During the 1960s psychologist, Albert Bandura conducted an experiment among 3-6-year-olds, to see if aggressive behaviour could be learnt by simply observing a violent individual. What came to be known as the famous Bobo Doll experiment
, revealed that most children imitated the aggressive behaviour that they observed. If children were able to get comfortable with violence so quickly, how much more of an impact could aggression have on adults, especially when surrounded by media 24x7.
Human beings thrive on sensationalism given to them through films and tv series. Most are content with living vicariously through the characters on screen, however, some take it a step further. Crime, when televised, ceases to remain illegal and dangerous, taking on a new role of becoming a story belonging to the genre of suspense and thrillers. From then on, its more of a search to see if the reality lives up to its fictionalized version.
Copycat crimes inspired by films and series are more common than one would imagine, particularly in the 21st century, with easy access available to both. In 2011, a couple from Illinois attempted to rob a bank based on the 2010 Ben Affleck starrer, “The Town”. While definitely not trivial, it was tame compared to the horrific mass shooting in Colorado, at a screening of “Dark Knight Rises”. The 24-year-old accused proclaimed that he was Joker, who intended to copy the murder of the television studio audience as seen in the widely acclaimed Batman comic series by Frank Miller.
Copycat crimes are not just restricted to America but are a worldwide phenomenon. In a small town in Belgium, truck driver Thierry Jaradin, inspired by the cult horror “Scream”, brutally murdered 15-year-old schoolgirl, Alisson Cambier in 2001. In India, inspired by the film “Darr”, a 24-year-old woman was stalked and kidnapped by a man who wanted to marry her.
It has been found that copycat crimes are committed because the individual wants to feel just as exhilarated and ‘alive’ as the characters on the screen. While Oscar Wilde correctly said that “imitation is the purest form of flattery”, this is flattery in its most gruesome form.