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Can the Michael Stone "Depravity Scale" be used to measure violence in movies?

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Can the Michael Stone "Depravity Scale" be used to measure violence in movies?

Old 05-11-05, 01:08 PM
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Can the Michael Stone "Depravity Scale" be used to measure violence in movies?

There has been much talk recently about scientists from various fields attempting to quantify evil. Even though almost no article on the subject gives a decent explanation of those scientists' purpose, research and accomplishments, many newspaper pieces with various agendas have been very quick to condemn this field of study as a guide for imposing sentences on heinous crimes.

The most thorough explanation on this research has appeared today in the Toronto National Post, an article by Dr. Michael Stone, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University, New York City, himself the author of a famous "Depravity Scale".

Unfortunately, the National Post is a [rotten, capitalistic] pay-per-view site. This blogsite from Calgary (http://calgarygrit.blogspot.com/2005...t_archive.html), however, quotes a Daily Telegraph article and is the only present online source for Dr. Stone's "22 scales for measuring evil":

So Where Does Ann Coulter Fit on the Scale?

Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph and an astute reader of this blog, comes this absolutely hilarious story about the US judicial system. Here's the lead:

Psychiatrists devise 'depravity rating' to help courts decide on death sentences
By Charles Laurence in New York*
(Filed: 20/02/2005)

A "depravity rating" that measures evil and will help courts decide whether convicted murderers should face execution or just imprisonment has been drawn up by American psychiatrists.

For decades, doctors shunned the use of the word "evil" on the grounds that it crossed the line between clinical and moral judgment.

Now, however, two studies of the criminal personality have concluded that "evil" should be used to describe the most vicious criminals and that it can be measured.

In the first study, Dr Michael Stone, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, examined the biographies of more than 500 killers in New York's Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Centre and developed a 22-level "gradations of evil" list.

"After years of study, we have learned to recognize the traits of these people: what they do and why they do it," he said. "It is time to give them the proper appellation: evil."

We go on to learn that this "will become part of our system of law within a few years" to help decide if killers get the death penalty.

You can see the full chart here. Among the highlights of the 22 point "degrees of evilness" scale:

1. Those who have killed in self-defense but do not show psychopathic tendencies.
7. Highly narcissistic, but not distinctly psychopathic people, with a psychotic core, who kill those close to them.
8. Non-psychopathic people with smouldering rage who kill when rage is ignited. (ed: So, I guess the Hulk would qualify in this category)
10. Killers of people who were "in the way". Egocentric but not distinctly psychopathic.
12. Power-hungry psychopaths who killed when they were cornered. (ed: So, in other words, most politicians)
14. Ruthlessly self-centered psychopathic schemers. (ed: David Herle?)
17. Sexually perverse murderers.
18. Torture-murderers with murder as the primary motive.
19. Psychopaths driven to terrorism, subjugation, intimidation and rape. Short of murder. (ed: Any readers into really kinky sex better be careful.)
20. Torture-murderers with torture as the primary motive, but not psychopathic personalities. (ed: torture-murders who aren't psychopathic? How many well adjusted torture-murderers are there out there?)
21. Psychopaths concerned with torture to the extreme but not known to have committed murder. (ed: I assume those in the US military are immune)
22. Psychopathic torture-murders with torture as their primary motive
I was wondering if it would be possible or even advisable to use this scale as a measure for the level of violence and depravity present in today's mainstream movies and television or even for rating the respective merits and tendencies of some film directors (and their fans). [OK, Tatantino comes to mind...]

Also see the official "depravity scale" research website: http://www.forensicpanel.org/depravity/

Last edited by baracine; 05-11-05 at 03:37 PM.
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Old 05-11-05, 02:31 PM
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Here is the complete list of the "22 degrees of depravity", with the missing elements pilfered from that National Post* article and without the snide remarks of the previous blogpost:

1. Those who have killed in self-defense but do not show psychopathic features. These cases do not involve murder.
2. Jealous lovers who, though egocentric and immature, are not psychopathic; crime passionnel.
3. Willing companions of killers; aberrant personality - probably impulse-ridden, with some antisocial traits.
4. Kill in self-defense, after extremely provocative behaviour toward the victim.
5. Traumatized, desperate persons who kill abusive relatives or others, but who lack significant psychopatic traits and who are genuinely remorseful.
6. Impetuous hot-headed murderers, without marked psychopathic features.
7. Highly narcissistic, but not distinctly psychopathic people, with a psychotic core, who kill loved ones out of jealousy or family members.
8. Non-psychopathic people with smouldering rage who kill when rage is ignited.
9. Jealous lovers with marked psychopathic features.
10. Killers of people who interfere with personal ambitions, or of witnesses; egocentric, but not entirely psychopathic.
11. Psychopathic killers of people who interfere with personal ambitions.
12. Power-hungry psychopaths who kill when cornered.
13. Murderes with inadequate, rageful personalities and psychopathic features.
14. Ruthlessly self-centered psychopathic schemers.
15. Psychopathic cold-blooded spree murderers.
16. Psychopaths who commit multiple vicious acts, which may include murder.
17. Sexually perverse serial murderers; in males, rape, not torture, is usually the primary motive; killing often done to hide evidence.
18. Torture-murderers. Murder is the primary motive, following non-prolonged torture.
19. Psychopaths driven to terrorism, subjugation, intimidation and rape, but short of murder.
20. Psychotic torture-murderers. Torture is a main motive.
21. Psychopaths preoccupied with torture in the extreme but not known to have committed murder.
22. Psychopathic, serial torture-murderers with torture the primary motive.

* The National Post is Canada's ultra-conservative, politically right-of-the-Pope, greed-is-our-creed but sexually aware and snubbier-than-thou daily newspaper. The only reason they published this essay is probably as an incentive to revive the death penalty debate in Canada.

Last edited by baracine; 05-11-05 at 04:19 PM.
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Old 05-11-05, 04:50 PM
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Very interesting. I've always wondered how to measure violence. When people talk about the most violent movies. While horror movies display gruesome images and such I don't particularly find them very violent. I think what makes a movie violent is the motivation behind the murder.

When the conversation comes up, I often cite American History X's notorious scene as one of the most violent. Even though what is being displayed is not shown graphically it is a hate murder which makes it more powerful.
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Old 05-11-05, 05:52 PM
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Our new MPAA ratings system:

Benign
Mischievous
Mischievous 13
Malicious
Malign
Diabolical
Triple Diabolical
Demonic (for snuff movies)

Neutral (for unrated)
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Old 05-12-05, 05:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Kudama
Our new MPAA ratings system:

Benign
Mischievous
Mischievous 13
Malicious
Malign
Diabolical
Triple Diabolical
Demonic (for snuff movies)

Neutral (for unrated)
To which I would add: DS 22 (22 on the Depravity Scale: May cause repeated flahback episodes of nocturnal vomiting.)
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Old 05-13-05, 12:29 PM
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Well, you would have variables such as the amount of deaths that occur, and how graphically and realistically they are displayed, if they are displayed at all.
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