Hi WITF and others
Study into the 'effects' of violent imagery in cartoons, films, video games, books, music, etc have been going on and on for many decades (at least as long as TV has existed). Yet, many of these researches, when you examine the methodologies and assumptions underlying them a little more closely, are problematic. To give a quick example: I think a few of us here enjoy watching The Simpsons, and I think there are a few gamers here too. When confronted with arguments about how the violence of Itchy and Scratchy or video games will have a one-way, causal 'effect' on us, some of us would feel that it doesn't quite describe our enjoyment of these entertainment forms. The meanings people derive from entertainment forms--how meanings are shaped and contested; how meaning is not fixed--is a complex process. The studies that make the news tend to take the approach of what has been called a 'behaviourist' or 'effects' paradigm. There are some fundamental problems with this approach. Research in the field of media and or cultural studies have, for many years now, demonstrated the problems with this approach, and have also demonstrated that audiences are not as 'passive' as we'd like to think. These studies actually spend time speaking to audiences, spend time observing and understanding how they engage with entertainment genres in the context of their everyday lives rather than simply count the rate of violence on screen or bung people into a lab, make them watch something, and then ask them to answer a questionnaire--is that how an average person 'normally' watches TV? For me, I certainly would not consider myself an unthinking, passive audience. Would you think of yourself that way?
In any event, studies that show how audiences are 'active' (or how they can interpret things 'against the grain') tend not to make the news because the are not as SENSATIONAL as those 'effects' studies--they tend not to support the MORALISING
attitude (i.e. telling others that they should know better) that effects studies promote--and if we are honest enough, 'we' (the general public) have a bad habit of pointing a finger at others, a bad habit of judging others as somehow morally or mentally deficient, as somehow less discerning than 'ourselves'. I wonder why?
Anyway, if you are interested in reading about the problems associated with the 'effects model' of media research, here is a useful site: