| || |
The Emulation Effect
March 26, 2012 - David Alexander
Last week, a conversation struck up in the newsroom about the new “Hunger Games” movie. Now, I really couldn’t care less about this movie. As one of my co-workers noted, I have seen “Running Man” and “Battle Royale” so I feel the whole premise of the movie has been done and done to death. But it sparked an interesting debate.
I have no doubt that “Hunger Games” is a decent enough movie, but I have misgivings about anything that deals with adult themes and shies away from actually depicting them realistically. In this case, that lack of realism comes by way of a PG-13 rating as opposed to an R rating. My philosophy is that when violence is a theme of a film, it does a disservice to the topic to handle it in a watered down manner — to essentially package it for children. Many PG-13 movies handle violence in a stylized manner bereft of blood and agony. The protagonist comes away unscathed both physically and mentally because he or she is enacting vengeance or protecting the weak. This theme throughout film does nothing but help romanticize the act.
Violence is ugly. It should be portrayed as such.
I don’t make this argument because I feel it is Hollywood’s responsibility to shelter society, specifically children, from the horror of violence. One of my co-workers said she felt that the movie should carry an R rating because of the classification of violence: teen on teen. She said the makers of the film had a responsibility to rate the movie R because she believes in a correlation between film violence and real-life violence. Because the film deals with children killing children, the R rating is necessary, she said. She used what I call the Emulation Effect as evidence as to why this intervention was imperative.
Essentially, she argued, teens viewing the movie will be unable to distinguish between what’s on the screen and real life. Consequently, those teens will mimic the violence they see. This is an all-too-common claim. Because of this, she said, the film makers have a duty to rate the movie R to prevent such tragedies.
As I noted earlier, I don’t doubt that making violence more accessible and more palatable for youth desensitizes them to the grim actuality of it. But we aren’t talking about kids aged 7, 8 or 9. We are talking about teenagers. Even a 12-year-old is capable of understanding cause and effect. Those kids who can’t make that distinction have problems that go deeper than which movies they watch and are very likely to commit violent acts independent of the supposed influence of those movies.
What ever happened to taking responsibility for our actions? At what point did we start placing the responsibility of how our kids turn out on production companies? Producers make movies for one reason: to make money. And PG-13 movies are cash cows. To expect film makers to increase the rating of movie simply because, maybe, a few troubled kids will watch it and imitate it, is unfair. When, in all likelihood, it wasn’t the movie, book, video game or whatever that created that impulse to begin with. It simply acted as a catalyst.
It seems to me that people who blame violence on the media have issues accepting responsibility for the way these kids turn out. I’m not suggesting that people whose kids commit such horrible deeds are necessarily bad parents. But it’s a little too easy to say producers bear the brunt of this responsibility. Why not just say they shouldn’t make violent movies at all?
I’m not defending movie producers or even the entertainment industry on the whole. But I see this mentality rear its head anytime someone talks about social fallout. It doesn’t matter whether its obesity and fast food, insurance companies and medical bills or tobacco companies and cancer. The sentiment is the same: it’s OK to demonize massive profit-seeking firms.
It’s entertainment. Just like anything, there are unintended consequences. If I don’t like what’s on the TV, I change the channel. I don’t call the cable company and yell at them for bringing “The Jersey Shore” into my home. Blaming movies for what a few bad apples do is like blaming your neighbor because your dog peed in his yard and the neighbor failed to build a fence to prevent it.
No comments posted for this article.
Post a Comment