Clinton Summit-Violence as Entertainment
by Ginger Marin
Everyone is up in arms (figuratively speaking) following the Littleton shootings ... with good reason. It was a horrible, senseless incident that should never have happened. Blame is going to the killers, their parents, schools, video games, TV, movies, society at large and any number of other entities.
President Clinton held an unprecedented White House conference to examine the reasons for the violence, and while he was careful not to lay blame on any single group, he did come down hard on the entertainment industry for the impact it has on our culture.
Congress is ready to instigate a Federal Trade Commission investigation into the industry's marketing practices. Sen. Joseph Lieberman urged "Cut out some of this violence, or at least stop marketing it."
Following Littleton, the media repeatedly showed excerpts of the video game "Doom" - that the killers enjoyed profusely - as an example of what's out there for the kiddies. "Doom" is nothing more than an exercise in mass slaughter. Aim and shoot, aim and shoot. That's it. It's even a primary training venue for the military.
Interestingly, the entertainment industry is now taking the kind of heat that the gun industry and NRA has been getting for a good number of years.
The NRA took great offense at not being invited to the summit. "It is unfortunate that the president would call a national summit on youth violence and exclude from that round-table discussion the nation's foremost authority on firearms safety, education, accident prevention and proven policies that curb criminal misuse of guns" - NRA President Charlton Heston, who certainly has experience on both sides of the fence - guns AND entertainment.
Jack Valente, head of the Motion Picture Association of America was the only representative of the seven major film studios and he said there was no proven link between violent movies and children who kill. ABC chairman Bob Iger, in referring to some of his colleagues, said "When the finger is pointed at them about violence, they say their media has no influence but they turn around and say just the opposite to advertisers. We should all admit our medium has an influence."
I have to say that while I don't advocate censorship, I do advocate self-constraint and I wish the entertainment industry would listen up. Violence in films and video games is enormous. Look at the ratings. For example, the majority of films being released is "R" rated, for violence, language and sex. Some say sex is preferable to violence. I say both corrupt by demeaning human life. The sex scenes in films nine times out of ten demean women and violence demeans everyone. The tendency is to desensitize people and reality becomes just a blur. Ask any kid what death is and they might fall down and play dead like the family dog. But does it actually mean anything to them? Doubtful.
We have gotten so sophisticated as an audience that they keep upping the violence and the sex. After all, we've seen it all before, right? So let's make it bigger and better and more spectacular. The problem with this concept is that, despite all that, the films really aren't any better. And that's because the stories stink. As far as video games go, they are usually nothing but shoot-em-ups, offering no discernable benefits.
I know first hand that it's the marketing departments running the show in Hollywood. They've trained producers to accept scripts heavily inundated with sex (appropriate or not), and violence, because, violence to them is mistaken for drama or action. They haven't the imagination to know a good dramatic script when they see one. That's why there are so few family oriented films made today. Producers don't want them. Marketing guys don't want them. If they can't put an animated film figure on a McDonald's hamburger wrapper, they don't know what to do with it.
If the gun industry is made to buckle under then why not Congress, video game manufacturers, parents, and yes, the entertainment industry?
Only now, after Littleton has Congress looked into the issue of juvenile crime and only now is it being proposed that kids who murder not be allowed to own guns in the future, as adults, and long after their juvenile records are sealed. Why now? Why not after Paducah or Jonesboro. These kids are not simply little waywards who made a mistake. They're vicious murderers. Seal their records? No way! The public and law enforcement has a right to know where the danger lies. Otherwise, what are we going to do in the future, sit around and wonder why it happened ....again? How many times in the past were such kids allowed to own guns after they grew up. They're already proven to be mentally defective. This is a issue that should have been addressed years ago and as far as I'm concerned, Congress dropped the ball.
And as long as any idiot can manufacture a child and offer no morality or social guidance throughout its life, then we are in trouble. The reality is that some kids are just born bad. And no amount of guidance will have ever helped them. Still, you regulate guns, schools, teachers ... why not parents? Where's their certificate of skills?
If society in general is going to do a half-assed job then you can expect the results to be equally inadequate.
I've seen some of these video games. I certainly wouldn't let my child play them. I personally find it repulsive that they are being made. I'm sure if you looked closely at the manufacturers of such products you'd see some good family men trying to earn a living. I just wonder how they justify that living to their own kids.
As long as people buy the violent garbage, film and video game marketing departments will continue to push their stuff because it sells and is what the public wants. But it's a catch-22 situation. Violent products clearly outweigh anything tame and intelligent on the market.
Whatever the answer is, it's going to take the combined common sense efforts of all entities involved from parents to schools to gun advocates and the entertainment industry.
Social responsibility and common sense are what's needed and good swift kicks in the butt to all marketing mavericks whose only Gods are the almighty greenbacks.