Movie Gun Violence

Here’s an interesting article that discusses a finding from a group that tracks such things, the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania, which finds that gun violence in PG-13 films began to exceed that in R-rated films since about 2011, and the gap continues to grow.

Part of the finding probably stems from the fact that there are fewer R-rated films being released, as studios need to maximize profits from every movie that comes out, and are loath to leave out any group that could bring in more revenue. The problem is that anyone can see PG-13 movies, and therefore a lot more kids are being exposed to gun violence than they would if these films were rated R.

The other thing is that gun violence in PG-13 movies is most often shown without consequences—or even blood. The study picks out The Force Awakens as a particular offender, and these films do have a startling amount of shootings. The Force Awakens showed us that there are actual human beings in all those stormtrooper uniforms, but that film [and even more so, Rogue One] depict numerous amounts of stormtroopers being picked off with nary a thought and the overriding idea that it’s good to shoot them, because they are bad guys.

A friend who is on the police force woke me up to the shocking way police and security guards are treated as absolutely expendable in films. It’s something we’re so inured to that we don’t even notice, or think about anymore, but think back to the numerous scenes in action movies in which the villains—or heroes—break into somewhere and kill off all the police or security guards as the first step in their plan.

It’s also worth thinking about how inured we are to general gun violence in films. I took a friend who doesn’t often see action movies to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and if he wasn’t there I don’t think I’d even have noticed the shocking amount of violence and faceless people killed in that film… which is about our great American hero. I’m glad the study also points out how violent the teen-oriented Hunger Games and Insurgent films are, with kids going to war and performing numerous shootings.

The article points out that there is no money being spent on studying the real-world consequences of such scenes. I suspect that there are forces, akin to those used in the cases of climate change and formerly smoking, that prevent such studies being done and fomenting “uncertainty” about whether there is any sort of causal link. And we’re used to telling ourselves that kids [and adults] know that it’s all fantasy and it doesn’t have any effect on real-world violence.

I’m not going to be the douche that says there is a connection, but the whole thing is worth thinking about, especially as gun violence continues to rise in the United States.


2 thoughts on “Movie Gun Violence

  1. Keep in mind Raiders of the Lost Ark, an incredibly violent and gory film, was PG! I haven’t seen much in PG-13 films that I can recall that is as horrifying as the face-melting, spear through the head, getting diced by an aircraft propeller scenes in that movie…

    Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve never felt mentally scarred by shootings in film. Most people, including kids, know what happens when a person is shot so it’s not particularly jarring. Not saying that’s a good thing, mind you! But gun violence can be seen in history books, in the news, on our streets….so it doesn’t really bother folks much, regardless of age (unless of course it affects them personally). People around the world are (unfortunately) completely used to gun violence, so it doesn’t have the same image-burning ability as say, your standard torture porn film.

    Ultimately, we’ll all get bored with gratuitous, excessive violence in film, as we get bored with all things eventually. Even midget porn.


    • PG-13 didn’t exist when “Raiders” came out (in fact, Temple Of Doom was part of what spurred the creation of PG-13). You’re right that it would most definitely be PG-13 today.

      And I think that Scott is right when he says that PG-13 movies have lots of shooting but no blood, and people have seemed to decide that this makes it OK. There’s a bit in Rogue One where Donnie Yen uses some stormie as a human shield, and we see him getting many holes blasted in his body, and that would have been a straight-up R-rating back in the day.


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