies at the significance level of (0.000).
Table (6) The Post Hoc Tests (Multiple Comparisons Between the Educational Levels)
The Post Hoc tests show a statistically significant difference between high school and bachelor’s degrees (M= 0.71), P=0.000. Also, there is a statistically significant difference between high school and Postgraduate (M= 1.38), P=0.000. Finally, there is a statistically significant difference between a bachelor’s degree and a postgraduate, (M= 0.67) P=0.011.
The results of the qualitative analysis of violent crimes in cinematic films contributed to achieving integration with the survey results, which discussed the impact of exposure to crime on viewers’ perceptions of the reality of crimes in society. The narrative analysis revealed that the films focus on the pattern of gang crimes and not individual crimes. The perpetrators of violent crimes in all their forms (armed robbery, physical assault, murder) were all middle-aged males. Cities were the most crime-ridden areas. The main motive for committing crimes was obtaining money. Violent crimes were primarily the focus of the dramatic plot in study sample films. This means that movies are interested in dealing with violent crimes as an essential issue in society, and the means of carrying out violent crimes varied between (firearms and sharp tools), but the focus was on weapons in portraying most scenes of violence.
The impact of crime on the individual was represented in (prison, death, family disintegration, and achieving wealth). Regarding the method of dealing with crime, all the films of the study sample focused on monitoring, analyzing, and fighting violent crimes without imagining solutions to confront them. The attitude towards armed robbery crimes was more supportive than alienating from the consequences of committing them by focusing on scenes of enjoying wealth, while the attitude towards domestic violence was intimidating from its effects of family disintegration and murder. The study sample did not provide solutions or proposals to confront armed or domestic violence crimes.
The goals of the films in dealing with violent crimes were to educate the viewers, warn them, and detect deviant behavior in society. Finally, the final act in violent crimes varied between reporting to the police, investigating, and escaping without punishment. A quantitative feature informed by qualitative results and subsequent quantitative data analysis through the questionnaire was designed to measure the effect of watching violent crimes on viewers’ perceptions of crime. To ensure the validity of the results, (internal validity) was used by presenting the procedures used in data collection and analysis, setting codes, procedural definitions, and encoding categories.
The quantitative results supported the qualitative analysis concerning estimating the scale of crime in cities, as 57% of the respondents confirmed that urban residents are more likely to commit crimes than rural residents, which was revealed by the results of the content analysis of films. From the respondents’ point of view, the most frequent violent crimes are murders, which means there is a relationship between watching violent crimes and the viewers’ Perception of society. Also, 50% of the respondents indicated that there is no real punishment for the criminal, but instead, he often escapes from punishment, which is the same conclusion reached by most of the films of the analytical study sample.
The quantitative study results also confirmed that the primary motive for committing most crimes is obtaining money at a rate of 47%, which was also found by the results of the qualitative analysis. In general, there is an integration between the qualitative and quantitative analysis results, which confirms the cultivation hypotheses about the relationship between the pattern of exposure to films and the level of interest in crime. Thus, the initial qualitative phase helped design the questionnaire tool to measure the participant’s perceptions of the reality of violent crimes in society.
Due to the limited time available to conduct the study and the inability to reach the entire target population of a representative sample, convenience sampling was used in the current study. So, there is a need to conduct the study in the future on a more significant number of respondents, considering measuring more variables like direct experience with crimes and remembering the dramatic content and its impact on the Perception of violent crimes in society.
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