Objective. To examine portrayals of violence in popular music videos for patterns of aggression and victimization by gender and race.
Design and Setting. Content analysis of 518 music videos broadcast over national music television networks, Black Entertainment Television (BET), Country Music Television (CMT), Music Television (MTV), and Video Hits-1 (VH-1) during a 4-week period at randomly selected times of high adolescent viewership.
Main Outcome Measures. Differences in the genders and races portrayed as aggressors and victims in acts of violence.
Results. Seventy-six (14.7%) of the analyzed music videos contained portrayals of individuals engaging in overt interpersonal violence, with a mean of 6.1 violent acts per violence-containing video. Among the 462 acts of violence, the music video's main character was clearly the aggressor in 80.1% and the victim in 17.7%. In 391 (84.6%) of the violence portrayals, the gender of the aggressor or victim could be determined. Male gender was significantly associated with aggression; aggressors were 78.1% male, whereas victims were 46.3% female. This relationship was influenced by race. Among whites, 72.0% of the aggressors were male and 78.3% of the victims were female. Although blacks represent 12% of the United States population, they were aggressors in 25.0% and victims in 41.0% of music video violence. Controlling for gender, racial differences were significant among males; 29.0% of aggressors and 75.0% of victims were black. A logistic regression model did not find direct effects for gender and race, but revealed a significant interaction effect, indicating that the differences between blacks and whites were not the same for both genders. Black males were more likely than all others to be portrayed as victims of violence (adjusted odds ratio = 28.16, 95% confidence interval = 8.19, 84.94).
Conclusions. Attractive role models were aggressors in more than 80% of music video violence. Males and females were victims with equivalent frequency, but males were more than three times as likely to be aggressors. Compared with United States demographics, blacks were overrepresented as aggressors and victims, whereas whites were underrepresented. White females were most frequently victims. Music videos may be reinforcing false stereotypes of aggressive black males and victimized white females. These observations raise concern for the effect of music videos on adolescents' normative expectations about conflict resolution, race, and male-female relationships.