Tessa Films, new study continue gun violence debate


New study says parents are okay with justified gun violence

The installation for
The Escape Pod’s
Chicago Gun Share Program
has been removed

from Chicago’s Daley Plaza,
but the debate
on gun violence
in America continues.

In response to the Parkland school shooting, a handful of Florida legislators approved two bills that would set aside tens of millions of dollars to train teachers to carry firearms. The legislation reflects President Trump’s call to arm teachers as a solution to prevent more campus massacres from happening.

Different This Year, a recent video from Tessa Films Director Meghann Artes takes a satirical look at that very notion that arming teachers is the best way to prevent mass shootings in schools.



New Study finds parents are fine with PG-13 gun violence that is justified

The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania published an online study on PG-13 movie gun violence and teens in the Journal of Pediatrics on May 14 titled, “Parental Desensitization to Gun Violence in PG-13 Movies,” states that parents are more willing to allow their children to see PG-13 movies with gun violence when the violence appears “justified.”

Justified is defined as when the gun is in use for the defense of a loved one or for self-protection, than when it has no socially redeeming purpose.

But even when the gun violence in PG-13 movies appears justified, parents think that the movies are more suitable for teens age 15 and up, two years older than suggested by the movie industry ratings board’s PG-13 rating.

“The findings suggest that parents may want a new rating, PG-15, for movies with intense violence,” said lead author Daniel Romer, research director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC). “Violent movies often get a PG-13 rating by omitting the consequences of violence such as blood and suffering, and by making the use of violence seem justified.”

The Rise of Gun Violence in PG-13 Movies

Past studies by APPC researchers found that gun violence in the most popular PG-13 movies has more than doubled since the rating was introduced in 1984, and now exceeds the gun violence in comparable R-rated films. APPC researchers also found that parents appeared to become desensitized to violence as they watched successive movie clips.

The current experiment was designed to understand whether parents became more accepting of the movie violence because they were being emotionally numbed to it or whether the justification for the violence influenced them.

ALSO READ: Escape Pod’s Daley Plaza work addresses gun violence

The Experiment

In an online experiment, the APPC researchers showed a series of four 90-second clips to 610 parents who have at least one child between the ages 6 and 17. The scenes of justified violence came from the PG-13 movies Live Free or Die Hard (2007), White House Down (2013), Terminator Salvation (2009), and Taken (2008). The clips of unjustified violence came from the PG-13 movies Skyfall (2012) and Jack Reacher (2012) and the R- rated films Sicario (2015) and Training Day (2001).

Parents less upset by justified violence

Instead of being emotionally desensitized, parents grew increasingly upset as they watched the succession of movie clips, whether the violence was justified or not.


But parents were less upset by the justified violence and more lenient in deciding the appropriate age for a child to watch it. Most of the parents said the movies with justified violence were suitable starting at age 15, while the movies with unjustified violence were appropriate starting at age 16.


One exception: The parents who were frequent moviegoers were the most permissive, saying that movies with unjustified violence were suitable for 13-year-olds.

As parents watched the scenes of unjustified gun violence, they became more restrictive on the appropriate age for viewing, the study found. But that wasn’t true with the justified scenes of violence, where parents’ opinion of the appropriate viewing age held steady.

The APPC researchers also found that when watching the successive justified movie clips, parents increasingly regarded the gun violence itself as justified.

A recent study by Ohio State University researchers found that children 8 to 12 years old who saw scenes of a PG-rated movie with guns played longer with a real gun and pulled the trigger more often than children who saw a movie without guns.

“Despite such evidence, we still don’t know whether repeatedly seeing movies with justified violence teaches children that using guns is OK if they think it’s justified,” Romer said. He also said that filmmakers appear to be taking advantage of the movie rating system.

“Hollywood is exploiting the movie rating system by leaving out harmful consequences like blood and suffering from PG-13 films,” Romer said. “By sanitizing the effects of violence, moviemakers are able to get a PG-13 rating and a wider audience for their films. But this gun violence may be just as brutal and potentially harmful to young viewers.”

Contact Colin Costello at colin@reelchicago.com or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.