Portrayals of Drivers on TV-Good or Bad?

by Kristin Subia

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Table of Contents
Introduction
Observations
Movies
Cartoons
Commercials
Sports
Summary
Future Generations

Introduction

We often worry about the influence that violence on TV or in movies have on children. It is a natural concern, especially with what children have to deal with these days-- like gangs, drugs, and all types of abuse. However, we seem to neglect the influence that it has on adults. Sure we assume that we are all rational and even-tempered enough to distinguish between right/wrong and good/bad. But, it is not exactly what human nature has shown us over the years. Road rage is the type of violence in the media (on television and in movies) that probably has a great influence (although we don't realize it). Okay, I admit, the car chases SEEM a bit exaggerated, and I stress SEEM because...well, have you seen the show 'Real TV?' The media claim that they are not contributing to the violence, but reflecting the violence that is out there in the real world. I know that TV shows and movies sensationalize violent car chases, its what excites the audiences. Excitement and a lot of action is what keeps our attention on the screen for two hours. So , if they have to blow up cars, speed through a busy street or freeway, or ram one car into another moving car, that is what they do. Even two minute commercials include dangerous car maneuvers that look cool, even possible to do depending on how confident you feel in pulling it off. What we don't realize is that when we get ourselves into difficult situations, we use imitation and identification in getting ourselves out of it. We sometimes experience things vicariously through examples on television or on the streets, whichever comes first or has the most profound influence. And who knows what it does to our tolerance level, it seems that we have developed a greater tolerance for violence.

This report was a little difficult for me because I'm one of those who only make time to watch Oprah, the late news, and Seinfeld with an occasional movie now and then. Other than that, I didn't have much time to watch television. But, at least this report gave me an excuse to watch a lot to TV. After watching for so many hours, I managed to get enough examples to begin this report. I will identify the examples that I have accumulated, give a brief description of the driving behaviors, and the influences that it may have on viewers.

Observations

Movies

Independence Day

Day: Sunday Date: July 27, 1997 Time: midnight

Channel 39/ HBO2

Science-fiction

Characters and Situation

This scene involves a policeman and several extras in the movie. Upon seeing an alien spaceship, the policeman stops his car to take a look, causing a chain of car crashes.

Bad Driving Behavior

  • -policeman comes to a sudden stop

  • -taxi cabs following too closely rear-ends each other
  • -a truck crashes into the side of the police car without slowing down

  • Influence?

    In this short scene, the influence on adult driving attitudes and style should make them a little more conscious of other drivers and what is going on around them. However, that is not the case. Instead, they have a policeman coming to a sudden stop, therefore, causing a chain of crashes. As if that wasn't bad enough, he doesn't seem to care about what just happened. It minimizes the shock of a car crash and the potential consequences that may result from it. Although we may not be seeing an alien spaceship anytime soon, we still need to keep our attention on the road. For children, this scene may not make an immediate influence on them because they will be more concerned about the spaceship, but this could give them a greater tolerance and acceptance of such behavior because it was done by adults (particularly by a public safety officer). Or, this could make them alert to drivers' behavior more than the drivers themselves.

    For me, I don't like to follow too closely to the driver in from of me. My fear is that the driver would suddenly press on their brakes and I would not react quick enough. I have already been in a couple of potential crashes and it is not something I would like to experience again. Not because I was following too closely to the person in front of me, but because the drivers in front and in back of me were.

    Nine Months

    Day: Monday Date: July 28, 1997 Time: 8:00 PM

    Channel 40/ HBO3

    Comedy

    Characters and Situation

    Samuel Faulkner (Hugh Grant) is married to Rebecca Taylor (Julianne Moore). Rebecca goes into labor at a restaurant and Samuel, in a panic, drives her to the hospital. They get into all sorts of "accidents" on their way. This scene takes about six to eight minutes.

    Bad Driving Behavior

  • -Samuel speeds through the streets of San Francisco.

  • -He doesn't slow down at turns.
  • -He doesn't pay attention to streetlights or other cars on the road.
  • -He looks away from the road; he talks on his cell phone, looks at his wife for about 6 seconds, and looks in the glove compartment for a phone number-- during this time, he almost hits an elderly couple and hits a cyclist another time.

  • Influence?

    Watching this scene, you are at the edge of your seat constantly distracted by wondering what is going to happen next. In the back of your mind, you know (or at least expect) that no one is going to get killed, especially in a comedy. On the road adults know how dangerous it is to actually do these maneuvers. As for children, the sad news is they may find it amusing and not think of the dangers or consequences that is involved. This movie is suppose to be a family movie that everyone can enjoy (and they do). But, who can ignore the dangerous driving behavior and say that it has no influence over them? By watching this movie, you would think that it is okay to drive this way if a pregnant woman just went into labor and is about to give birth. This scene has the worst driving behavior that I have seen recently. I am almost sure that this scene was meant to be funny. It seems as if they are saying that it is okay to drive this way. Maybe they even assume that viewers know it is wrong. Meanwhile, the audiences' shock value goes down and we develop an even higher tolerance for this type of behavior.

    Being a "paranoid" driver, the only influence this movie would have is make me more "paranoid." In my head, I think the people on either side of me don't see me so I expect this kind of driving from them. I don't feel that it has significant influence though.

    Grease

    Day: Thursday Date: July 31, 1997 Time:2:30 pm

    Channel: 13/ VH1

    Musical

    Characters and Situation

    There are were several situations in this movie: (1) The T-Birds drive up to Frenchy's house while drinking beer, (2) The Scorpions (rival gang) drive through a parking lot recklessly, and (3) Danny Zuko (John Travolta) races against a member from the Scorpions.

    Bad Driving Behavior

  • -driving under the influence of alcohol. -not wearing any seat-belts.

  • -reckless driving on a two-way lane; almost hitting pedestrians and other cars.
  • -speeding and coercing the other driver (race).

  • Influence?

    This movie can influence drivers into reckless driving and driving while intoxicated. Because this movie is about high school students, younger viewers who are not driving yet may think that this type of behavior is okay. It is alarming that they would portray high school students engaged in such behavior. This movie depicts high school rebels going through their "typical" rebellious stage. However, that does not make it an okay behavior. Driving in this manner could and has resulted in death. With so many violence like these in the movies, we don't really think about what could happen. We become immune to the violence and tolerate more than we should.

    Personally, even though I really like this movie, I would never drive this way. It is reckless and dangerous driving behavior for myself and other road users.

    Cartoons

    Darkwing Duck

    Day: Friday Date: August 1, 1997 Time: 3:00 pm

    Channel: 5/ K-Five

    Characters and Situation

    Darkwing Duck is trying to solve a case of sleepwalking robberies. When he sees a robbery taking place, he follows the clues that lead him to the mastermind of all the robberies.

    Bad Driving Behavior

  • -Darkwing speeds down the street on his motorcycle.

  • -He crashes a military tank truck into a wall.

  • Animaniacs

    Day: Saturday Date: August 2, 1997 Time: 10:00 am

    Channel: 11/ WBN

    Characters and Situation

    Yacko, Wacko and Dot are beating up on Atilla the Hun by hitting him, dropping heavy objects on his head, and blowing him up with a cannonball. Then, animated network censors appear and lecture them about the violence they are displaying. A taxi cab appears a little while later and takes them all to the network station.

    Bad Driving Behavior

  • -Speeding.

  • -Not slowing down.

  • Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries

    Day: Saturday Date: August 2, 1997 Time: 10:30 am

    Channel: 11/ WBN

    Character and Situation

    Granny, with Sylvester, Tweety and the dog, are driving along a snowy mountain road toward Anchorage for a dog-sled race. The windshield is covered with snow so Granny decides to clear it while the car is still going. Sylvester then grabs the wheel in panic and crashes through a wall of snow, but they end up at their destination okay.

    Bad Driving Behavior

  • -Granny doesn't stop the car before clearing the windshield.

  • -She shows disregard for the safety of herself and her passengers.
  • -They don't wear seat-belts.

  • Influence?

    These cartoons display terrible driving behaviors. They all speed when they drive (with or without cars around) and show disregard for passengers or other road users. Animaniacs was sort of interesting because while the censors were talking about the violence depicted in the show, they did not mention anything about reckless and dangerous driving. This may have some potentially destructive consequences in the influence of young viewers. When they come of age to drive, they may display or re-enact this type of behavior because they were predisposed to it at an early age. Therefor, making them less sensitive to the dangers of road rage. Their tolerance level will be much higher than it should be because of scenes like these. And because their tolerance is high, the shock value of an actual car crash is dramatically reduced. As adults, we don't really give it a second thought when a child watches cartoons because we just naturally assume that it is okay. In our minds we think that cartoons are normally geared toward young viewers anyway so it must be okay. Hopefully adult viewers of cartoons have a better understanding of this kind of driving behavior. Some of the cartoons that adults watch are somewhat different than the cartoons that young children watch. The jokes are more for mature viewers, but the violence is the same. Some of these behaviors are a little extreme, but that does not mean someone will not or have not tried it.

    I don't usually watch cartoons, but I do occasionally. The cartoons that I do watch don't have too many driving scenes in them because they have the ability to fly. But, for those that do display bad driving behaviors I don't pay too much attention to it and I never feel the urge to try any of the stunts myself.

    Commercials

    Goodyear Tire Eagle F1

    Day: Saturday Date: August 2, 1997 Time: 11:17 am

    Channel: 6/ ABC

    Tire commercial

    Situation and Driving Behavior

    This two minute commercial interchanges between scenes of a race car driver and a man driving on a winding road. The man is pretending that he is in an auto race so he is speeding along the road. There are no other cars on the road with him, but because there are a lot of turns and he is speeding, his car could easily flip over and he could seriously hurt himself. This commercial is suppose to show how good the tires are.

    Penzoil Motor Oil

    Day: Saturday Date: August 2, 1997 Time: 11:29 am

    Channel: 6/ ABC

    Oil commercial

    Situation and Driving Behavior

    The commercial starts off in a suburb neighborhood. Businessmen get into their cars (they all have race cars) to go to work. While they are driving, it is like a race. Their engines are revving at the stop signs and red lights, there are men waving flags when the light turns green and the men speed along until the next traffic light or stop sign. The only difference is that they actually follow the traffic lights and signal at turns. This commercial is suppose to show you that your car can run like a race car if you use Penzoil motor oil. As if we all speed to work on a regular basis.

    Influence?

    These commercials portray bad driving behavior that can easily influence adults and children. There is the misconception that if you use any of these products, you will be safe on the road. In these commercials you see a lot of racing and speeding that is very dangerous, yet the people who made these commercials use it to promote their products and say that it is safe. They tempt the viewers by indulging their fantasies of being in a race, or they correlate freedom with speeding (or driving to get away from the stress of work and responsibilities). These advertisers should take into consideration of how their commercials can affect the driving behavior of the audiences. Sure we don't like to think of ourselves as gullible, but if a company promises that you will have safety by buying their products and can drive reckless at the same time, you just might believe. Sometimes we just want someone to justify or give us an excuse to drive in such a manner.

    I use to think that I could drive at any speed I wanted to as long as I had good tires. That is the misconception I got from watching tire commercials (yes, I WAS gullible). But now, fortunately I know that it takes more than good tires to ensure my safety while driving.

    Sports

    NASCAR Winston Cup

    Day: Saturday Date: August 2, 1997 Time: 11:00 am

    Channel: 6/ ABC

    Auto racing

    Situation and Driving Behavior

    There are about twenty to thirty cars on a race track driving at high speeds. The race cars are suppose to go 400 laps around the track. The person that finishes first wins the cup. They are all driving at extremely high speed and they must maneuver their cars so they get in front of each other but not get into a car crash with a competitor.

    Influence?

    Everyone gets the idea behind an auto race, I hope. The idea is to see who can go the fastest and come in first place. This type of sport is very dangerous, yet exciting (when you are in it, I think). There is a big influence on children and young adults. There is suppose to be a feeling of control, freedom, and exhilaration. So, some of them may want to experience what it is like to be in a car race. Rather than going down to a race track, they might try racing on residential streets or on the freeway where unsuspecting drivers are.

    I am proud to say that this sport has no profound influence on my driving behavior. I have never felt the urge to experience what it is like to be in a car race. Driving on the freeway is enough excitement for me. However, I must admit that I do go over the speed limit when I'm late for work (something that I am working to fix).

    Summary

    After reviewing what is on television, it comes down to one thing. No matter what we watch-- whether it's a movie, cartoon, commercial, or sport-we develop a higher tolerance for bad driving, therefore decreasing the shock value of the consequences. We don't realize how much we are influenced by the media. The driving behaviors portrayed on television and in movies gives us the means and examples that we refer back to when in a similar situation. We should make ourselves more aware of what we watch and do some self-witnessing while we are driving.

    Future Generations

    Future generations can take advantage of the popularity of being online. Through the internet, we are able to reach a much broader audience and promote better driving behavior around the world. By going online and writing reports online, students can state their views and get feedback from people who are concerned about road rage and road safety. The reports may interest someone into creating a Quality Driving Circle (QDC) which can address the issue of road rage on television and in movies. My advice to future generations doing this particular report is to start early and get as many examples as you can. It will give you a list of examples to choose from when incorporating it into your report.

    My Exploration of the Generational Curriculum Labyrinth | My Home Page | My Report 1 on: How Drivers Communicate with Each Other | My Report 2 on: Portrayals of Drivers on TV-Good or Bad? | My Newsgroups Report | My Bookmarks File | My Icons File | Our G6 Class Home Page | Dr. Leon James Home Page

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