Opinion

(Maisie Plew/Daily Emerald

With the increase of movies and television, comes an increase in characters. And nowadays, characters are diverse. Some will be friendly, some aggressive, and others evil.

That being said, characters based on real people are often similar to their real life counterparts. Viewers can quibble over the accuracy of characters to the real life individuals, but they often are apt comparisons. However, the portrayal of individuals can vary significantly.

While films could depict someone’s life correctly, the way in which they depict them could strongly influence viewers.

Media portrayals of horrid people sometimes glorify them and many viewers spurn this. They claim that the glorification of ghastly individuals promotes their personas or actions.

However, most adults remain unaffected by these characters’ glamorized depictions.

With the advent of the movie “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Vile and Evil,” audiences have recoiled over the supposedly glorified portrayal of serial killer Ted Bundy, the necrophile who  confessed to 30 homicides. Yet, his real life persona baffled the masses. Bundy was well-spoken, well-groomed and collected. The term “serial killer” was new in the 1970’s - the time of Bundy’s murders. People, who expected Bundy to bear a grizzly, slovenly appearance, instead saw an articulate aspiring lawyer. But beneath his collected exterior, he was a savage. The movie, wherein Zac Efron stars as Bundy, portrays the serial killer as a suave, put-together man. Although it may lather on the suaveness a little too thickly, Bundy’s real persona was similar. If his film character does amplify his persona, viewers should beware of this. They should be able to scrutinize the film. Adults should be able to differentiate between right and wrong themselves.

However, the case differs for children. Minors are more immature than adults. Their capacity to form sound decisions may falter sometimes. The glorification of grisly individuals will affect them more than adults.

If characters with humane traits, such as Superman, elicit negative traits in children, imagine the toll negative characters can bear on minors.

A study by the Journal of Abnormal Psychology revealed the children exposed to superhero cinema became more aggressive one year later. Contrary to popular belief, the superheroes did not teach the children to be benefactors or good samaritans. Rather, the children were more likely to display aggression.

Superman rescues those in danger. His persona centers on assisting others. If these traits warrant aggressive behavior from children, the glamorized persona of Ted Bundy could inspire worse effects.

Television and films aside, entirely factual exposure of villains can motivate youngsters.

The Columbine Effect, where one’s personal alienation or angers could manifest into something similar to the Columbine Shootings, is an example of youths’ vulnerability.

Before John David LaDue shot his fellow schoolmates in 2014, he wrote 180 pages in a journal. LaDue expressed a fondness for Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dyland Klebhold. LaDue even analyzed their specific actions during the shootings.

Although news outlets’ coverage of the Columbine Shooting was just, it exposed society to the shooters. And within that society, a fragmented niche resonated with Eric Harris and Dyland Klebhold. LaDue was part of that niche. 

Now, imagine how young viewers could perceive Ted Bundy. While the majority of them would view him as a vile brute, some may see him positively. They may only pay attention to his charismatic exterior.

Even though adults should be able to distinguish moral characters from the immoral, young adults may lack this capacity. The study of children who watched Superman reveals how even positive characters can elicit negative effects. Real-life exposures of evil men such as the Columbine Shooters demonstrate how others can be inspired by factual exposure. Therefore, the effects of negative people portrayed positively may warrant the worst consequences.


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