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 Movies Made Me Murder

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PostSubject: Movies Made Me Murder   Fri May 14, 2010 3:43 am

Screamers
The movie, Scream, directed by Wes Craven, featured a character wearing an elongated white face mask with hollow eyes and a black cowl, popular among Trick-or-Treaters and for Halloween parties. Aired in 1996, the film satirized a collection of past slasher movies, offering the plot of a teenage girl targeted by a maniacal killer (Ghostface) who must learn her town's secrets to save herself. But even satires can trigger unbalanced minds to mimicry. It's all in the images.
Even as Scream spawned two top-grossing sequels, it also inspired crimes. For three or four years after its release, a number of teenagers were inspired to murder: a boy and his cousin in Los Angeles obsessed with the film murdered his mother by stabbing her 45 times; a man wearing the mask shot and killed a woman in Florida; a boy in France killed his parents while acting as Ghostface; and in England, a pair of boys repeatedly stabbed a third one, claiming the film had prompted them to do it.

Daniel Gill, 14, and Robert Fuller, 15, from North Yorkshire, were found guilty on October 22, 1999 of the attempted murder of Ashley Murray and were sentence to detention in a juvenile facility for six years. They stabbed Murray eighteen times and left him to die, but a day and a half later a man walking his dog found him, and he recovered.

Just before the attack, the boys had watched Scream at the home of a drug dealer, who had shown them occultic items and weapons, and allegedly told them that the gods wanted Murray to die. Their defense was that this influence had blurred the line between fantasy and reality, as well as the line between right and wrong. Drawings of Ghostface and pictures of knives turned up in one boy's schoolbooks, according to the BBC.

But they were friends of Murray's, and even he conceded that the film might have directed their behavior. That was the statement he gave to police. They had lured him to an isolated spot, he said, and then Gill stabbed him repeatedly in the cheek and head. Fuller held him and stabbed his arm. Only when Murray pretended to be dead did they leave, but he was too injured to find his way to a hospital.

Fuller accused Gill as the ringleader, and while Gill initially refused to admit his part he later said that the drug dealer had given him drugs and urged him to kill Murray. He had believed it was a supernatural command.

While it appears to be true that some people who immerse in horror imagery feel provoked to commit the same aggressive crimes they just viewed, it's also true that there is no evidence of a causal factor, and millions of people watch such films without feeling instigated to act. Some people process external images into aggressive behavior, others might gain catharsis, and still others remain altogether unaffected. A few become horror film makers or novelists. It's not easy to know just what effect a specific film might have. Whatever results, research shows that it has more to do with the viewer than the material viewed.

Violence and the Brain
In the December 2006 issue of Scientific American Mind, Daniel Strueber, Monica Luek and Gerhard Roth cover the latest work from brain researchers devoted to the subject of violence and aggression. They focus largely on psychopaths who feel no empathy for their victims or regret afterward for what they have done. They plan and kill in a disconnected manner. It turns out that "violence never erupts from a single cause," but instead derives from a combination of risk factors.


Debra Niehof, a neuroscientist, had already noted this with her book, The Biology of Violence, published in 1999, after she had studied twenty years' worth of research. Specifically, she wanted to know whether violence was the result of genes or largely influenced by the environment. In her opinion, both biological and environmental factors are involved, and each modifies the other such that processing a situation toward a violent resolution is unique to each individual. In other words, a particular type of stimulation in a film is not going to provoke violence in every viewer. One person might react, while another might be completely unaffected by the very same exposure.

The way it works, says Niehoff, is that the brain keeps track of our experiences through chemical codes. When we have an interaction with a new person, we approach it with a neurochemical profile, which is influenced by attitudes that we've developed about whether or not the world is safe, whether people are trustworthy, and whether we can trust our instincts. However we feel about these things sets off certain emotional reactions and the chemistry of those feelings is translated into our responses. "Then that person reacts to us," says Niehoff, "and our emotional response to their reaction also changes brain chemistry a little bit. So after every interaction, we update our neurochemical profile of the world."

For causal associations, Strueber and his associates focus on the negative experiences a person might have. The risk factors included inherited tendencies, a traumatic childhood, and other types of negative exposures, all of which aggravate one another via interaction. Being male is one risk factor, as is having a violent role model and showing frontal cortex abnormalities that promote impulsivity. High-risk individuals might also develop a low frustration tolerance level and fail to learn social rules. In males, a higher testosterone level has been linked to aggression. (One study found this to be true of violent women as well.) In addition, head injuries of certain types seem to predispose certain people to violence.


Among the more interesting studies — albeit with low numbers and with only adult male subjects — Dr. Adrian Raine and his colleagues at the University of Southern California, compared 23 psychopaths who'd been caught vs. 13 psychopaths who remained at large. On the assumption that those who remained free were better planners, MRIs indicated that the "successful psychopaths" had a higher volume of gray matter in the frontal cortex than those who'd been caught. In addition, the unsuccessful psychopaths showed an asymmetrical hippocampus. Other researchers pinpoint dysfunctions of the amygdala as playing a part in a person's capacity to feel empathy (or not). The balance of neurochemistry, too, has a role, which will be affected by a combination of one's heredity and one's environment.

It's safe to say that in cultures that tolerate violent images and even encourage them, there will likely be a greater propensity among young people and the mentally disturbed to be influenced toward acting out what they see. If their options for dealing with conflict are limited to violence as a resolution, they will generally turn to violence themselves. Some researchers have estimated that by the time a child reaches the age of eighteen, he or she has seen around 100,000 violent images on television, in film or in videogames. It seems absurd to believe that such exposure will have little to no effect.


In The Copycat Effect, Loren Coleman indicates that any type of visual media that sensationalizes a crime can generate fallout in the form of mimicry. Similar incidents generally follow within a few weeks. We'll get to the mimicry angle later. For now let's return to these cases.

Matrix Psychosis

One of the movies mentioned most often in a murder defense in recent years has beenThe Matrix, released in 1999 and starring Keanu Reeves (with two sequels) as "Neo." He finds himself in an alternate reality, aware that he once was "unconscious" in a computer-generated virtual reality and killers are chasing him. He must resort to fancy footwork and plenty of violence himself in order to save the world. All that he once believed has proven false as he's designated the savoir and learns his secret super powers. What Neo does serves a higher purpose, which gives his violence noble flavor. But that's a movie.

Or is it? Apparently, some murder defendants have come to believe they were in the matrix and that killing others was therefore justified.

Many people believe that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the 1999 Columbine High School killers, were inspired by it, although unlike some, they did not live to tell. At any rate, they did wear black trench coats like Neo.


One-half of the beltway Sniper team from 2002, Lee Boyd Malvo, was devoted to the movie. In jail he made many jottings, including a plea that people should free themselves from the Matrix. He told the FBI to watch the film, states Mark Shone in the Boston Globe, if they hoped to understand how his mind worked.


In San Francisco, Vadim Mieseges, 27, killed and dismembered his landlady, and in his defense he said that he'd been "sucked" into the Matrix. A Swedish exchange student, he confessed to skinning his victim and dumping her torso into a dumpster because he sensed "evil vibes" from her. Since he'd already been diagnosed with a mental illness, the case did not get to trial. His insanity plea was accepted.


In Ohio, Tonda Lynn Ansley also attacked her landlady on this premise, but was certain she had not really done so: it was only a dream. She had targeted three others as well, to free herself from their mind control. Her insanity plea, too, was accepted.

The Boston Globe ran a list of people in 2003 who had claimed that The Matrix had inspired them to kill. One case that turned up in Virginia is that of nineteen-year-old Joe Cook, who claimed he did not realize what he was doing when he dressed like Neo, grabbed his twelve-gauge shotgun (purchased because it resembled one in the movie), and shot both of his adoptive parents to death. Initially hoping to use an insanity defense, Cooke's attorney put this into motion, but then stopped the process and entered Cooke's guilty plea — his idea. He decided to take responsibility.

Yet it turned out from birth records that his biological parents had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. An assessment indicated that he could have been influenced by the idea that he was in an unreal world, and also been genetically primed to transform them into a sense of reality. In addition, his habit of playing violent video games for many hours every day had played a role, as did the fact that he'd been bullied as a child and had felt many things building inside until he just exploded. In the end, he received forty years in prison.

Other adolescents, too, have learned what it means to emerge from fantasy back to reality.

to be cont..
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PostSubject: Re: Movies Made Me Murder   Tue Nov 01, 2011 10:43 am

George Hennard had watched a documentary about James Huberty, a disgruntled man who'd shot at customers at a McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, California on July 18, 1984, killing 21. He had also watched the Fisher King, a 1991 movie directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Jeff bridges and Robin Williams, in which a fan of a despondent shock rock talk radio host takes the man's remarks seriously, goes to a restaurant, and opens fire, murdering numerous diners. The DJ takes a downhill turn and to redeem himself tries to assist a homeless man who lost his wife in the massacre.


James Huberty
Apparently the tale about Huberty mingled with the image of shooting into a restaurant, then exacerbated by Hennard's anger. He decided to make a public statement as dramatic as Huberty's. Hennard had a habit of talking in a way that made people think he was a bit crazy. He'd tell strangers such things as, "I want you to tell everyone that if they don't quit messing around my house, something awful is going to happen." He was upset about the recent hearings in which Anita Hill had accused judicial candidate Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, and disliked any "female viper" who harassed men. Apparently he believed he'd had his share of that.


Movie Poster: The Fisher King
Having just turned 35 on October 15, 1991, the following day Hennard rammed his blue Ford pick-up through the plate glass window of Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. He hit an elderly man, and the patrons who ran to the victim's aid initially believed that the whole thing was an accident. But then Hennard jumped among them with a Glock 17 semi-automatic and a Ruger P89 and began to shoot. Yelling that it was "payback day," he snarled at diners to "take that!"
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