A new study has found that the level of gun violence in mainstream U.S. pics has more than doubled since 1950, with the level of gunplay in PG-13 movies now outpacing that of R-rated pics.
The study conducted by researchers at Ohio State U. and Annenberg Public Policy Center is to be published in the December edition of Pediatrics.
The study examined 945 movies, including the top 30 films at the B.O. every year from 1950 to 2012. Researchers found that on average, violence with guns occurs more than twice an hour in both PG-13 and R-rated pics.
The study authors are calling for changes to the MPAA’s rating system to be tougher on assigning R-ratings for high levels of gun violence.
The entertainment industry has long challenged the notion that there is a causal effect between violence on screen in real-life. But a number of orgs have attempted to find a link between on-screen mayhem and aggression.
“Even if youth do not use guns, these findings suggest that they are exposed to increasing gun violence in top-selling films,” the researchers said. “By including guns in violent scenes, film producers may be strengthening the weapons effect and providing youth with scripts for using guns.”
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The study was conducted by Brad Bushman, Patrick E. Jamieson, Ilana Weitz and Daniel Romer.
The MPAA had no comment.
In the wake of the school shootings in Newtown last year, attention has focused on violent in the media, and in particular video games. Reps from the entertainment industry met with Vice President Joseph Biden, with the results being ways to improve the visibility of the ratings system. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) proposed that the National Academy of Sciences conduct a study on video game and video violence.
Last summer, the Media Coalition, an org that includes the film, record, publishing and other media industries, introduced a report that took issue with claims that video games cause aggressive behavior, calling the studies “highly controvertible, and even those that can be found are negligible and short-lived.”
Yet the researchers in the Pediatrics study begin with the idea that the link between exposure of violent media can increase aggression in children, noting that six health organizations have endorsed such a conclusion. They include the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Assn., the American Psychiatric Assn. and the American Psychological Assn, in addition to Pediatrics.
“In many shooting sprees the perpetrator puts on a uniform (eg, hockey mask, trench coat, movie costume, military uniform), as if following a script from a movie,” the Pediatrics researchers wrote.
The PG-13 rating was introduced in 1985, in response to parents who complained that their children were being exposed to high levels of violence in PG-rated movies. A problem, the researchers say, is that those movies are “more accessible today to viewers of all ages than ever before, such as on the Internet and cable.”
The study did find that the use of guns in violent segments has declined slightly in G and PG rated movies since 1985, but not changed overall in R-rated movies while rising “considerably” in PG-13 films.
They also noted that previous research has shown that when movie characters smoke or drink, youth are more likely to start themselves. “Similarly, we predict that youth will be more interested in acquiring and using guns after exposure to gun violence in films,” the researchers wrote.