The Federal Trade Commission is putting the final touches on a follow-up to its September 2000 report on the marketing to children of violent movies, music and video games. The first such assessment in three years, it will examine the selling practices of a mainstream entertainment industry that in the interim has become increasingly dependent on abductions, maimings, decapitations and other mayhem once kept away from studio slates.
Seven years ago the film industry narrowly avoided federal regulation of its advertising practices, as politicians, in the wake of the Columbine High School killings, called executives before a Congressional committee but eventually agreed to let Hollywood police itself.
The effectiveness of the resulting marketing guidelines is now being tested by rougher movies, competitors not bound by strictures that apply to the trade association’s major studio members, and a flourishing Web culture that has driven big openings in the last three years for harshly violent films like “Saw” or “Hostel” without much concern about the age of viewers.
If the new study were to find that the industry has violated or has outgrown its voluntary standards, it might kick the issue back into the political arena ahead of a presidential election. There it could trigger fresh calls for regulation, or even kill a gory source of relatively easy money.
At which point Hillary Clinton will clutch the cause to her bosom in an effort to firm up her centrist street cred, particularly among the overly-protective scared-of-a-loud-noise distracted-suburban-mom demographic. You can also expect the smarmy face of Joe Lieberman to pop up on your TV screen for this one; Joe doesn't like death, violence, maimings, and torture unless it's real, happening to others, and thousands of miles away.
What is going on here is as old as the Comic Code (adopted 1954):
* Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals. * If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity. * Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation. * In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds. * Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated. * No comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title. * All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted. * All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated. * Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader. * Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited. * Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden. * Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure. * Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable. * Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities. * Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable. * Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested. * Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden. * Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.
There is nothing new here that hasn't gone on before, which means that we'll have one of those "kleig light show trials" that George Bush has been nattering on about for the past week, and then there will be promises made and campaign contributions offered and it will all go away as soon as the last ballot is counted. Or until the next campaign/shakedown cycle begins.