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  1. 1. (_'hildrcrr, h, S..I.(20t16). aclolescenfs -fhousand edia violence. O a k s : S a g eP u b l i c a t i o n s r4 Policy, Violent Entertainment, Youth and treaking, which can be defined as running around naked in public, is Q l) against the law. Although running around your house naked may be strangeand uncomfortable for gueststo watch, it would not be considered streaking and it is not illegal. Individuals found guilty of streaking are subjectto fines, jail time, and frequent requeststo "work out" more. During the half-time festivities of the 2004 Superbowl, Janet Jackson exposed her right breast and Mark Roberts pranced around Houston's Reliant Stadium wearing nothing but a smile. Streaking is not limited to football, as streak- ershave made recent appearances the French Open tennis tournament and at the U.S. Open golf tournament. Although there was little evidencethat Janet Jackson's"wardrobe malfunction" adversely affected the youth who were watching, the fallout of Ms. Jackson'sfall out has been a crackdown by the FCC on indecency. For instance,The Howard Stern Show was fined over $1.S million for broadcasting sexually crude humor (Crawford, 2004). Although the definition of indecency is subjective, current FCC policy defines indecent material as containing content with sexual or excretory elements. Depictions of fist fights, murder, shootings, and other forms of violent behavior, however, are not considered to be indecent (Kunkel & Wilcox, 2001). Regardlessof whether media violence should or should not be con- sidered indecent, exposure to violent media has consistently been demon- strated as a risk factor for aggression. As a risk factor for aggression,violent media can be viewed as a health threat. and when viewed as a health threat. violent entertainment becomesa 297
  2. 2. 298 Media Violence and the Concept of Risk Policy, Violent Entertainment, and Youth Zgg legitimate target of policy makers. As starker (r9g9) contends, mittees cannot require that parents use rational explanations consumption of a particular medium increases,the presum.a ,U.., ( -^'wqr outting their children to bed; and it is unethical to legislatethe use of medium to individual health and the social fabric also ir However, policy can be created i., ro a..liorate aggressive tendencies. thefabricof society threatened, comes needle is in the parents about the effects of violent media. Furthermore, policy In this chaprer,the need for media-relatedpublic policy"]ffi:::rf and the ;'rdur^t, be createdthat mandates that the content of media be made available to of thosepolicies will be addressed.Finally, recommendationsr". "i;] r"*. ts so that they can make informed judgments regarding their children's cies on media violence will be proposed. rion of media. Determining the need for a policy is difficult; deter- ining the exact nature of that policy is even harder. Legislating Media Violence: Is There Really a Need? iA nri"f Look at PolicyMaking To date, the totality of researchconducted points to media violence asa ri"J -' * rrld prior to the general discussionof past and current attempts at governmentar factor for aggressionduring childhood andadolescence..-,, r wnat nas yet to determined, however, is the relative size of that risk in comparir;;';;r# be A^-^__:-^,r , r , br self,regulatoryprocessesin relation to media violence, it is necessary to ' --'v'' risk factors, such as peers and parents. If the effects oft m e d l a v t orl e n c e o n -, ,' discuss processof policy making. Public policy typically occurs in a series the L^t^^__: | , behavior are large, then the implication for policy relating to media of five stages:agenda setting, policy deliberation, policy enactment, policy is clear: legislateit. But what if the risk to aggressionthrough uiol.rie' implententation, and policy eualwation (Rochester, personal communica- violent ,".di. tion). Using the national alcohol prohibition of the 1,920sas a reference consumption is relatively small in comparison to the other tlrk f..torriil, public policy will be consideredin turn. public policy still needed? ioint, the stagesinvolved in creating During the initial stage of policy development, agenda setting, the pri- If the goal of public policy is to protect the welfare of children i ,nd ,do_ mary focus is to get the relevant issueon the political radar screen.In other lescents,then there can be no doubt that public policy related to ..dL words, before a policy can be legislated,it is necessary make the govern- to violence is necessary even if the effects a.e smari. For as Bushman and ment aware that a need for such public policy exists in the first place. Anderson (2001,) point out, even small effects on behavior can have big Although national alcohol prohibition did not take effect until 1920, by impacts on society' For instance, if after watching a violent television 791.3nearly 50% of the American public was subiect to local prohibition show that has a viewership of 1 million youth -.r. 0.s% of those yourh laws. However, with the advent of World War I, prohibition would be become increasingly prone to aggression,then" 5,000 children and adoles_ addedto the national agenda as liquor was portrayed as antipatriotic; beer cents could be adversely affected. In support of the contention that ..small drinking was viewed as an aspect of our enemy's (i.e., German) culture. is big" where public health is concerned, Gentile and sesma (2003) report Additionally, consuming alcohol was thought to divert resourcesfrom the that the medical professionvaluespublic health decisions(e.g., take , war effort and weaken the efficiency of the American worker. Temperance to reduce heart attacks) based on research accounting for less than t6A of had become a national issue;the agendawas set. the variance. During the second stage of the public policy cycle, policy deliberation, under a risk factor approach, the removal of even one risk factor may variousproposalsare forwarded and consideredfor national adoption. Iilith be enough to reduce the likelihood of future acts of aggression. Thus, it regard to prohibition, such deliberations resulted in a congressionalresolu- becomes important to intervene in areas that can respond to intervention tion to prohibit the manufacture, importation, sale, and transportation of and can be subject to intervention. As it turns out, there are limited areas alcoholic beverages the United States. in that can be legislatedwith regard to aggressive behavior in youth. congress Policy enactment refers to the passage a law or adoption of some deci- of cannot legislateprohibitions against playground teasing; the preside.r,-.rn- Congress successfullypassed the resolution for prohibition. sion. In 1.91.7, not create policy to make sure that one sibling is nice to another: Senate All that remained was for individual statesto ratify the resolution, resulting
  3. 3. 300 MediaViolenceand the Conceptof Risk Policy, Violent Entertainment, and Youth 301 in the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Approximately 1.rss systemscombine elements of both descriptive and evaluative rating larer, with the passageof the Volstead Act, national prohibition had ms. For instance,the descriptions "not appropriate for young children; established. tains intense violence" exemplify a typical hybrid rating offering. Policy implementation consists of organized governmental activities ectedtowards the achievementof goals and objectivesarticulated in the Comic Books . . . Almost iegislating With regard to prohibition, punishment was the primary means of achi ', rhe goals and objectives of the temperance-based policy. Individuals ln L954, Frederick Wertham published Seduction of the Innocent, a selling, or drinking alcohol were now engagingfi indictment of the content found in the vaunted comic books of scathing rransporting, importing, illegal activities,punishable by fines or imprisonment' In the final stage of public policy, policy evaluation, reflection upon efficacy of the policies takes place. Additionally, information useful in creation of new policy is considered.The Volstead Act, which was repealed 13 years after it was enacted, is an example of a failed public policy. Thet .', chordwith the American people. Congresstook notice.In 1954, the Senate : Subcommitteeon Juvenile Delinquency initiated public hearings on the national ban on alcohol transportation and sales,which resulted in the crel; ation of a new illegal drug, is credited for the rise of organizedcrime and thi' causes juvenile delinquency and focusedpart of that hearing on the poten- of creation of nefarious icons that soon followed, Al Capone being one of the , .tial health threat associatedwith reading violent, gory, and ghastly comic most famous of these icons. Furthermore, the act was weakly enforcedbyJ books. The key witness during the proceedings was none other than law officials, many of whom were bribed to "look the other way.':; FrederickWertham. Public policy was never actually legislated for comic Additionally, due to the easeof transporting alcohol on one's person and the, books.In fact, the interim Senatereport on the impact of comic books on magnitude of the effect of imbibing it, drinking of hard liquor increased dur-' youth concluded that'Wertham's claims were exaggeratedand unfounded, ing the 13 years that the L8th Amendment was in place.Thus, the policy was an appropriate claim given that the methodology used to collect Wertham's datawas suspect.However, in an effort to abate the chorus of public disap- viewed as ineffective (e.g., it did not reduce drinking), poorly implemented (e.g., many officials failed to enforce it), and poorly formulated (e.g.,the proval and, at the same time, avoid the potential of future legislation, the comic book industry formed the Comics Magazine Association of America impact on crime was not consideredin advance). (CMAA), which soon after adopted their own regulatory standards, the ComicsCode Authority (CCA) (Savage,1,990). Violent Entertainment and Current Policy Guidelines of the CC,4 The CCA code is not a rating system.It is, in fact, a systemof censorship, With regard to entertainment violence, most of the policies that will be detailingwhat can and cannot be illustrated or written in comic books. The reviewed have resulted in the implementation of a rating system. As such, I CCA code covers a wide range of comic book genres,including the publicly a brief overview of the different types of rating systemscurrently in use is systems: eualuatiue,: vilified areas of crime and horror. There were 41 standards of conduct required. In general, there are three types of rating recom- presented in'the CCA code. Included in the CCA code were the following descriptiue,and hybrid. Evaluative rating systemsprovide age-based of a particular medium for con- :* directives. mendations regarding the appropriateness lil sumption, as well as cautionary warnings such as "may not be suitable for T young children" or "parental advisory warning." Descriptive rating systems - Crime Comics: detail the content of the medium offering. Also referred to as content-basedi r No comicsshallexplicitlypresent uniquedetailsand methods a crime. the of ratings, descriptiverating systemsdo not make age-based recommendations o If a crime is depictedit shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activiry. regarding the appropriatenessof the material for children and adolescents. r In everyinstancegood shall triumph over evil and the criminal punishedfor Examples of content-basedratings typically listed for violent media include his misdeeds. : . The word "crime" shallneveraDDear "intense violencer" "explicit lyrics," or "blood and gore." Finally, hybrid aloneon a cover.
  4. 4. 302 MediaViolenceand the Conceptof Risk Policy, Violent Entertainment, and Youth 303 Horror Comics: . . No comic magazine All lurid, unsavory, shall usethe word "horror" or "terror" in its title. gruesome illustrations shallbe eliminated. APPROUE,D . scenes dealing wirh, or instrumenrs associated with walking dead. vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism EV THE (Daniels,1971,) "r..," COMICS Additionally, marriage, sex, nudity, and even paid advertising in comic books came under the purview of the CCA. The following.ol.r., CODE included to help promote "good taste and decency": t Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestiveposture is unacceptabl.. ,j . Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any qualities. ' The treatment of love-romance stories shall emphasize the value of ,t. and the sanctity of marriage. (Daniels, 1971) to*.;ii --',, AUTIIORlr]T Comic books failing to meet the standards set forth in the code were sent back to the publisher to be reworked. The CCA code was initially backed Figure14.1 ComicsCode Authoriry Seal with economic power, as comic books would not typically be bought by magazine wholesalers or sold on newspaper stands unless they had received such as In 200L, Marvel comics, publisher of popular comic books the actual CCA stamp of approval. The seal of the CCA is a graphic repre- abandoned the ccA in spiderman, The x-Men, Daredeuil, and The Hulk, sentation of a stamp with the words "Approved by the Comics Code rating system'In an improvement over the fauor of its own self-adrninistered Authority" emblazoned in bold capital letters (seeFigure 14.1). illustrated stories CCA, comic book authors were now free to create their In an effort to reflect changesin societalvalues,the CCA code was refined following are excerpts from the rating without fear of censorship. The in 1,971 and once again in 1,989.However, even with these societal-based systempublished on the'Sfeb site: changes,the CCA code was still a tool for censorship.For instan ce,in L97l the cCA code was altered to allow rhe illustration of vampires, ghouls, and r ALL AGES:Appropriate readers all ages' for of werewolves, as long as they were presented in a manner consistent with . MARVEL PG: Parents "may want to readthem" with younger children. horror classics,such as Frankenstein and Dracula. However, brain-eating . MARVEL PGt: Violence and language "turned up a notch"' Recommen- are and flesh-oozingzombies remained banned. Apparently feasting on human ded for teenreaders. remains is only consideredto be an elementof classichorror when it involves . PARENTAL ADVISORYiEXPLICIT CONTENT: SiMiIAT thc CONtCNt tO Of blood' By the mid-1980s,comic book publishersbegansellingtheir publica- R-ratedmovies. comic books may contain intense harsh language, vioience, tions directly to stores specializingin the sale of comic books. As there was and "perhaps somepartialnudity'" no longer a need for publishers to belong to the associationin order to sell their comic books, the economic power of the CMAA eroded.$zith the eco- Eualuation of the Comic Book lndustry's Attempt at Self-Regul^ation nomic power of the CMAA gone, comic book authors' general adherence Imagine a world without 500 television channels from which to choose; to the code quickly dissipated.Today, the code is still ,,used',as a regulatory Top 40, instead, there is only one, Nickelodeon. Imagine a world without instrument for the few association members who remain (e.g., DC and Rap; instead, there is only one musical for- Punk Rock, Heavy Metal, and Archie comics). However, the stamp of the ccA does not guarantee that vulgarrty, mat, Elevator. Imagine a world where movies lack swearing, inappropriate material will not be depicted in the comic book. violence; instead, there is only one format available nudity, and gratuitous
  5. 5. Policy, Violent Entertainment, and Youth 305 304 Media Violence and the Concept of Risk ro view, musicalsin the tradition of.Mary Poppins' You have just entered lllilrrrilr sight' is it? In the 191 world of comic books in the 1950s. Not a pretty and for decadesafterward, comic book choices were limited and storyli ADII ISORT appealedto only the youngest of readers.The comic book indusffy's atter at self-regulationturned into self-censorship' 14.2 AdvisoryLabel Content inappropriate for children is appropriate for adults; corrd appropriate for older children may be inappropriate for younger chi Marvel's new rating system was an attempt to reflect the fact that the a Industry Association of American (RIAA) voluntarily labels S,ecording priatenessof comic book content is age related. Unfortunately, Marvel's i.usic with an adolescent-attractingwarning sticker: "Parental Advisory: rating system provides very little in the way of useful information. (Bushman & Cantor, 2003) (seeFigure I4.2). However, ixplicit Content" instance, comics with a rating of Marvel PG+ contain content with vi labeling came only after the recording industry came face-to- ihe volu.ttary and language that is "turned up a notch." OK, what does "turned Up iiacewith the ParentsMusic Resource Center (PMRC). notch" actually mean? I have no idea. Maybe it's the equivalent of "11n il' The PMRC, founded in 1985, comprised parentsconcernedabout the lyri- Nigel's amplifier in the movie This is Spinal Tap: of the music to which their children were listening. Included as $1* .onr.nt rrl l,:,founding members of the PMRC were "Ifashington insiders" Tipper Gore Nigel: "All the numbers go to 11,. . ." i : : : , ;r : r ^ ^ f + L - - Qpnarnr Al fGore), Susan Baker !(wife n { White House C h i o f ^ { Al l^'o Q',o^- R^Lor ",i(o of Y / h i t o L { ^ , , o p Chief of l,l, ("if. of then-Senator ''tl.',, 'Williamson Director Stafflames Baker), and Ethelynn Stuckley (wife of Congressman Marty Dibergi: "I see, and most amps go up to 10. Does that mean itii , Stuckley). The PMRC publicly stated that they did not advocate censorship '6u1, louder? " ,. instead, simply wanted to inform parents about the lyrical content of ,' musicand to have the recording industry show "self restraint." In the fall of Nigel: "'Well, it's one louder, isn't it? You see,most blokes will be .'' 1985,the SenateSubcommittee on Commerce, Science,and Transportation playingat 10 . . . you'reon L0 on your guitar.Wherecanil heldhearingson the issueof record labeling (Nuzum, 2001). Testifying at the i"" t. from there? . . Nowhere, exactly.So when wi1 . hearings behalf of rhe recording industry and First Amendment rights were on need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?l. FrankZappa,John Denver, and the lead singerof Twisted Sister,Dee Snider. Marty: "Put it to 11." , Conspiracytheorists have noted that since testifying before the Senatesub- committee,both Frank Zappa and John Denver have died, as has the musi- Apparently, when comic books get that extra push of violence' they go'l cal career of Dee Snider. Although legislation was never enacted following from Marvel PG to Marvel PG+; it's one louder, violently louder. : the highly publicized Senate hearings, the RIAA agreed to institute a self- Rating comic books on content is a better alternative to censorship. regulated practice of labeling albums containing explicit content. Ratings allow for freedom of speech; they have the potential to prevent children from consuming inappropriate material; and they identify content Eualuation of the Labeling System that may be satisfying to adult tastes. However, to be effective, a rating The parental aduisory label does not determine the appropriateness theof system needs to provide useful information. That is, information that lyrics for children and adolescents. Rather, the label simply informs the parents and other adults can use to determine whether the content of the buyerthat parental discretion is advised. Although the label is meant to be media they are thinking about exposing to a child is appropriate for that "a notice to consumers that recordings identified by this logo may contain child. Currently, an informative rating system is lacking in the comic book strong language or depictions of violence, sex, or substance abuse" industry. Similar problems are apparent in the music industry as well' (RecordingIndustry Association of America,2004), the label itself provides little useful information as to the nature of the lyrical content. Thus, explicit Legislating Music lyricsmay refer to strong language or they may refer to sex, but you'll have to listen to find out. In fact, Bushman and Cantor (2003) have demonstrated In an effort to protect children and adolescentsfrom sexually explicit that warning labels tend to attract the attention and purchasing dollars of or violent lyrics, like those sung by the inimitable Marilyn Manson' the
  6. 6. 306 Media Violence and the Concept of Risk Violent Entertainment,and youth Policy, 307 adolescentsand children over the age of 8. Additionally, the labeling systeh . PG-13:Parents StronglyCautioned. SomeMaterial May Be Inappropriate for provides no guidelinesas to the appropriatenessof the lyrics for childrensi ChildrenUnder 13. varying ages.It is worth noting that in their original negotiations with the May containsomeviolence, nudity,sensualiry, language doesnot quite or but RIAA, the PMRC had requesteda rating system (similar to the one usedin j fit within the restrictedR category. movies). Such a system, problematic though it may be (see below), would e R: Restricted. Under 17 Requires Parentor Adult Guardian. Accompanying have provided more information than the warning labels currently in pss. , Definitely contains some adult material. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about this film beforethey allow their childrento accompany LegislatingMovies them. For over 1.00years, the content of movies has been criticized as promot. . NC-17: No One 17 andUnder Admitted. ing immoral and criminal behavior to its youthful audience. Given that the under 17. (MPAA,2004a) Too adult for youngsters planning and implementation of crimes were often portrayed in movies,the movie theaters themselves were thought to be training grounds for juvenile delinquency.As a result of public outcry, the National Board of Censorship In addition to providing a general description of its "age-based" system, of Motion Pictureswas createdto overseemovie content. By the early 1920s, theMPAA also offers some clarification as to how ratings are assigned.For 34 stateshad laws restricting what could be portrayed in movies. With the insrance, single use of "harsher sexually-derivedwords" mandates a rating 'lfilliam threat of continuing legislativeintervention, Hays developeda code of PG-1,3,whereas using the same word twice would mandate an R rating. of production in an effort to self-regulatethe movie industry. [n fact, The Furthermore,although sexually oriented nudity requires a rating of R, less Hays Production Code resulted in the censoring of inappropriate content explicit sexual content may result in the lower age-based rating of PG-13. from movies. For instance,the Hays Production Code included prohibitions Suchwas the case in the recent movie Anchormaz, which received a rating against swearing, vulgarity, the use of guns, revealing undergarments,and of PG-13 even though the main character,Ron Burgandy, drops the F-Bomb sympathy for criminals. Only movies that met the standardsof the code were and demonstrates a keen abilitv to show his affections towards a female shown to the public. By the late 1960s, the rebelliousness and insurrection displayed in the streetsof America were mirrored in the content of movies; the Hays Production Code had all but been abandoned. Instead of censor- ship, an "age-based" rating system was developed by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in order to provide "cautionary warnings" **-l to parents (Valenti, 2001). AllAges Admi MPAA Rating System The current version of the MPAA rating system has five categories,G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17. The generaldescriptionsof the various ratings r_*.'.-+"r are listed below. tA jgltg$?'f._ Lrg_-lpi tlu!-xngrcl_! tr}ls3fl .*pjalf $r"9Jlimrypgl$!{-q-!i!gre!{*sJI G: General Audiences: All Ages Admitted RESTRICTED ;E; The content of the movie contains nothing offensive. PG: Parental Guidance Suggested.Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Children. Some material unsuitable for their children, but the parent must make the decision. Figure 14.3 Voluntary Movie Rating System
  7. 7. of Risk Policy, Violent Entertainment, and Youth 309 308 Media Violence and the Concept cloth-covered, erection. The gang coworker by sporting a huge, but in which a newsman has his arm cht beween competing news stations while another man is set on fire off (and later ripped off by a bear), falls into the MPAA catep third newscasteris spearedwith a trident, "comic violence" tht"fore, does "not quite fit within the ".rd, R categorY." have movies rated in lower age categories,such as iff's best interest to '!fho that some parents ws; Ratings creep helps accomplish this goal. knows? Maybe if the Ratings Creep. Anecdotal evidence suggests Vb-tl. ,rrrpri"r.dto see that AnchorTnAnwas PG-L3 instead of R' However, a receri kn Affleck and Jennifer Lopez movie Gigli was rated PG-13 instead of R, have become lel s-tringg! million for its producers (Box Office Mojo, 2004). ,rudy has found that the criteria for movie ratings itrnight not have lost $67 know n as ratings creep (Thompson & Yokdd nothing would have saved Gigli from being universally trashed as over time, a phenomenon 5reality, in an increasein 2004). For instance, movies that used to receive a rating of R at timesnoi a wasreof celluloid, but the lower rating may have resulted (Bennifer was the nickname given receivea rating of PG-13; movies that were once rated as PG 13 "* o.'i ticketsalesfrom Bennifer-loving teenagers sionally rated as PG; and many movies that used to garner a PG rating.tij to the coupling of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, who were dating at the rating of G. As evidenceof ratings creep' Thompson and cofi time Gigli was released).Teenagers, who comprise 26% of the movie-going now receivea movies contain depicl (Rauzi, L998), were unable to attend Gigli becauseof the R rating. leagueshave empirically demonstrated that G-rated marker tiorrs of alcohol use, tobacco use, and violence' which clearly go against thi However, with a less restrictive rating, these same teenagerscould have that is offensive to th the movie-and then regretted it later, of course. Incidentally, in MPAA contenrion that G movies contain "nothing a$ended parents of younger viewers" (Yokota 6c Thompson' 2000) 'i linewith the movie, the Bennifer relationship also bombed. Is money a motive behind ratings creep? It',s hard to say for sure, b.utt! far the most lucrative moviesaiil ' evidencepoints towards the possibility. By Eualuating the MPAA Rating System rated G, averaging a gross profit margin of 66"/".In contrast, moviesrated'i 52"h,50o/",and37o/".respec.j One of the major problems with the MPAA rating systemis that the "age- PG, PG.13, and R make an averageprofit of ^g.-based increasein movie ratings' the aver.l based"system provides too few age-basedcategories.Young children and tively (Sirico, tg99).With .u.h Thus' ratings creep may help ensurethat a t:uiirl preteens differ in their ability to handle violent and fearful content, but the age profitaUitity decreases. category' given.i". MPAA rating system suggeststhat both age groups may be taken to the same remains in the most profitable money-making l*tl.df+{ the following example: A sibling kills his,older' PG-ratedmovie. Take, for example, the recent movie Harry Potter and the offensive content. Consider by someonewlth *u11.1?ul Prisonerof Azhaban. This movie was rated PG for "frightening moments, brother to gain power. A young child is chased returns retribution' creature violence and mild language." In fact, many young children found intent. The young boy flees his home but later ::.tttk a gang fight. ensu€sand a this movie to be scary. The warning of "^ay not be suitable for children against his uncle. Near the end of the movie' young i ;il; L r,i thrown to the ground.The movie endswhen the under5" would have provided an additional notice to parentsabout the suit- ""a v/hat rating do you think a moviewith the afore- i abiliryof the movie content for their young children. Thus, the MPAA's "age- man destroys enemy. his ^^-- - J' should receive? Does this movie-seem as: based" system,given its overall lack of age-based categories, does not provide menrioned plot developments to parentt,"l enough guidance for parents on the age-based appropriateness the movie. of though it containsnothing that would be offensive l":lL':''; ' above receiveda G rating Providing more ratings categorieswould result in a more complete but simple children who view the film? The movie described t The Lion King, a movie for'" guidefor parents on the appropriatenessof a movie for their children. For and is none other than the mega-blockbuste instance, movies could be rated as "suitable for preschoolers"or "appropri- which parental guidance may have been warranted' ' alcohol, and tobacco atefor children over the age of 6" or "best suited for teens 15 and older." In fact, G-rated movies are replete with violence, for young children For thoseparents wishing to make a more informed choice,detailed infor- use, conrent rhat many parents may find obiectionable Lrrsr Lrrrlrrrr Lrr4! r*^----- j the evic-^':.- suqqests that lence --': Ination of the content of the movies should also be provided. Currently, (Yokota & Thompson, 2000)' Furthermore' ..,-.^i' films than live-atltll,tjii;l the MPAA offers some additional facts to explain the movie's rating (e.g.' ratings creep is more pronounced in animated yoko ia (200a) found that animated films with a rating containssexual situations and comic book violence). However, the level of Thompson and
  8. 8. of Risk 310 Media Violence and the Concept Policy, Violent Entertainment, and Youth 3l I system would benefit information presented is limited. The current fi flbeislation went to Congress, with only moderatesuccess. instance, For reporting boih the general content that parents might tilj i;ijri"S the mid-1970s,'a"family hour" ( 9:00 n.v.) policywas lbiecdona specificinforrnati (eg., high levels of animated violence) as well as more i,Jstablishedduringwhich only contentappropriate the entirefamilywas for ,,r.h the intensity and graphicness of that content (e'g', numerous fi ,.f Uetelevised;violent content was to be broadcast after the family hour. ", scenes involving knives and guns with bloody depictions of murder). .i l11s policy was soon ruled unconstitutional and was subsequently aban- of the relevantin{ Furthermore, movies should be advertised with all .doned. Currently, indecent television content is prohibited until 10:00 lKunkel & Vilcox,2001). However, as Potter (2003)points out, such "safe- h^rbor" policies are doomed for failure, for throughout the evening,even as lateas 11:00 n.v., children and adolescents are watching television in large nurnbers. As evidence, Potter provides the following information. Jrnmediately following the "family hour," the number of children who con- tinueto watch televisiondrops by only l2o/o,leaving around 10.8 million vouthful viewers. And by L1 t'.u., nearly 3.2 million children and 3 million exactly is the offensivelanguage? The answersto thesequestionswould helpt ,dolm..ntr are still watching television. Following unsuccessful attempts to p", make viewing decisions for their children' I parental advisory warnings and a rating system for violent content, legislate Finally, over the past decade, the phenomenon of ratings creephas resulted'i as part of the Telecommunications Competition and Deregulation Act of and alcohol in children being ."por.d to higher levels of violence, smoking ' 1996, the violence-blocking V-Chip was successfullypassed into national use, and sexual situations than in previous decades. Moreover, parentsoften law. Specifically,the law mandates that V-chip hardware be installed in all Gentile, 2001). In disagreewith the assignedratings for movies (walsh & televisionsetssold in the United States. order to prevent ratings creep from continuing and to provide a more uni' versally system,a more standardizedset of criteria for rating films TeleuisionRating Systems and the V-Chip " in place to make needsto be developed.Additionally, checks need to be put When activated, the V-chip will thwart the viewing of violent material, as written. sure that the MPAA is consistentlyapplying the ratings but in order to do so, the chip first needs to identify violent content. The V-chip usesa rating system as a guide to identify prohibited subject matter. Le gislating Television Thetelevisionrating system,which is an adaptation of the MPAA movie rat- against the evils ing system, currently contains six age-basedcategories and five content- Around the same time that Frederick'Wertham's treatise tuning based ratings: of horror and crime comics was published, 40 million viewers were with a lucky few in to watch shows on black-and-white television sets, . TVY: All Children. Rifleman, crime watching in color.'Western dramas such as Gunsmoke and Appropriatefor all children.No frighteningcontent.Designed children for shows like Dragnet, andadventure shows along the lines of Superman dom' between and 6 yearsof age. 2 the same 1954 inared the airwaves of the late 1950s (Starker, L989).In fact, that heard Wertham's anec- o TW7 Directed Older Children. to SenateSubcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency books also heard Geared childrenageT andover.Elements programs at in may include mild fan- dotal evidence on the harmful effects of reading comic tasy violence comedicviolence. or May frightenchildrenunder the ageof 7. testimony regarding violence in the newest form of mass media' television' map, the Programs with intense, combative fantasyviolence designated are TV-Y7-FV. Although the poten-tialills of comic books fell off the congressional youth has not' . TVG: General Audience. impact of violent television on In the decades following the senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Contains little or no violence, stronglanguage no and little or no sexualdia- violent tele- logueor situations. Delinquency, numerous congressionalhearingson the impact of vision have been held and the Surgeon General of the united Stateshas even r TVPG: Parental Guidance Suggested. result of the conducted a major scientific investigation into the topic' As a Contentsmay be unsuitable youngerchildren.Many parentsmay want for of continuing public pressureto reduce violence on television' several acts to watch it with their youngerchildren.Programsmay contain moderate
  9. 9. 312 Media Violence and the Concept of Rlsk Policy, Violent Entertainment, and Youth 313 violence, some sexual situations, infrequent coarse language, or (i.e.,an error) or commission(i.e.,on purpose).The fact ^aactof omission suggestivedialogue (D). are assighedby the industry createsthe possibility that the it,^,ttheratings o TV14: Parents Strongiy Cautioned. "fiinssare doled out with the potential effects of such ratings on audience For instance,ratings and content descriptorsthat might lead to Contents are only suitable for children 14 years of age and older. Parenh .i* in mind. cautioned against letting younger children watch unattended. Prograrn "lsmaller audience, and thus negatively influence future revenue from adver- tains intense violence, intense sexual situations, strong coarse language, be absent. In contrast, ratings and content descriptors that irrrr, would 'aght intensely suggestivedialogue. ctr^t, a forbidden fruit effect, and thus attract youth, would be pre- 2003). Additional problems exist with the inconsistentapplica- . TVMA: Mature Audience Only. nn, (porr.r, Designed to be viewed by adults. Contents may be unsuitable for youth ion of the rating system to all televisedcontent. Notably absent from types 17 . Program contains graphic violence, explicit sexual activity, or crude i that require ratings are news and sports shows. The failure to of programs cent language. (MPAA, 2004b) rate news shows is a critical oversight, given the impact that viewing graphic andviolent news images has on youth. For instance,the repeatedviewing of Eualuating the Teleuision Rating System and the V-Chip graphic imagesassociatedwith the eventsof September11, 2001 has caused When assessing usefulnessof the V-Chip, the hardware and softward iear and anxiety in many youthful viewers (Saylor, Cowart, Lipovsky, the & Finch, 2003). aspectsof this violence prevention technology can be discussedseparately. fackson, As an age-based system, the ratings provide many parents with a simple First, let us turn to the industry deueloped and assigned ratrng system.In of identifying the appropriateness of the program for their child. comparison to the MPAA movie rating system,the current television ratingl rneans a disadvantageof any age-based system is that it assumesthat all system is an improvement in that there are more age-basedcategoriesandi. flowever, are at the same developmental level, with identical abilities in content descriptors for TV programs than for movies. However, as Pottei{ children violent content. Most experts agree that age-based categories (2003) illustrates,the current rating systemprovides very little in the wayof , handling useful information. The level of violence depicted in shows is not specified, underestimatethe impact of individual differences in determining the of television programs for children (Potter, 2003). Further- nor is the context surrounding the use of violence. Programs with two acts appropriateness more, most parentssurveyedprefer a content-based systemover an age-based of violence will receivethe same rating (V) as programs with 100 acts of vio- system (Cantor, 1998b). Although parents say they prefer a content-based lence.As previous researchhas shown, glamorized violence impacts children system over an age-basedone, the evidencesuggeststhat regardlessof the negatively,whereasviolencecausing pain to the victim may reduce children's systememployed, parents tend to ignore it. In 2001,, less than 30% of use of aggression. Yet, the current content descriptors fail to identify parentsstated that they use the current television rating system regularly this important difference surrounding the context of displayed violence when making viewing decisions for their children (Johnson, 2001,). Potter (Potter,2003). (2003) contends that a lack of understanding of what the ratings actually In terms of assigningratings, the industry has been lax. Kunkel and coi- meanis the primary reason parents fail to use the current rating system. In leagues(1998) found that nearly 80% of programs that should have received supportof his contention, Kunkel and colleagues( 1,998)have demonstrated a content descriptor of V (violence)failed to receivesuch a rating. Even more that most parents incorrectly believe that shows rated TVY contain no astonishing is the fact that when television shows aimed at children were violence. consideredseparately,slightly over 807o of the programs containing fantasy Now that the nature of the application, misapplication, and lack of usage violence were missing the content descriptor of FV (fantasy violence).What of the television rating system has been addressed,the hardware issue asso- is unclear is whether the failure to correctly assignthe appropriate rating was ciatedwith the V-chip can be discussed.'When turned on, the V-chip works. The problem with the V-chip is that the vast majority of parents (83%) are not turning it on (Johnson, 200L). Many parents (nearly 40%) do not even realizethat their brand new television sets contain a V-chip, and the ones who do typically do not know how to turn it on (Potter, 2003). What has Figure14.4 TV Rating Symbols yet to be established, however, is whether parents want to turn on the
  10. 10. 314 Media Violence and the Concept of Risk Policy,Violent Entertainment, and youth 315 V-chip. For instance,when activated, the V-chip will prevent the fidding ro_the furor over the game was the fact thar when one of the popular nighttime dramas such as NYPD Blue. Thus, in order to w :k-figurecharacters was run over, it screamed and turned into a cross. show, parentswill have to program the V-chip to turn itself on and off public outc.ry."g1t-"r,the video game was so grear rhat the video game on time, date, or channel. The following are excerpts from the quickly pulled off the marker, resulting in the sale of only 500 unitr. instructions given on to program the V-chip. cugh the outrage surrounding Death Race did nor lead to any regula_ acrion, the Senatehearings of 1993led ro the development of uideo The V-Chip will not operate unless the option is activated. All V-Chip T[ " require a personal identification number. This number---called a parental code-will act as the password allowing accessto change settings, acivate an de-activatethe V-Chip. Once the parental lock code number is entered,sel* the ratings to block and then activate the V-Chip. The information is stored' l.;l fSru RatingSystem the TV's "memory," and the V-Chip will continue to block programs with 1.;4r t' selectedratings even when the television is turned off and back on. In additioff ':-l on the front cover of any video game sold in the United States is the to blocking based on ratings, many TV sets allow parents to block lrf,gRB-assignedrating symbol. The ESRB symbol represenrs the age group based on date, time or channel. for which the content of the video game would be consider.d .l ' ,,,'The five age groups and their general descriptors are as follows: "pprof.i"t.. It is not surprising that most parents avoid using the V-chip, given' '' ' EARLY CHILDHOOD (EC) - Content suitable for ages3 and older. effort neededto program it correctly. When programmed with both chi Contains : no rnappropriate material. and parental viewing choices in mind, the V-chip prevents children fro ' EVERYONE (E) - Content suitable for children ages 5 and older. watching violence-ladentelevision shows while at the sametime allowing May contain minimal violence, comic mischief and./ormild language. adult viewing of television programs with violent content. Many pareqi$ r TEEN (T) - Content suitable for teensages 13 and older. ' May contain elements may feel the inconvenience associatedwith programming and reprograiiil of violence,mild or strong language, and/or sexually sirggestive themes. ming the V-chip is not worth the effort. : o MATURE (M) - conrent suitabre for persons 1.7 years of age and older. content contains mature sexuar themes, intense viorence, ,rrd/o. strong language. LegislatingVideo Games e ADULTS ONLY (Ao) - contenr meanr onry for adults. contains graphic ln 1.993, Senator Joe Lieberman spoke out against the evils of viol# depictions of sex and/or violence. Not intended for minors. (ESRB, 2004) video games during an investigation into the impact of violent video gam$ Although the ESRB raring symbol is risted on the fronr on yourh. However, the first public outcry surrounding violence in videii cover of every gamesoccurred some 17 yearsearlier, with the releaseof the Exidy produc'ed videogame, the general description of what the ESRB raring actually *."n, 'S7eb arcade game, Death Race. This much-maligned video game was an adapta'i;1 can only be found on the ESRB site. The contenr responsible for the tion of the ultra-violent SylvesterStallone and David Carradine movteDeath Race 2000. In the movie, the object of the cross-country automobile raci was much more nefarious than the object of the video game, as humansweib I ffiffiffiffiff the target of choice. In fact, the movie started with the race participantsdriv',iij ing through scoresof wheelchair-bound octogenariansin order to start the "i - race on the right foot. The movie was marketed with the following tag lind, "In rhe year 2000, hit and run driving is no longer a felony. It's the national,$ sport!" In contrast, the object of the video game was to run over "gremlinsnj to earn points. The gremlins in the video game were far from realisticrepre', sentationsof people; in fact, they looked more like tiny stick figures. l Figure 14.5 ESRBRaringSymbols
  11. 11. Policy, Violent Entertainment, and youth 317 316 Media Violence and the Concept of Risk Some ESRB Content Descriptors Relevant to Violence the ESRB Rating System Table 14.1 r Animated Blood - Discolored and/or unrealistic depictions of blood 1he ESRBrating system is the best of the various rating sysremscurrently in that both the age-based appropriatenessand a large variety of con- . Blood and Gore - Depictions of blood and mutilated body parts can be listed for each game. As with previous rating systems, descriptors o Cartoon Violence - Violent actions involving cartoon-like situations and , there are several significant flaws that limit the usefulness of the May include violence where a character is unharmed after the action hasi . First, there is ambiguiry with regard to the E (Everyone) rating. A inflicted |neof E,as describedby the ESRB, reflects a determination that the video . Comic Mischief - Depictions or dialogue involving slapstick or suggestive neisappropriate for children ages5 and up, yet the title suggests that the is appropriate for children of all ages,that is, eueryone. Thus, without o Fantasy Violence - Violent actions of a fantasy nature) involving hu..n ol presenceof reference material defining the ESRB rating, parents are non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life r iredto remember or make assumptionsregarding the appropriatenessof . Intense Violence - Graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical gamebased on age. Second, there is ambiguity surrounding the defini- May involve extreme and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons, and depiction| of the word "minimal." Along the lines of Bill Clinton's infamous ,,min- human injury and death , "it dependswhat your definition of ls is," the categorizationof " violence is publicly undefined by the ESRB. Although the ESRB con- o Language - Mild to moderate use of profanity pnds that E-rated garnescontain "minimal" violence, a study by Thompson . Lyrics - Mild referencesto profanity, sexuality, violence, alcohol, o. drug usi' Haninger (2001') found that a significant amounr of violence may be muslc in E-rated games (ranging f.rom 1,.5o/o 9"j,.2% of game play; aver- to of 30.7%). . Mild Violence - Mild scenesdepicting characters in unsafe and/or violent Furthermore, for both E- and T-rated games, the absence of a content Sexual Violence - Depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts uiolence does not necessarilymean that violence is absent from ifliscriptorof. . iiiie gatn..Thompson and colleagueshave found that approximately 44%"of r Strong Language - Explicit and/or frequent use of profanity tilro gr-.s rated E and 48% of video games rated T contain contenr (e.g., o Strong Lyrics - Explicit and/or frequent referencesto profanity, sex, violence,:i ;.{ining) not listed on the video game cover (e.g., uiolence; Hanrnger & alcohol, or drug us€ ln mustc pompson,2004; Thompson & Haninger,2001). There are two primary 'iaasons missing content. for . Violence - Scenesinvolving aggressiveconflict First, the producers of video games (e.g., EA ' Sports) submit video footage of their game for the purpose of evaluation; the ihters not actually play the game. Thus, content descriptors may be lack- do rinbbecause the footage containing such material was not forwarded to the :ESRB. Second,it is possible that a "threshold" for violence needsto be sur- ,passed before the ESRB raters assign a violence rating. In other words, the assignedrating is listed on the back cover, along with a reprinting of t'fresence of one or two acts of violence may not be enough to garner a rat- ESRB rating symbol. There are over 25 different descriptorsthat can be ingdescriptorof "violence." However, additional information is needed to to describethe content of a video game. The generalcategoriesinclude "st determine why violent game content is omitted from the content description sitive" subject matter, such as violence, sex, language,substanceabuse, ofvideogames. gambling. Examples of the descriptors related to violence are presented ' Over25 different descriptorsare available to describethe content of video Table14.1. qames. r7ith regard to violence, a video game may be rated in a number of According to the ESRB'Sfeb site (ESRB, 2004), three trained raters different ways. For instance, video games can be described as containing age-based ratings and content descriptors.Ratings are assignedbasedon nmild violence," "violencer" "intense violencer" "sexual violence,,, ,,fantasy viewing of videotaped footage of the game supplied by the game's prod violence," "blood," and "blood and gore." Although the ESRB shourd along with additional game descriptors. Furthermore, ESRB raters are D€ commended for providing multiple descriptors, the definition for the allowed to have "any ties to the computer and video game industry."
  12. 12. 318 Media Violence and the Concept of Risk Policy,Violent Entertainment, and'youth 3 l9 aforementioned violence ratings can be found only on the ESRB y,s6 .; trtp guide their movie choices,such decisions are most likely done in an not on the gamesthemselves. Once again, it is up to the parent to remo, iitlonto prevent their children from being exposet to nudiry and profaniry, or assumewhat the descriptorsactually are. However, research than violence. Furthermore, far fewer parenrs, averaging berween only half of parents who buy video games actually und..rtund ihe :.'4g"/" and 60yo, state that they use ratings to guide television choices and sysrem('sfalsh et al., 2003). Furthermore, when a descriptor of violenti .'nuchases music and video games. Moreover, parents who do use the for tenr is listed, it only refers to the presenceof said violence. What is un.. "t '-..^ variour media rating c r c f F m c frequently .do n n t fully ^ ^ - ^ - - 1 " - - . l -o.lio rafrno systemsf r e n r r o - f | . , ln not f r r l l . , comprehendrthe ratings. L^ -^.1.--^ however, is the frequency of the listed content. As Thompson and Hani i''.tr,fact, they frequently misremember or misunderstand what the ratings ',';1. (2001) have illustrated, video games rated as violent may contain as litti'il mean. Reducing the number of rating systemsto one would reduce acually 1,o/" as high as 90o/oviolent content. Yet, under the current slstem,yii or associatedwith multiple rating systemsand increaseparents' fie confusion gamessignificantly differing in the amount of violent contenr would rei ability to remember the meanings of the ratings. In turn, such changes could the same content descriptor. Future rating systemsshould provide a gotentiallyincrease parental usage of media ratings when making media estimation of the frequency of violence that occurs during game play. consumption decisionsfor their children. Importantly, news and sports pro- grams should be rated so that parents are aware of the imagesand messages L which their children may be exposed. Media Volence Policv: A Look to the Future Although there is no direct evidenceof a conspiracy to manipulate rarings in an attempt to increaserevenue,the possibility does exist. At the very least, Agenda setting,policy deliberation,policy enactment,policy implement"i.d thepresence ratings creep, which has the potential to influence all rating of _jg and policy evaluation represent the five stagessurrounding the making'ii tii systems, warrants that checksand balancesbe put in place to standardizethe public policy. However, as the previous sectionshave revealed,very limlepub: :i application ratings to media content. Having a centralizedagencyrespon- of lic policy has been enacted by Congress with regard to the consumption of .r siblefor assigningratings that is independent of the media indusrry would violent media. Groups such as the National Institute on Media and the Farnily 1i remove any appearanceof impropriety, as well as reduce the possibility of ( keep the public informed on the violent contentoi direct manipulation from industry sources. media through press releasesand by providing information on their rWe[ i'; Regardless the rating systememployed, there are currently too few age- of sites.Newspapersare quick to report associations berweenviolent mediaand based categories. With the help of experts in child developmentwho have an tragic events such as those that took place at Columbine. Violent mediaare of understanding children's cognitive, social, and emotional development, frequently on the national radar. Additionally, formal agenda settingfre- a greaternumber of age-basedcategoriescould be proposed. Such a devel- quently takes place in the guise of Senate hearings, with occasionalpolicj opment would help parents make quick and relatively accurate decisions deliberation actually taking place. In general, however, such deliberations regarding the appropriatenessof a media offering for their child. For those result in the threat of future legislation if the industry does not comply with parentsdesiring more information, the content used to determine the age- requeststo create and implement some sort of rating system,rather than the basedrating needs to be presented in an easily accessiblelocation. For creation of new legislation to accomplish the same goals. The self-regulated instance, currently, many movie theaters display the definition of the ratings policies have been irnplanted and occasionallyrevised to assuage continuing neai the ticket booth. Similar signs could be posted in stores where music, public outcry (e.g., the modification of the TV rating system). However,a videogames,and comic books are purchased. In addition to describing the media-wide public policy evaluation of the various current rating systemshas presence objectionable contenr in a media offering, the frequency and of yet to be addressedby Congress.In all likelihood, such an evaluation would intensityof that content should also be displayed. For instance,rarher rhan result in the leading researchers the field suggestingthat a singular rating in simply stating that a movie contains violence, the movie could be rated as systembe createdto be usedfor all media and that such a systembe governed havingfrequent displays of mutilation involving zombies. by an agency outside of the media industry (seeBushman & Cantor, 2003), Reporting the intensity, context, rewards, and punishments associated Let me explain why such recommendationswould be forwarded. with violent acts would provide parents with informative information on The current situation utilizing multiple rating systems has proven to be which to base their children's media consumption. For instance, a rating ineffective.Although nearly 80"/. of parents surveyed state they use ratings describingthe presence of glamorized, trivialized, and rewarded violence