Archive for the “Final Report” Category

Part I. Introduction


Violence in media has always been the focus of much social and academic debate. People either maintain that violent media is savage, primitive and unacceptable, while others hold that violent media offers audiences a lesson to be learned. If violence is a primitive response that people cannot repress, violent media serves as a means to at least control it. Although the first position seems very attractive and ideal, the argument is logically flawed, since it is based on the premise that violence is a part of human nature. The best course of action in dealing with the violent tendencies that people have is to satiate them in more tolerant and civilized methods. Violence in media therefore serves as a tool for education that teaches people how to divert violent emotions from becoming violent actions.

Most modern day fairy tales are for the most part, devoid of any violence; that is, there are no depictions of physical violence, death, drugs or sex. But in the stories from which these modern fairy tales have originated, one finds that they are filled with violence. Fairy tales have served as a form of education in the past, and the re-injection of violence into fairy tales radically changes the lesson of the story. Does modern society uses violence as a means of education? In modern American society, academic education is fulfilled through the secondary education system. After that, popular culture tends to fill in the gaps left by didactic education. Rupert Sanders’ 2012 film “Snow White and the Huntsman” is an adaptation of the Brothers Grimm story “Little Snow-White,” and does not subtract any of the violent themes in the film. Thus the package of “education” that the film offers includes violence. Is “Snow White and the Huntsman” cycling back to its original roots to make the bold statement that educational values have changed to include violence?

Part II. The Non-Violent Version

For the purposes of discussion it is imperative to include the 1937 Walt Disney production “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” also based on the Brothers Grimm tale. This version omits many of the violent parts of the original story. In it, there are only three instances where violent is remotely hinted at. The first is the scene where the huntsman fails to kill Princess Snow White with his dagger. The second is the scene when Snow White bites into the poisoned apple, shown mostly off-screen. The final depiction of violence in the films is when the Queen falls to her death, which is also shown off-screen. For the purposes of the argument, the Walt Disney film will serve as the “non-violent” counterpart to the Sanders film.

Part III. Fidelity to “Little Snow-White”


The issue of adaptation and fidelity is a major point which film critics often explore. Thomas Leitch, noted film scholar, holds that “Fidelity is the most appropriate criterion to use in analyzing adaptations,” to which he promptly dismisses. The criterion of fidelity is fatally flawed because “the source texts will always be better at being themselves,” and in effect dooms every film adaptation unfairly (161). But while fidelity is not a reliable measure of whether or not a film adaptation is “good,” in the case of the Brothers Grimm folk tale and violence, fidelity is important. Fidelity in this case evaluates the presence of violence in both the Disney and Sanders adaptations. Having fidelity to the original equates to having violence in the film. It is a matter to which has fidelity to the original violence. Sanders’ film in this sense contains more faithfulness and fidelity to the Brothers Grimm story, thus it can assume to carry the same “moral lesson.”

Part IV. Media as Education

This brings the discussion to another point, which is the claim that media serves as education in modern society. In an article titled, “Media, Education and Resistance,” scholars Michelle Stack and Deirdre Kelly propose this very notion. They illustrate this by stating, “The media are a central, if not primary, pedagogue. Children and youth spend more time with media than any other institution, including schools” (6). Even with the presence of institutionalized, didactic education, many young people look towards media as a supplement to their mental maturation. In some cases, media may serve as the main course to their education. Media comes into people’s lives in many shapes and forms, from movies, video games, websites, social media feeds, television, radio, and so on. The article expresses this by pointing out “Computer and video games sales topped $10 billion in the United States in 2004… ‘For people under 30,…[digital games] are almost an indigenous cultural form,’ says… a leading researcher on the role video games can play in learning” (7). If a person spends much of their time immersed in the world of media, wouldn’t that media be the very basis of their education and upbringing? There is a popular saying, “You are what you eat,” but eating in this sense refers to the mental digestion of media.


Today media blurs the lines between what news is (traditional education), and what entertainment is (modern education). Stack and Kelly express this by stating: “people discuss the news as though it were facts, neutrally transmitted by the mainstream media… while pop culture gets singled out either for derision or as something evil that must be guarded against.” However, that preconception is changing greatly, as “News outlets are experimenting with formats and modes of address that de-centre authority from the traditional news anchor” (15). Media is not a static product, and can be molded by society’s resistance to match the needs of its customers: the youth. Media has a concrete effect on the development of youths, and is no longer the low-brow entertainment that it was once thought to be. It gives media considerable academic and intellectual value in today’s world that it did not have before. However Stack and Kelly assert that audiences still maintain a selective palate, or as they put it: a form of resistance. “Although the mainstream media and education systems are key institutions that perpetuate various social inequalities, spaces exist–both within and beyond these institutions–where adults and youth resist dominant, damaging representations and improvise new images” (5). Old forms and versions of media are constantly being rejected for newer, more relevant ones. That is, media serves the demands of their audiences. What then, does that say about Sanders’ adaptation of the Brothers Grimm story? It is departure from the Disney production, and injects violence back into the narrative. This call for violence is Sanders’ reaction to the changing times. Therefore violence is a requirement in modern media, and the Disney version of the story is the one being resisted and rejected. The education of young people today is that which includes violence. By its very nature, education is a concept that is supposed to change with time. Newer ideas and knowledge should always be perpetuated forward.

Educational institutions are always changing in America. Rita Brause, professor of Education at Fordham University, takes note of these changes in a 1987 article titled, “School Days – Then and Now.” During a visit to her old elementary school, she notices a large difference in how students and teacher interact synergistically as opposed to the authoritarian methods of the past. Brause remembers that in the past, students were judged on behavior, and that “Behavior was the tacit focus, and good behavior was characterized by obedience to adult authority… We had no decision-making responsibility. We were puppets” (54). Students had no say as to what they could or could not do; freedom was not allowed for students and denied any unique treatment. Modern educational systems teach students that their opinions are valued and matter. The article illustrates this when it says, “This sharing empowers the children, while empowering the teachers” (55). Students have been given a much greater stake in determining their education. This relates to Stack and Kelly’s concept of resisting media. Even though Brause’s article is more than 20 years old it gives a good perspective of how educational systems have changed to give more freedom to students, in turn giving more freedom in how students educate themselves. In relation to “Snow White and the Huntsman,” the demands of the youth are answered with the modern, more violent version displacing Disney’s emphasis on a “child-friendly” adaptation. It reflects society’s value on violence as a form of education.

Part V. Counter-Arguments


One counter-argument is that violence harms education and student performance. A study by scholar Hilary Ratner and her associates illustrates why this is so. Ratner’s article focuses on violence, but not media violence: community violence experiences, CVE. Ratner’s study concludes that children who feel “safer” produce significantly higher test scores and perform better at school. One excerpt from the article details, “In our own studies of 6- and 7-year-old urban children, we… have found a significant negative association between community violence exposure and academic performance” (266). Though the study may seem relevant to media violence, it is referring to a totally different type of violence. In other words, it attributes community violence as harmful to education, but not media/depicted violence. By explicitly not mentioning media violence in the article, it indirectly differentiates actual violence to the idealized portrayal of violence in media, whether Ratner meant to do this or not. Violence is not a universal label; idealized violence through media is vastly different than actual violence. Watching Sanders’ “Snow White and the Huntsman” is certainly not the same experience as CVE, so it cannot harm a young person’s education.

Another counter-argument is that media violence increases aggressive behavior in people; that if violence in media is education, the only thing that it able to teach is more violence. Scholars Nicholas Carnagey and his associates attempt to provide scientific proof of this concept using neuroscience. Their study outlines the “numbing effect” that repeated depictions of violence have, stating “violent video games can temporarily increase aggressive thoughts, aggressive affect… and can reduce arousal to subsequent depictions of violence” (179). In other words the sensationalizing of violence becomes lost and becomes very ordinary to a person. This concept is revisited again: “[Researchers] demonstrated that individuals with a history of high exposure to violent video games have different physiological reactions to scenes of real violence” (180). Carnagey believes that the very meaning of violence will begin to differ in the minds of those who are exposed to repeated images of violence. The article also states that violent images cause physical arousal inside the brain, and that physiological arousal is linked to human aggression, stating “excitation transfer theory states that arousal elicited by external sources (e.g., exercise) may be misattributed as anger in situations involving provocation” (179). Carnagey believes that exciting could be mistranslated in the mind and trigger angry, violent outbursts by people. The article’s argument is faulty because it places assumptions on several concepts. The first assumption that it makes is that human beings are “better off” never having experienced violence, or the world is capable of eliminating violence altogether. Violence occurs frequently whether or not the media delivers it. Being “numb” to violence could be seen as an advantage that people have over others: if they are used to violence, they would then be better suited to process it. Therefore it would be logical to assume that the Sanders’ violent adaptation of “Little Snow-White” endows its viewers with an education that is missing from the non-violent Disney version. Perhaps Sanders is making social commentary in looking straight at a violent society instead of averting audience’s eyes towards a fantastical, make-believe world? While Disney’s version hides violence “off-screen,” Sanders’ version forces viewers to accept violence as a part of life. Removing the censorship serves as education in Sanders’ adaptation.

Part VI. Violence as a Necessity


What then, is the effect of media violence on the psyche? And why is violence so attractive? Scholar Paul Duncum finds that violence in its idealized, artistic form is an aspect of life that is necessary in order for people to function normally. According to Duncum, there is a sensory attraction that humans have towards violence. He gives “…Aristotle’s characterization of the attraction of Greek tragic drama as the pleasure that comes from pity and fear as nothing but a rationalization of the great man’s ‘shameful taste,’” as one example of how violence appeals to a deep, visceral part of the mind (22). It is human curiosity that exploits the limits of human nature at its worst that makes violence so eerily attractive.

Duncum gives the radical argument that humans possess the paradoxical nature of society, and the need of idealized violence is to maintain a sense of security:

“Paradoxically, the desire to live in a safe world, especially when feeling threatened, influences the acceptance of violence to secure safety. Antagonists invariably threaten the status quo while protagonists reestablish the status quo, and for people who are anxious, the desire for a stable, predictable world sanctions the use of violence. In this instance, violence is considered to be used for the common good” (32).

An example of this concept at work would be what Duncum calls “retaliatory violence” in media and film. This type of violence occurs when audiences enjoy having bad characters be punished by violent protagonists. Annihilating villains ensures that good will prevail, no matter how sociopathic it may seem out of context. Duncum also states that the desire for violence is a reaction to the extreme degree to which the world is structured today, stating, “A highly structured, rationally ordered society makes people vulnerable to the appeal of the unstructured, irrationality of bodily excess” (31). It is precisely the constant repression of violent urges and desires that modern society imposes on people that make people so attracted to violence. Media violence and the idealization of violent acts is not only education, but in this sense it is also therapy. Duncum concludes his argument by writing, “Banning violent media, or even toning it down, however, appears not to be an adequate response because it is not the violent images alone that are the root problem…. No one wants the fear currently feeding media entertainment to be redirected into real world violence” (34). He seems to accept media violence as a part of human nature, and by substituting it through film; it diverts the “actual violence” from ever surfacing. Duncum treats media violence as a sort of outlet for people, or better yet as a form of stress relief therapy. Media violence may be even necessary in curbing human urges; urges that could bubble up in destructive forms. Violence in media is a necessary evil forhuman development, which is essentially what education is. “Snow White and the Huntsman” depicts violence as to provide youths with that very same outlet. At the same time, it depicts retaliatory violence through its story by having Snow White defeat Queen Ravenna, reclaiming the kingdom that was rightfully hers. It provides young audiences with a sense of security and justice. This helps develop and educate young minds and the mores they exercise.

Part VII. Conclusion

Media violence is not the education that youths deserve, but it is certainly the education that they need. Rupert Sanders’ film “Snow White and the Huntsman,” rejects and resists the educational value of Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” on the basis that violence is not one of its tenets. What the media and the film industry produce is precisely a reaction to the demands of audiences. Also, if media is a form of education, it therefore means that people are in total control of that education; and that entails including violence into the curriculum. Depicted violence not only acts as a tool for education, but also as a therapeutic agent that stops people acting out on violent desires. But on the same token, idealized violence needs to be explicitly delineated from actual experiences of violence, which work in opposite ways. Sanders’ film takes all of this into consideration and combines them with an approach in adaptation that stays faithful and maintains fidelity to the original violence of “Little Snow-White.” After all, folk tales were originally meant to serve as moral lessons to children. “Snow White and the Huntsman” serves as the violent lesson that the progressive, peaceful society today needs to remain that way.

Works Cited

Brause, Rita S. “School Days: Then and Now.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 18.1 (1987): 53-5. JSTOR. Web. 25 Apr 2013.

Carnagey, Nicholas L., Craig A. Anderson, and Bruce D. Bartholow. “Media Violence and Social Neuroscience: New Questions and New Opportunities.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 16.4 (2007): 178-82. JSTOR. Web. 25 Apr 2013.

Disney, Walt, prod. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Dir. David Hand. RKO Radio Pictures, 1937. DVD. 1 May 2013.

Duncum, Paul. “Attractions to Violence and the Limits of Education.” Journal of Aesthetic Education 40.4 (2006): 21-38. Project Muse. Web. 25 Apr 2013.

Leitch, Thomas M. “Twelve Fallacies in Contemporary Adaptation Theory.” Criticism 45.2 (2003): 149-71. Project Muse. Web. 19 Oct 2010.

Ratner, Hilary H., Lisa Chiodo, Chandice Covington, and Robert J. Sokol. “Violence Exposure, IQ, Academic Performance, and Children’s Perception of Safety: Evidence of Protective Effects.” Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 52.2 (2006): 264-87. Project Muse. Web. 25 Apr 2013.

Sanders, Rupert, dir. Snow White and the Huntsman. Prod. Sam Mercer. Universal Pictures, 2012. DVD. 1 May 2013.

Stack, Michelle, and Deirdre M. Kelly. “Popular Media, Education, and Resistance.” Canadian Journal of Education 29.1 (2006): 5-26. JSTOR. Web. 25 Apr 2013.


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