This essay examines the portrayal of violence on US television from both a historical and current perspective. It reviews the results of 40 years of content analysis research conducted as part of the Cultural Indicators Study as well as research conducted by the National Television Violence Study between 1993 and 1996. The essay focuses on violence in television programs as well as those characters who commit and/or are victimized by violence. Finally, the essay examines contextual elements of violence portrayals in terms of programs and characters.
Violence on television has been a critical societal concern since television entered our homes in the 1950s. Most of the attention and research on violence have focused on its portrayal and its effects, particularly in relation to children. This chapter will discuss the portrayal of violence on US television from a historical perspective and will examine what we know about television violence at the start of the second decade of the twenty-first century. It will discuss how violence has been defined in this research, how public policy has been an important component fueling research on television violence, as well as some theoretical perspectives relating to the portrayal of violence. The predominant focus is on television violent content in a US context.
As we progress in the twenty-first century, although we spend more and more time ...