|VIOLENCE IN THE MEDIA|
depictions of violence on film and television on the increase? Center
for Media and Public Affairs President Robert Lichter, Washington Post
columnist E.J. Dionne and director Rupert Wainwright take your questions.
Miller of Sacramento, CA asks:
I am an adult. I do not mind watching sexual scenes in a movie, but I do not like to see violence. Should sex and violence be lumped together as they are now by the TV and film industries when they rate programs?
Dear Mr. (Gary) Miller:
I agree with you that sex and violence might usefully be treated separately. (Though there are times in some forms of entertainment, alas, when the distinction is not that clear.) My sense of ratings is that their main purpose is to provide information, and a double rating system along the lines you propose would provide more information.
Mostly, though, I think the purpose of ratings is for programming that might be seen by children and teens, so parents know what to look out for. Parents, especially of young children, worry about both violence and explicit sexuality. Adults are free to watch what they want, and to change the channel (or walk out of the movie theater or return the video) when they don't like what they see. The difficulty of the split you propose is that it might make an already complicated rating system even harder for people to understand.
Sex, violence and crude language are all considered when ratings are determined. On TV, at least, most programs note at the outset which of these elements are included in the rating. For example, a TV14 overall rating will be accompanied by a V for violence or D for adult dialogue. These so-called content based ratings were added to the industry's original age-based ratings at the insistence of activist groups.
In theory a viewer should be able to determine why a program received a particular rating from this initial onscreen advisory (or program a set's V-chip to eliminate programming based on specific content). One problem is that not all networks add the content advisories, and the ratings are determined by individual networks and/or production studios. Thus, my studies found that a majority of the ten most violent series on TV carried PG ratings.
Unlike television, movie ratings are determined by a central body made up of parents, educators, etc. and convened for this purpose by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). But the ratings that appear onscreen are age-based only, not differentiated according to content. This information is sometimes available in newspaper ads or in the "family filmgoer" reviews that many newspapers now carry. When the movies are shown on television, an onscreen advisory is often added at the outset.