There are more guns in movies then ever before - but less of the consequences


There are more guns in movies then ever before - but less of the consequences
  1. There are more guns in movies then ever before - but less of the consequences
    www.nzherald.co.nz
    Since the PG-13 rating was introduced in America in 1984, the rating has come to rule the box office, signalling that a movie has enough excitement to satisfy adults, but won't leave lots of kids shaken or upset. And over those…
    TV&Movies
Despite being fantastical, Star Wars still shows plenty of gun violence, including in spin-off Rogue One. Photo/Supplied

Since the PG-13 rating was introduced in America in 1984, the rating has come to rule the box office, signalling that a movie has enough excitement to satisfy adults, but won't leave lots of kids shaken or upset. And over those same years, PG-13 movies have also gotten more violent.

New data published in the journal Pediatrics Wednesday shows that the rate of gun violence per hour in top-grossing PG-13 movies has more than doubled since 1985, and is now surpassing the rate of gun violence in R-rated movies.

Daniel Romer and his University of Pennsylvania colleagues Patrick Jamieson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson measured the level of gun violence in movies by dividing them into five-minute segments and counting how many segments included events where someone fired a weapon and hit another person. They included fictional weapons that resembled guns, such as the blasters in Star Wars, that can be held in characters' hands and fire projectiles or lasers.

The rate of gun violence incidents in high-grossing PG-13 movies rose from 1 per hour in 1985 to 2.63 per hour in 2015.

If a five-minute segment contained more than one such event, such as in a running gunfight, it still only counted once, though Romer said he believed that the number of shots fired in sequences involving guns seemed to be increasing.

Upsetting scenes of shooting get R-ratings, but not fantastical movies like Star Wars. Photo/Supplied Upsetting scenes of shooting get R-ratings, but not fantastical movies like Star Wars. Photo/Supplied

Romer said the shift towards increasing gun violence in PG-13 movies seemed to be driven by a rise in depictions of shootings that were stylised rather than realistic.

Continued below.

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"Film producers have become clever about that, and now we see films where there is a lot of gun violence, but no one seems to be physically injured other than possibly falling down," he explained. "That's what worries us, you can go under the radar with this kind of violence, make it look like it's an acceptable, appropriate way to solve conflicts, especially when you glorify it with (characters) who look like they're good people".

By contrast, more upsetting images of gun violence that show the impact of bullets on human bodies, the pain being shot causes and the emotional devastation that follows a shooting, seem more likely to earn R ratings. The result is a pattern of protecting younger viewers from depictions of the upsetting consequences of shootings, but not from depictions of shootings themselves.

To a certain extent, this is in keeping with a general tendency in the action blockbusters to depict escalating climaxes with ephemeral consequences. It has become standard for PG-13 movies to end in the kind of city- or world-destroying showdowns that were previously reserved for disaster movies, which now hardly constitute their own distinct genre.

It is not merely gun violence that has been made routine by America's most popular movies. But while moviegoers don't have weapons of mass destruction at our personal disposal, a lot of us do have guns.

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