Opinion

Op-Ed: Hollywood hypocrisy on media violence

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Opinion,Movies,Op-Eds,Media,Movie Violence

On the same day Sandy Hook Elementary School students and faculty returned to new classrooms, a controversial YouTube video mocking gun control and the Hollywood celebrities who demand it went viral.

It was a direct response to a celebrity-endorsed TV ad demanding harsh gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Viewer discretion is advised: The parody shows violent footage featuring the 50-odd actors and actresses who condemn gun ownership in the original ad. (See video embedded above.)

Among the parade of celebrities is Julianne Moore, Jamie Foxx, Jessica Alba and Cameron Diaz, each of whom have profited from the glorification of violence in their recent movies -- including Foxx's current box office hit, "Django Unchained." How can Hollywood even pretend to offer solutions to violence when it is clearly part of the problem?

Concerned Women for America, of which I am CEO and president, does not take a position on gun rights. Personally, I am a registered gun owner and proud of my right to bear arms to protect myself and my family.

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary prepared a special report titled "Children, Violence, and the Media" that charted more than 1,000 studies on the effects of violence in television and film. The majority of these studies reached the same conclusion: Television and movie violence leads to real-world violence. Additionally, the report found that by age 18, an American child has seen nearly 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence on television.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 53 percent of parents say they are "very" concerned about the violence their children are exposed to on TV. And after listening to arguments for both sides of the issue, 63 percent say they favor new rules to limit the amount of violence in TV shows when children are most likely to watch.

Hollywood actors and producers try to dismiss media violence as "harmless entertainment." But social science researchers find a connection between violence on television and violence acted out. And according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "[b]ecause children younger than 8 years cannot discriminate between fantasy and reality, they are uniquely vulnerable to learning and adopting as reality the circumstances, attitudes, and behaviors portrayed by entertainment media."

Media violence tells kids that violence is acceptable. Hollywood is determined to ignore the problem, as it manipulates the facts to advance its liberal political agenda.

A lot of parents would like to see celebrities take responsibility for their influence on children. A Pew Research Center survey showed that 75 percent of the 1,505 adults polled would like to see tighter enforcement of government rules on broadcast content and harsher fines for networks that violate those indecency rules, particularly when children are most likely to be watching.

So instead of condemning guns for violence, let's talk about what makes someone want to pick up a handgun in the first place. Is it how cool Tom Cruise looks as gunman Jack Reacher, or how shooting is seen as the ultimate thrill in movies? What about all of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's movies, sensualizing shootings and brutal beatings? What about all the music that glorifies both violence and rape?

We have grown accustomed to more and more graphic violence, and we often acquiesce to it because it features really cool actors. Concerned Women for America calls on Hollywood to step up and own their share of the tragedy of gun violence by pledging publicly to do better. If celebrities refuse to be politically consistent, then may I politely ask them to shut up and act or sing or do whatever it is that makes them so famous that kids want to emulate them.

Penny Young Nance is president and CEO of Concerned Women for America.

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