The idea that fictional violence can affect behaviour is an uncomfortable one for writers. The disclaimer is that if someone is of a violent disposition then they will seek out violent fiction. However, in our heart of hearts we all know that’s not true.
Fiction affects emotions and emotions affect behaviour. And more than that – we learn and imitate the behaviour that we see.
For the last week I have been revisiting my box set of The Wire. I wondered if it was as perfect a piece of work as I thought it was the first time round. It is. It’s even better the second time. There are moments and characters that are closer to Shakespeare than anything else I can think of.
But viewing it affected my behaviour. I’m not kidding.
I have a little domestic incident going about a faulty shower pump. A plumber was marking up more than 35% on a product. Twenty per cent I’ll live with,
35% is taking the piss. However, instead of hiding behind my husband or saying a friend could get the product cheaper or some other feeble explanation, after thirty odd hours of McNulty, Bunk, Omar, Keema, Prez and all my other pals in the The Wire, my behaviour changed.
When the plumber claimed that he was giving me the product at cost I suggested if that was the case he wanted to get back with his supplier. And when he said that he had already bought it, I was pure Avon Barksdale when Stringer kvetches about being duped by Clay.
I said: ‘It’s on you, you understand what I’m saying? It’s on you.’
Now the thing is I am a middle class, middle-aged woman. I’ve never been to Baltimore, my knowledge of the sharp end of policing and the drug world is entirely through what I’ve seen on TV. And I am certainly not in the habit of beating down installers of domestic appliances.
You feel me?