The Mean World Syndrome: Media Violence & the Cultivation of Fear
A new film based on the late George Gerbner’s groundbreaking analysis of media influence and media violence.
Featuring George Gerbner and Michael Morgan
1. Media as Storytellers: “Nothing to Tell but a lot to Sell” — Explores the significance of commercial media eclipsing religion and art as the great storyteller of our time. (7:32)
2. A Mean World Case Study: Child Abductions — Provides an in-depth look at how media coverage of child abductions has fed parental anxieties out of proportion with statistical reality. (4:17)
3. Further Effects of the Mean World Syndrome: Desensitization & Acceleration — Examines how heavy exposure to media violence normalizes violence, numbing some people to real-world violence even as it whets the appetite in others for ever-higher doses. (8:48)
For years, debates have raged among scholars, politicians, and concerned parents about the effects of media violence on viewers. Too often these debates have descended into simplistic battles between those who claim that media messages directly cause violence and those who argue that activists exaggerate the impact of media exposure altogether. The Mean World Syndrome, based on the groundbreaking work of media scholar George Gerbner, urges us to think about media effects in more nuanced ways. Ranging from Hollywood movies and prime-time dramas to reality programming and the local news, the film examines how media violence forms a pervasive cultural environment that cultivates in heavy viewers, especially, a heightened state of insecurity, exaggerated perceptions of risk and danger, and a fear-driven propensity for hard-line political solutions to social problems. A provocative and accessible introduction to cultivation analysis, media effects research, and the subject of media influence and media violence more generally.
Also includes three additional short features — ideal for classroom use — that take a closer look at Gerbner’s analysis and the Mean World Syndrome