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Hollywood Selling Violence to Children

Hollywood Selling Violence to Children

Hollywood has been caught selling violent movies to children.

...Children under 17 are seeing sex and violence and hearing profanity because Hollywood is putting the hard sell on them, a one-year, million-dollar study by the Federal Trade Commission found.

...Authors of the 104-page report pored through thousands of documents that detailed the marketing efforts of the entertainment industry. They did not single out specific film studios, record labels, or video game makers.

...Video games and music are the same story as movies, according to the FTC report. Games with a "mature" rating and music with explicit content are being intentionally marketed to children, the report found. It also criticized the movie industry for showing "coming attractions" for violent films to young audiences.

...There was plenty of evidence to back up the findings. In one case, a marketing memo for an R-rated movie aimed to find the "elusive teen target audience and make sure everyone between the ages of 12-18 was exposed to the film," according to the Los Angeles Times.

...The allegations will be the subject of a Senate Commerce Committee hearing beginning Sept. 13.

..."I don't want the Federal Trade Commission to be the thought police, but this situation must be addressed," FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky said at a press conference Sept. 11. He said the FTC will wait to see whether the entertainment industry voluntarily reverses course and begins acting in accordance with its own code, and plans to take action if it doesn't.

...Hollywood reacted by taking a duck-and-cover stance, according to the Times. Some film executives had no comment, and others said they hoped the criticism was a political storm that would blow over, the newspaper reported.

..."If we are causing moral decay in this country, we ought to have an explosion of crime. The exact opposite is happening," said Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, according to the Christian Science Monitor. He praised Hollywood's voluntary movie rating system as "the only segment of our national marketplace that voluntarily turns away revenues at the box office to redeem the pledge that we have made to parents."

..."We believe we are marketing our material appropriately," said Ken Green, a spokesman for the Walt Disney Co., according to The Associated Press. "We are reviewing our marketing practices to ensure this is the case.'' Representatives of the music and video game industries issued similar statements, according to the AP.

...Criticism of Hollywood is growing louder. Parents have assumed that violent images and music were directed primarily at an adult audience, but the FTC study refutes that assumption, said Robert Knight of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

...Whether or not there are external controls on entertainment, Christian young people should develop internal controls, examining closely what they watch and listen to, William Romanowski told Religion Today. He is a professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and author of Pop Culture Wars: Religion and the Role of Entertainment in American Life (InterVarsity Press). Parents and schools should help young people develop discernment about movies, music, and video games, and reject those that glamorize violence, he said.

...The problem of violence is deep-seated in society, Romanowski said. Violence is central to our way of thinking, he said, because Americans have been raised on "countless Westerns" and action films where the good guy uses violence to resolve conflicts with the bad guy.

...Some retail firms already have made it harder for children to get "adult" entertainment. Kmart says its clerks will begin to check the identification of young shoppers who are buying "mature-rated" video games. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has a similar policy, and Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Montgomery Ward have stopped selling most violent video games.

...The issue has taken on importance in the presidential campaign. After the FTC report's release, Democratic candidate Al Gore promised to lean on Hollywood, passing new laws to crack down on companies that exploit children unless the entertainment industry begins to abide by its own rating code.

...Republican nominee and Texas Gov. George W. Bush questioned Gore's credibility on the subject, noting that Gore accepts millions of dollars in campaign donations from the entertainment industry. "He could have taken a strong stand [previously]. Now that we're close to the election, maybe he's changed his tune," Bush told reporters.

...The television, movie, and music industries comprise the fourth-largest source of cash for the Democratic Party, raising $5.9 million for the party and $928,000 for Gore, according to the AP. Those industries are 11th on the list of Republican donors, giving $3.7 million to the GOP and $726,000 for Bush.

...Women in particular are concerned about violence, sex, and profanity in movies and other forms of entertainment, according to a Gallup poll. Gore trails Bush among male voters but makes that up with a huge lead among women.

...Making Hollywood more accountable is "not about censorship," Gore said Sept. 11 on the Oprah talk show. "It's about citizenship, including corporate citizenship." The television program was a "venue suited to the women voters he's courting," according to the AP.

...In a Gallup poll conducted last year, 62 percent of Americans said the amount of violence children are exposed to in movies is "extremely" or "very" serious. Sixty-one percent feel that way about violence in video and computer games, 51 percent about television programming, and 48 percent about popular music.

...Clear majorities of Americans believe that adults are not given enough information about the violence content in each of the various forms of entertainment to judge whether the content is appropriate for children, Gallup says. Also, most Americans -- by a 3-to-1 margin -- say that it is not sufficient just to provide information about violent content. Americans feel the industry should restrict the sale of movies, music CDs, and video games to children under the age of 18, according to Gallup.