Over the weekend, the girlfriend and I got a chance to see Tim Burton's new big-screen version of the Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd.* It's a brilliant adaptation, streamlined without losing huge chunks of the play. It is also incredibly bloody. I mean, I'm not up on the recent trend of "torture porn" horror movies, but I'm fairly sure they don't match the demented barber's blood letting, if not body count.
But aside from the artistic achievement, Sweeney may have been doing a public service, as well. It appears that a pair of economists have crunched a bunch of numbers and concluded that, contrary to popular belief, violent movies may actually help reduce violence in society. How, exactly?
. . . concluding that violent films prevent violent crime by attracting would-be assailants and keeping them cloistered in darkened, alcohol-free environs.Not surprisingly, there are lots of criticisms of the study, both for the conclusions reached and its scope (some more thoughts along those lines over at Concurring Opinions). Still, it's an intriguing idea.
Instead of fueling up at bars and then roaming around looking for trouble, potential criminals pass the prime hours for mayhem eating popcorn and watching celluloid villains slay in their stead.
'You’re taking a lot of violent people off the streets and putting them inside movie theaters,' said one of the authors of the study, Gordon Dahl, an economist at the University of California, San Diego. 'In the short run, if you take away violent movies, you’re going to increase violent crime.'
* That's right, it's a musical, for those who haven't picked up on that yet. It's one of the milestones of late 20th century Broadway. But if that sort of thing isn't up your alley, don't waste your time and then complain about it, m'kay?