So to sum up, a recent study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and Ohio State University found that the prevalence of gun violence in PG13 rated movies is higher than the amount of gun violence in R-rated movies. But besides the amount of counter points I have about this, let’s discuss first, Dan Romer’s quotes from my link. Dan Romer is the director of the Adolescent Communication Institute of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. He says:
“It’s disturbing that PG-13 movies are filled with so much gun violence,”
and “We know that movies teach children how adults behave, and they make gun use appear exciting and attractive.”
So naturally, I figured I’d talk about why I disagree with these statements.
First, it’s not disturbing that PG-13 movies are filled with gun violence. The simple reason is that the great amount of gun violence in our films is not rendered in disturbing ways. When it is rendered in disturbing ways, it usually receives an R rating. In other words, the tone and display of gun violence in PG-13 movies is never as serious, heavy, or realistic as in R rated films.
This is because as a general principle: the more realistic violence is, the higher the film’s rating. This is because violence as it exists in the real world is pretty close to its portrayal in Kick-Ass (which just so happens to be graphic novel series about real life humans attempting to dress up and be superheroes… just like its bedfellows (Watchmen, Super) one of its primary points is how actually gruesome superhero violence really is… (something even great non-genre defiant titles like The Dark Knight don’t capture)). Violence in real life is awful. Something as simple as a fist fight can be deadly. True shootings can be awful.
Everyone has likely been in a situation where they were witness or nearby real life violence. This is because a lot of kids fight in high school. The reaction when the violence is building up or erupts is a horrifying feeling. This is because real life violence is horrible and everyone in their right minds understands this.
Movies DO NOT depict real life violence… unless of course that’s one of the points of the movie (Ironically, Kick-Ass the movie lightens up the violence in the film and doesn’t carry through with the comic books true premise and includes a god damn unrealistic stupid fucking jet pack, talk about completely destroying the source material).
Second, movies do not teach children how adults behave, at least, not in movies that feature unrealistic gun violence. Let’s be honest, how many movies with completely unrealistic gun violence have you seen where you left saying, “Wow, that film really taught me something about life.” I’m not saying these films aren’t great sometimes, but it doesn’t mean that they need to be taken realistically.
In fact, some of the best most lesson-teaching films aren’t completely stone faced serious. Lord of the Rings is a wonderful analog about the realities of war, no matter how many fantasy elements it throws at you, there is a lot to read into in Lord of the Rings. It doesn’t mean you believe that orcs, magic, giant eagles, dark wizards, god like beings, or hobbits exist. In fact, if you did, you’d be completely missing the point of a lot of that.
Gun violence in films is often a by-product of one thing: the kinds of movies that sell. Big studio action blockbusters are trying to cater to an audience of teenagers. As the link points out, PG-13 movies are the most profitable because these are the films that cater to teenagers. That means Gun Violence in the movies is the opposite of mature. The gun violence is immature, and so long as everyone involved (you know the parents who know that their children are watching films that do not depict real life gun violence) is aware of the fact that what’s on the screen is not meant to depict what is in real life, then everything is fine and the depiction can live on as more or less a fantastic version of something that exists in real life.
I mean, honestly people, romantic comedies probably do far worse personal damage than a few unrealistic depictions of guns, but that’s probably another article.
So let’s use that as a jumping off platform for what exactly is “mature” content. This is something that has bugged me for a long time. Ever since I heard people complaining about M-rated violence in games, and saying that the twelve year olds who frequent Xbox Live shouldn’t be playing these things. This rolls right back around to my above argument. I don’t believe anything in Call of Duty is beyond the understanding of a twelve year old, especially not in the multiplayer. And furthermore I think the best parts of the games (the horror of nuclear warfare from CoD4 depicted through the crawling dying soldier) is something that is lost on a twelve year old either.
Mature content in my mind is not a depiction of a thing. Anything in the world can be depicted in immature ways. This is because most of those sensitive topics just aren’t as mature as so many adults and politicians and church leaders want us to believe. Sex for instance is what I’m thinking of.
Sex is something that is very easy to understand. As a kid you may stumble across something on TV, or come into mommy and daddy’s room while they’re watching a topless scenes (Titanic, PG-13) and even if you’re too young to understand Kate Winslet’s steamy hand on that back window, or the erotic tension between Jack and Rose, you know that you see the naked body and that that is weird. And something else. Even as a child you have programmed in you the idea of eroticism.
And the naked female body, as mentioned above (Kate Winslet) is not something that should be hidden behind a curtain of “maturity.” The bottom line is that we have a humongous problem of sexual ignorance in this country (U.S.) and people constantly treating the mere image of the naked female body or the nature of the sexual relationships in something like God of War as something that is for “mature people only” diminishes the true maturity involved in sexual relationships in the real world.
So honestly, adult themes is a more reliable measure of something’s maturity than sex or violence. Imagine a world where something easy to understand and depict and digest, that didn’t truly challenge world views or just depicted a fantastic way something involved in the real world always maxed out at about a 12 rating, and then the only things that got any higher were things that really tried to understand why something is, a deep character study or depiction of real world real life violence. There are themes in a lot of films that are so far above the head of a teenager that they can’t possibly begin to grasp them until their adults, it will just seem strange, because they lack the appropriate tools to digest them.
So that’s my rant. The study above is borderline approaching an argument about recent events, the school shootings said to be tied to video game content, or the idea that consumable media creates violent individuals where they weren’t before. This argument goes back to the notion of things that are and aren’t mature, and, unfortunately, believing that casual violence or sex or nudity is in the realm of maturity is a very immature belief indeed.