Code Book
Violence Code Book

Violence Code Book

Definition of Violence

Violence is defined as any intentional infliction of physical pain or harm on a character by another or the implication of intention to harm (adapted from Yokota & Thompson, 2000). Excluding natural disasters, accidents, objects not attributed to a character, and expected physical acts by sport games that are not intended to seriously injure (tackling, checking, boxing, stunts). Additionally, staged violence is not to be coded (depictions of acting on a stage or film set), such as the stunt violence in Hooper when fighting occurs during a scene where the characters are actors in a movie. 

Number of Sequences of Violence in a Segment

A “Sequence” of violence is defined as an uninterrupted display of a character or a group of characters engaged in an act of violence. Add up all the violent sequences by each character to get that segment’s total. A “sequence” of violence is uninterrupted if the character uses one weapon or method continuously, regardless of the number of victims. 

Example 1: a character running through a building shooting 10 people with a handgun is ONE sequence.

Example 2: if a character lands 3 uninterrupted punches, code 1 sequence of violence. If a character lands a punch, then hits his enemy with a club, and then punches him again, the methods were interrupted and 3 sequences of violence should be coded.

Also, receiving violence does not count as an interruption to a violent act (i.e., character X punches character Y, character Y hits character X with a club, character X punches character Y again) – the punching is still considered uninterrupted and this should be coded as 2 sequences of violence (1=punch + 1=club).

Poisoning is considered violence and is considered penetration with non-contact weapon.

When coding for large scale violent segments either use the term “brawl” for scenes with less than 100 characters (bar fights, small scale riots) or use the term “epic” for scenes with more than 100 characters (war battles).

Only count as “sequences” violent actions that actually cause harm to an individual (e.g., do not code for missed punches, only punches that hit the person). Violence not shown on screen is coded on the “modeled violence level” scale (consequence/aftermath sequence), but is not counted as a sequence unless the violent act is directly depicted on screen.

Explicitness of Violent Content (Adapted from Leone, 2002):

0 = No Violence – Coded only if no violence occurs in the segment.

1 = Low – The result of violence shown (e.g., a dead body), but the act of violence itself is not shown. Includes representations of injuries, such as maimed, disfigured, or dead bodies; characters bleeding; pool of blood.

2 = Somewhat – Includes two forms of portrayal:

(a) Unarmed violence in the form of punching, kicking, pushing with intention to harm but without depiction of blood, bodily penetration, or murder;

(b) Or use of weapons (bullets, swords, knives, poison, etc.) with consequence implied but not shown (e.g., man heard being shot but not shown).

3 = More – Violence, including the use of weapons, to inflict blunt force, but without bloodshed. The act must be depicted on-screen (i.e., a character is struck by a bat). Includes portrayal of murder.

4 = Very – Includes two forms of portrayal:

(a) Level 3 with bloodshed or

(b) Use of a weapon that penetrates without bloodshed (e.g., person murdered with no blood shown).

5 = Most – In addition to level 4, violence resulting in penetration and bloodshed.

Character Initiating the Violence

Any character that commits a violent act or exchange. Code for every character involved in initiating or retaliating against violence.

Character Receiving the Violence

Any character at which an act of violence is directed. Code for every character that receives any violence.

Use of a Weapon

Code anytime weapons are used violently. Punching, kicking, wrestling, or other hand-to-hand combat is not considered using a weapon. Anytime a character uses any object in a violent manner (chairs, broken bottles, poison, etc.) code it as a weapon present.

Injuries Depicted

Only code for representations of injuries, not implied injuries. The injury must be depicted on the screen separate from the violent action. (For example, if a character is shot, this is not an injury depiction. If the character is shown bleeding or dead after the shooting takes place, this is an injury depiction). Code only for the highest level of injuries depicted.

Three levels of injury, based on Browne et al., (2002):

1 = Mild – representation of bruises, lacerations, or broken bones

2 = Moderate – representation of bodies maimed, blinded, impaired, or disfigured

3 = Extreme – representation of fatally wounded bodies (body shown)

Fatalities from Violence

Any character dies in this segment as a direct or indirect consequence of a violent act. Unlike the injury scale, the dead body does not necessarily have to be shown (e.g., a person dies in a car explosion) for a fatality to be shown.

Comedic Violence

Violence is intended to cause laughter or comedy in the scene, or violence that is not done with the intent to cause serious harm. This is strictly slapstick comedy (e.g., Three Stooges).

Aggressive Content Location

Code for aggressive content in a dwelling or non-dwelling location.