The remote control is in your court, mom and dad.
Since the Sandy Hook school massacre took place in December, the entertainment industry has been under increasing scrutiny from parents and advocacy groups concerned about the level of violence in video games, movies and television. Now the entertainment industry wants to send parents a message: Your kids don’t have to watch.
Big media companies are teaming up with the Motion Picture Association of America for a national multimedia campaign to remind parents about the many available tools that allow them to manage and control what their youngsters see. In a joint statement released Wednesday, the MPAA -- along with Verizon FiOS (NYSE:VZ), Direc TV (NASDAQ:DTV), the National Association of Theater Owners, the National Association of Broadcasters, American Cable Association, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association -- vowed to “make a positive contribution to the national conversation on violent behavior.”
The trade groups are launching an educational ad campaign that will include in-theater advertising, informational websites and television PSAs. Some of the commercials are already running, and at least seven have been uploaded to YouTube. Meanwhile, the interactive facet of the campaign includes the website TheTVBoss.org, which offers instructions on how to use the V-Chip content blocker as well as a breakdown of the various TV ratings and what they mean.
The groups say the overall message they hope to covey is based on three concepts: choice, control and education. That means, essentially, helping parents choose media content that is age-appropriate and showing them how to filter out content that isn’t. While not an admission by Hollywood that violence in entertainment is linked to violence in real life, the campaign is at least an acknowledgement that more needs to be done to keep "adult" content out of the hands of children. The entertainment industry has long been accused by the Federal Trade Commission of deliberately marketing violent content to children by running ads for R- and PG-13-rated movies on TV shows and websites that children are likely to see, but Hollywood has resisted changing the way it does business.
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But the mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., last year have put Hollywood on the defense, as industry professionals field inevitable questions about their role in desensitizing young people to violence. Even still, some of Hollywood’s most prominent mouthpieces have remained defiant, as Quentin Tarantino was during a British interview in which Channel 4 host Krishnan Guru-Murthy asked him about a link between violent movies and real-life violence.
“Don’t ask me a question like that,” the director of the blood-spattered “Django Unchained” snapped. “I’m not biting.”
When Guru-Murthy asked why, Tarantino ranted: “I’m not your slave and you’re not my master. You can’t make me dance to your tune. I’m not a monkey.”
Hollywood’s biggest critics, meanwhile, have added to the pressure. Debating the merits of stricter gun laws at a press conference last month, Wayne La Pierre, the mercurial CEO of the National Rifle Association, bitterly spoke of “blood-soaked slasher films like ‘American Psycho’ and ‘Natural Born Killers’ that are aired like propaganda loops on ‘Splatterdays.’”
For its part, the MPAA said it plans to monitor the progress of the new campaign and tweak its messages to “keep pace with developments in the marketplace.” At least the groups are not afraid to approach the subject with a little humor. Check out one of the new “TV Boss” commercials below.