The Pro-Youth Pages
© 2002, Pro-Youth Pages; updated 2014

The Hollywood Dream Factory vs. Youth

A direct causal relationship between violent content [in fiction] and aggressive behavior [in real life] — the "stimulation model" — has been scientifically demonstrated in laboratory experiments. So has the "aggressive cues model" — the idea that media portrayals can suggest that certain classes of people, for example, women or foreigners, are acceptable targets for real-world aggression, thereby increasing the likelihood that some people will act violently toward people in those groups.
—Dr. Stanley J. Baran1

Have you ever seen this movie? A teenaged hero hits an adult, and the adult accepts it. The adult does not hit back, does not file charges, does not retaliate in any way, shape, or form.

No? I've never seen such a movie, either. But I've seen many, many films showing the reverse. Here are just a few of the films in which an adult hits his daughter or son or even some unrelated youth, and the youth accepts it.

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
American Beauty (has 3 such scenes)
Amityville II
Amityville: The Awakening
The Bad News Bears
Before Night Falls
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Billy Jack
Blade II
Bless the Child
Bonnie & Clyde
Book of Love
Born on the Fourth of July
The Boy Next Door
A Bronx Tale
Bustin' Loose
But I'm a Cheerleader
The Candidate
Carrie (has several such scenes)
Carrie (2013)
Citizen Ruth
Cradle 2 the Grave
Dirty Harry
Dirty Little Billy
Disaster Movie
Do the Right Thing
Easy A
Eden Lake
Family Business
Fantastic Four (2015)
The Fast and the Furious
The Fate of the Furious
Finding Nemo
For Your Eyes Only
Foxfire (1996)
Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang
Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
Gangs of New York
Girl in Gold Boots
Grapes of Wrath
Great Expectations
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Heaven & Earth
Heavenly Creatures
High Life
The Hills Have Eyes (original)
The Hills Have Eyes 2
Hit & Run
House of Wax
I Accuse My Parents
I, Tonya
Igby Goes Down
In the Time of the Butterflies
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Inherit the Wind
Insidious: Chapter 2
Invaders from Mars
The Invisible
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Joyride (1997)
Kate & Leopold
Killer Joe
The Last Shark
The Lawnmower Man
The Legend of Billie Jean
The Legend of Drunken Master
Like Water for Chocolate
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane
The Magnificent Seven
Milk Money
Miller's Crossing
The Monster (2016)
Monster's Ball
Monty Python's Life of Brian
Mother Night
The Mutilator
My Soul to Take
Mystery, Alaska
A Nightmare on Elm Street
No Retreat, No Surrender
Nothing to Lose
Observe and Report
October Sky
Old School
On Golden Pond
Once Upon a Time in the West
Open City
Outside Providence
The Outsiders
Public Enemy
Pump Up the Volume
Purple Rain
Raisin in the Sun
Rebel Without a Cause
Radical Jack
Ready Player One
The Ref
Saturday Night Fever
Scary Movie 2
Seed of Chucky
Shark Tale
Sleepaway Camp
Slumdog Millionaire
Smokey and the Bandit II
Smooth Talk
Star Games
Superman: The Movie
Sugar & Spice
They Call Me Mister Tibbs
3000 Miles to Graceland
True Grit (2010)
21 Grams
Way of the Gun
Wild in the Streets
William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet

In Portrait of Teresa, a man hits his wife, and the wife hits him back. In The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, a priest hits Eli Wallach, and Eli Wallach decks the priest. But violence against the young is not punished. It is accepted. The closest thing to an exception I've found yet is Night of the Comet, the lame 1984 comedy that is notable for nothing except one scene that bends (but doesn't quiet break) this trend. In the scene, stepmother slaps stepdaughter. Stepdaughter then slaps stepmother. Then stepmother decks stepdaughter. So the teenager is punished for hitting back, and the filmmakers suggest that is appropriate, but I guess we have to be grateful that at least the stepdaughter hits back.

Whose dreams is Hollywood churning out? The dreams of hateful adults, apparently. Hollywood is telling youth they have no right to be safe from violence. Hollywood is telling adults they have a perfect right to assault and batter anyone they please, so long as the target is young.

They give aid and comfort to child-abusers, telling them they're not alone, that everybody does it.

Of course, filmmakers sometimes encourage young people to be violent, too — against other young people. In the movie Heathers, our young "heroes" have fun bumping off classmates for such crimes as rude behavior. Yet they never commit a violent act against an adult, even though they are surrounded by adults who insult and hurt them. Heathers, of course, does not focus all its hatred on youth. It also displays hatred for those parents who actually love their children, portraying such parents as idiots worthy of scorn.

The appearance of They Call Me Mister Tibbs on the list above is rather ironic. Tibbs is the sequel to In the Heat of the Night, a film from the 1960's whose best scene shows a white man slap a black man and the black man slap him right back. Tibbs shows the same black man (played by the popular Sidney Poitier) slap a helpless child, portrayed without even a suggestion that such behavior should be challenged or even questioned. The point seems to be: violence is wrong when committed against black adults, but not when committed against black children.

Hollywood loves young people's money. They just don't seem to love young people very much.

Update 2017:

At long last, Hollywood gave us in 2017 one film in which a child hits an adult and the adult does not hit back: Logan. Here, the child hits our adult superhero in the face, and he does not react at all. It clearly doesn't hurt him. He doesn't feel threatened, and it certainly doesn't "put him in his place" as so many films showing the reverse do. In fact, the hit has no consequences at all and gives the impression that the young actress improvised the moment and the editors never bothered to cut it out. Nevertheless, we can now say that one movie shows a child hit an adult and the adult accept it. Readers will have to decide if that's enough to balance out the many films listed above.


Stanley J. Baran.  Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture.  2002.  Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education,  pg. 416.