Cartoons Then and Now and essay

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( Enderson) Nathanson and Cantor (2000) concur with this assessment and also make the important point that "…the negative consequences of violence to victims are seldom shown on television" (Nathanson & Cantor, 2000, p. 125) This study refers to the way that older cartoons tended to diminish the consequences and results of extreme violence. "Many children's programs-especially the so-called classic cartoons (e.g., "Bugs Bunny," "Woody Woodpecker")-present violence in a humorous fashion that minimizes the pain and suffering of victims" (Nathanson & Cantor, 2000, p. 125). Children therefore 'learn' that violence is funny and has little actual effect on the victims (Nathanson & Cantor, 2000, p. 125).

The literature on crime and cartoons also emphasizes that one should take into about other variables and factors besides cartoons when evaluating the causes of criminal predispositions and behavior patterns. For example, factors such as violent television programs, violent video games, biological predisposition, and demographics all play a very important role in the later development of attitudes towards life and behavior. However, because cartoons form such an intrinsic part of the growing up experience for most young children, it follows that they cartoons have been isolated by criminologist and psychologists as being of particular importance in understanding the development of criminal tendencies.

One study with regard to the way that chide absorb and imbibe the content of violent cartoons suggests a direct link between violent cartoons and criminal behaviour patterns;

One longitudinal study proved that the amount of juvenile delinquency in adolescence was directly related to the amount of violence watched on television at the age of eight. Boys who watched violence on television were more likely to commit violent crimes. It isn't completely understood whether or not violent television shows cause people to become more aggressive but research has shown that television violence does increase aggression. Other studies show that children who watch violent television shows curse more, vandalize property, and are more aggressive in sports

( Enderson).

The affect of violent cartoons on children who are disposed towards criminal tendencies as a result of mental problems or social background is another subject that has received special attention in the literature (Enderson).

3. Cartoons, racial hatred, prejudice and crime

As has already been discussed, cartoons from the 19th and early 20th centuries often did not take account of this link between crime and the graphic depictions of violence. However, there are also many other ways in which crimes and cartoons can be linked. One that has surfaced in recent years is the link between cartoons and racial, ethnic and social prejudice. Cartoons can often emphasise and bring to light certain ethnic or cultural differences and these depictions can lead to forms of illegal protest and violent crimes.

One of the ways that cartoons can act as means of propaganda can be seen in the cartoon depiction of the enemy during the First World War. Louis Raemaekers was the best-known propaganda cartoonist of World War I and produced a series of cartoons for the Amsterdam Telegraaf, depicting the Germans as godless and evil. The cartoon where we see a baby impaled on the spiked helmet a German is one of the most violent cartoons from that period ("Cartoons Go to War;," 2008, p. 69). Another example is the Martyred Nurse, where the German's are depicted as pigs.


While aggression during war is not a crime, these cartoons show the way that satirical images can be used to incite and inflame hatred and prejudice, which in peace time can be related to various criminal actions. In term of older cartoons, one has only to refer to the original Disney cartoons where obvious social and racial stereotypes were presented, such as the Black maid or laborer. It can be argued that in these cartoons racial stereotypes were presented, which could engender prejudicial mindsets that may be translated into crimes.

More recently, the way which cartoons can incite prejudice and even potentially violent acts can be seen in the series of cartoons that depicted Muhammad, published in the Jyllands-Posten in 2005.

( Source:

The above cartoon attempts to make a connection between Islam and terrorism. These images were seen as inflammatory in the extreme by the Islamic community and led to violence, social unrest and deaths in some areas. This event has sparked a heated debate about the role of satirical humor and cartoons in relation to ethnic and religious sensitivities. What is clear from this event is that cartoons have the power to create ethnic as well as religious tension which almost inevitable leads to criminal activities.

4. Conclusion

On the one hand cartoons are simply humorous fun and have on the surface little connection with crime and criminal activities. However, if one analyzes their impact and effect on young developing minds it becomes clear that many violent cartoons have the potential to create a mindset that can lead to criminal activities. This takes place primarily in situations where there is a disassociation between violent acts and their real-life consequences. This in turn is caused by the way that violence is depicted in cartoons. Children also tend to imitate cartoon characters and situations.

While older cartoons were generally more violent in nature, the modern animated cartoon ahs become more sophisticated and realistic, this means that while the content of violence has been in most cases reduced in modern cartoons their impact is increased by realistic 3D animation techniques -- which in turn can lead to the development of a mindset that is prone to criminal activities.

However, there are also other ways in which cartoons and crime can be linked. This applies to the adult world and refers to the way that modern cartons tend to satirize to poke fun at society, famous figures and cultural norms. The justification for this from of satire lies in the democratic right to critique and interrogate social and cultural beliefs. However, as was discussed above, cartoons can sometimes incite and inflame prejudice that may already exist in the society and this can lead to violent criminal behavior.

There are other ways in which those cartoons can be linked to crime. The increasingly sexual and pornographic nature of many cartoons can also be related to the way that children react to social norms and the law. If the child sees immoral and deviant acts as acceptable in the context of carton humor, this can result in a loss of respect or validity for these social norms; and this can be in some cases result in activities that are categorized as being criminal. The understanding of the link between crime and television viewing is a factor that relates to our comprehension of the impact of cartoons on society.

What is clear for the above discussion is that while cartoons are intended in the main to be innocuous and entertaining, there are many cartoons that depict violence and other forms of unacceptable behavior in a way they that can potentially exacerbate criminal behavior. These types of cartoons can be positively linked to influencing especially young people, and creating a mindset that is more susceptible to criminal patterns of behavior.


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Lent J. (1994). Animation, Caricature, and Gag and Political Cartoons in the United States and Canada: An International Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Nathanson, A.I., & Cantor, J. (2000). Reducing the Aggression-Promoting Effect of Violent Cartoons by Increasing Children's Fictional Involvement with the Victim: A Study of Active Mediation. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 44(1), 125. Retrieved June 9, 2009, from Questia database:

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