How is violence represented in different countries and languages?

The representation of violence can be as varied as one’s imagination allows because it is such a broad topic. Its level of public acceptance of explicitness is a difficult threshold to draw for universal acclaim. Different cultures tolerate this kind of representation to varying degrees. Naturally, when we refer to culture, we mean people from different parts of the world as well as from diverse historical periods. Each person’s background towards violence is unique, and this background may have historical roots. Conflicts, instability, and morality can influence people’s desire to see explicit violence.

Violence throughout the decades

As in the rest of our project we separate 4 different types of violence namely “murder”, “torture”, “widescale violence” and “sexual violence”.

We decide to plot the ratio of movies containing words related to the previously stated types of violence in function of release year.

These distributions show us two main things:

  • Murder and wide-scale violence have always been the most represented violence types compared to torture and sexual violence. The last two barely reach 10% of representation in their best decades, but wide-scale violence and murder are almost touching 50%. One explanation (shown in the previous part) is that presence of terms related to murder, and wide-scale violence does not necessarily mean that this violence is explicit and showed graphically. Torture and sexual violence are not as promoted in the summary. This can be linked to those types of violence being less appealing, and more taboo around the world.

  • Each type of violence is experiencing a increasing representation through the decades, following a big peak, this peak happens in a different decades The most striking example is sexual violence, its representation more than doubles between the 50’s and the 70’s. Between these decades the United States experienced a sexual liberation, that comes with a speech freedom around sexual violence. The soft power of the US during theses years was huge and this revolution surely impact other countries around the world. However, we must temper this analysis: this type of violence remains marginal and is clearly not one of the most striking of the 1970s. Wide-scale violence see its peak in the 40s. We can try to explain it by the world war that happens during this time period. A fun thing to notice is that during the few decades after the world war II the top genre of movies with wide-scale violence in their summary was “Drama” by far. However in the 70s the “Action” genre was the second most using these terms, in the 40s it was not even is the top10. This show a shift in the representation of violence.

Even if the number of movies using different terms of violence in their summary is the same or is evolving does not mean that its representation is the same throughout the era. Everyone has already heard some parents say that “in my youth, the movies were telling a story now it’s just blood and guns”.

Violence through the world

The world cannot always be treated as a whole. To add more subtlety to our story we will have to separate the different countries to understand why films representing different forms of violence are so common in our time. Each country has its own culture, trivializing more or less certain types of violence. Some are taboo or completely banned in many parts of the world, others are used on a large scale. This can be explained by the customs of the country, its religion, its politics (dictatorship, monarchy…), or its geo-political situation.

In this part, we will assume that if a country is producing a certain type of movie it is because people will go watch it. Simple supply and demand.

To realize this analysis we thought that interactive graphs would allow us to have a better vision of these differences. Indeed, our dataset contains more than 20,000 American films, which can prevent us from seeing a trend for other countries. In the following graphs, a simple click on the countries in the legend allows you to discard them. The “other countries” category contains all the countries for which the ratio was too small to be seen or to be interpreted.

Wide-scale violence



Sexual violence

As stated before at first the result does not seem to be that shocking. The US dominates all previous graphs. However, we can notice that their percentage of presence during the 60s is decreasing in all types of violence, meaning that the US had a more peaceful filmography during this decade. An explanation can be that the hippie movement was taking place in this country, it was a countercultural movement that promoted peace.

With these graphs, we can start to understand which types of violence can be more taboo in some countries than others. India is present in all graphs meaning that they produce movies with various types of violence, but we can point out that this country is less troubled by sexual violence than the other country. Their presence in the sexual violence graph is more consequent than the one in torture for example. This may be, sadly, related to the fact that rape and violence against women in India are common. India is undergoing a crisis of rape of women and young girls.

Violence through languages

Let’s now talk about languages, if french is known as the language of love which language is the violent one? To answer this question, we will look at the ratio of violent movies in various language filmographies. Our following graph show this ratio for languages with more than 60 movies.

Latin is the language of violence given that more than 90% of its filmography is violent. In comparison, Greek is the language with the less percentage of the violent film. Greek is referring to modern Greek since the movies that are using this language are for the most part Greek movies or their genre is “World movie”.

Following Latin, there are a lot of languages that can be grouped as “Chinese dialects”. This can easily be explained by the fact that Hong Kong is one of the top violent movie producers with almost 90% of violent movies in its filmography. Even if English-speaking countries, English is not even in the top 10 violent languages. This is thanks to all the other countries that speak English as a national language.

The most violent languages

Drama is one of the top genre in our dataset, it is not surprising to see it there. This genre is also knonwn to have a high percentage of violent movies. But what is more interesting is to see “Period piece” or “Costume drama” in the top 5. This show us that movies using latin are for the most part historic movies most surely ones depicting the Ancient Rome era, with its gladiator, wars, political slaughters etc. This is why Latin is the most violent language. As a side note some genre can be merged as other genre are used to depict Costume movies, here it will make sense to put those genres together (same apply for Period piece and Historic movies).

Gender disparities

It can be interesting to see how genders relate to violence representations.

Do men or women appear more often in violent content ? If yes, of which type ?

To see, for each actor/ actress we can find the proportion of violent movies in which he plays out of the entire filmography. Having done for each actor, we can then use histograms to visualize the distribution of the number of actors in function of the proportion of films, in the actor’s filmography, that contain a certain type of violence in the summary. And we do a separate histogram for each type of violence. The distributions of male and females are superposed to see the differences.

gender disparities

We can see that the distributions of males and females differ mostly in scale. Indeed, there is significant higher number of male actors. Otherwise, the distributions have similar shape between genders. On closer inspection, except for torture and sexual violence, male distributions are skewed slightly to the right, meaning that there is a majority of males with high proportion of violence in their filmography. Also, notice that, on the top left histogram, there is a small bump of female actors with 50% violence in their filmography. Opposedly, on the bottom right histogram, there is a small bump of male actors who have a proportion close to 0 of “other violences”, which in our categorization, refers to lighter violence as opposed to murder, wide-scale violence, sexual violence and torture.