Why `EastEnders' is scarier than Tarantino

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The television violence debate reignited yesterday with the revelation that children and teenagers are more disturbed by violence in soap operas such as EastEnders than in Hollywood action movies.

The difference was that violence in soaps occurred in a real-life setting, they told researchers for a Broadcasting Standards Council report into the attitudes of 10- to 16-year-olds, Young People and the Media.

"When Bruce Willis blows away a load of villains it's a laugh. You know it's not real. I think violence in EastEnders is more shocking because it's real life," one 16-year-old said.

The BSC researcher, Mark Ratcliff, agreed. "A film like Pulp Fiction is a laugh for the average 13-year-old. Violence in EastEnders can be scarier than a Quentin Tarantino film.

"We had some 12 to 13-year-old girls who saw a TV programme called Backup in which a man was thrown off a block of flats. You saw blood oozing slowly from his body.

But instead of being disturbed by the scene, some complained that the blood wasn't the right colour. Most 15-year-olds would laugh at you if you said Pulp Fiction was disturbing."

While the average American 10-year-old has seen 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on television, 23 per cent of British 10- to 12-year- olds have seen Pulp Fiction and 25 per cent say they want to see it.

About 18 per cent of the same age group have also seen Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs with another 25 per cent hoping to, a statistic which will add impetus to the campaign by Virginia Bottomley, the Heritage Secretary, better to protect children against screen violence.

Yet despite the popularity of violent and horrifying films among the age group surveyed by the BSC, only a third said they were their favourite type of movie.

Six out of 10 thought that screen violence encouraged street violence, and older children felt their young brothers and sisters should be protected from such material on television. A significant number said they had been influenced by television themselves.

Teenagers perceived today's society to be more violent because "you see it all the time on the TV or videos", the report warned.

Yesterday, Leslie Hill, the chairman of ITV, reinforced the point when he told a Heritage Select Committee inquiry into the BBC and the future of broadcasting that much of the blame should go to Hollywood.

"In recent times we have tightened up on what we show. I've seen some American films before they were edited and I was quite shocked by what I saw and what we had to take out," he told MPs.