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Friday, September 29, 2023


In today’s disturbing news, PG-13 movie gun violence triples

David Delgado//The Daily Cougar

You’re 13. You just got out of the sixth grade, and it’s growing harder and harder to hide your anxiety about diving into both geometry and puberty next year. You’re hoping to finally crack that five-foot height barrier by the time you hit high school, and you’re still trying to forget about last week, when your aunt called and thought you were your much younger sister.

Growing up is hard, no doubt about it. It’s nice that our youth can kick back with Laffy Taffy and a flick laden with copious bloodshed. Relieve the stress through some good ol’ fashioned catharsis.

That’s what today’s PG-13 movies are allowing our youth to do. A recent study reported by NPR found that gun violence in today’s PG-13 movies has tripled since 1985.

The Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings system — founded by UH alumnus and School of Communication namesake Jack J. Valenti — began using PG-13 ratings in 1985. According to CNN, PG-13 tells parents that “some material (in the film) may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.”

Just for some perspective, Ron Howard’s “Cocoon” came out in 1985. It was rated PG-13. It contained no gun violence, and the rating was mostly given for a scene that shows a woman stripping down to her undergarments.

1985 also birthed “Silverado”, a PG-13 western-themed action movie. A New York Times review of the flick says that Silverado “includes a lot of shooting and not very explicit gore” — a couple of gunshot scenes, perhaps, and some minimal bloodshed.

2013, in stark contrast, made way for “Iron Man 3,” which features scores of terrorists firing automatic weapons on defenseless villagers and homelands. One guy fires a bullet into a photograph of the President’s head.

It’s tough to recall a film that doesn’t contain any gun violence or an allusion to gun violence. Or a gun, even. Movies that are rated PG-13 are typically the highest-grossing films of the year, according to Nielsen’s 2012 American Moviegoing Report.

Think “The Dark Knight.” Think “The Avengers” and even the aforementioned “Iron Man 3.” Think movies that you and I, collegiate 20-somethings, still find grossly entertaining.

That’s arguably what’s most strange about this study. On the surface, it’s saying that films that our 13-year olds are allowed to see are corrupt with gun violence. That in itself is an issue, but that’s not the bigger message sent to us by these statistics.

It’s the fact that all of us — not just 13-year-olds, but anybody above 13 — are demanding triple the amount of gun violence that our predecessors demanded just 28 years ago.

Films wouldn’t be rich with violence if it weren’t something that was working for them. Hollywood is a business, and a Herculean one at that. They’re going to do whatever makes them the most money — whether it be filling their flicks with HD-bellied Teletubbies or unicorn foals or gun violence.

You and I aren’t strangers to gun violence. We’re college students, and in 2013, it seems like we’re faced every day with the risk of seeing our own college campus on CNN. The kind of news we’re bombarded with has forced us to become desensitized to gun violence, either as a coping mechanism or as simply a natural progression.

Regardless of why, that news has become a part of our day-to-day routine. We wake up, grab a meal bar and check our mobile notifications for the day’s latest tragedy before making our way to Agnes Arnold or Bauer.

If our lives are dominated by gun violence, it’s only fitting that violence would eventually come to dominate the very things — movies — that were once meant to provide escape.

Maybe that’s why movies have adopted so much gun violence — because all of us, both viewers and filmmakers, have regarded gun violence as an indubitable presence in even the most fictional of worlds.

Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]


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