I know this issue is not novel, but I am beyond sick of cartoon characters toting guns.
Today my kids were watching the Jetix channel, which airs superhero shows like Spiderman, Batman and Superman. All three shows are rated TV-Y7. According to TV Guidelines.org, a TV-Y7 is “Directed to Older Children. This program is designed for children age 7 and above. It may be more appropriate for children who have acquired the developmental skills needed to distinguish between make-believe and reality. Themes and elements in this program may include mild fantasy violence or comedic violence, or may frighten children under the age of 7. Therefore, parents may wish to consider the suitability of this program for their very young children.”
I am more hardcore about cartoon content and do not let my kids, ages 6 and 3, watch Jetix. But my husband beat me to it and had it on for them when I came down for breakfast. He’s of the opinion that kids are going to see violence anyway; let’s let them see it in the home and talk about it there and they’ll be fine. I’m okay with that opinion, but in my house, three-year-olds do not watch violence. Period. So I usually win.
Anyway, as I reached for the remote to turn the channel to the never-offensive Noggin, two bad guys in the Batman show the kids were watching busted out machine guns — MACHINE GUNS! — and starting shooting all over like mad. I couldn’t get the channel off fast enough and then huffed and puffed for twenty minutes about the state of the world today. Then I called my friend and we both bemoaned the state of the world today, while my boys watched “Peep” instead.
I don’t care what the TV Guidelines rating system says. Even 7-year olds should not be exposed to superhero shows containing automatic-weapon-toting villains. I watched the Superfriends in their Hall of Justice when I was young, and I’m sure it had violence in it. I go back and watch the Pink Panther and other old shows now on Boomerang and am amazed at the amount of gun violence in them. And I turned out fine. But in the 70s kids weren’t killing others in grade schools, high schools and on college campuses. In the 70s, the number of yearly murders committed in the U.S. via gun violence was not what it is today. There is absolutely no excuse for gun violence in cartoons geared for children. It’s bad enough that the characters all kick the shit out of each other with their fists and legs (a whole other branch of the issue, a doubtless contributor to cage fighting among children now). But guns? And automatic ones? It makes me sick.
I was appalled when I went to see Ratatouille in theaters last year. The movie is rated “G” and I checked it out at Common Sense Media before taking the kids to see it. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, “A G-rated motion picture contains nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that, in the view of the Rating Board, would offend parents whose younger children view the motion picture. The G rating is not a “certificate of approval,” nor does it signify a “children’s” motion picture. Some snippets of language may go beyond polite conversation but they are common everyday expressions. No stronger words are present in G-rated motion pictures. Depictions of violence are minimal. No nudity, sex scenes or drug use are present in the motion picture.”
So a gun-toting grandma who opens fire on a group of rats is “nothing in violence that, in the view of the Rating Board, would offend parents whose younger children view the motion picture?” If so, that Rating Board is full of idiots. You’re sitting there happily, watching a cute little bunch of rats scurry out of grandma’s kitchen before she oh, swats them with a flyswatter, when out of nowhere, she grabs her shotgun and fires away, very abruptly, very loudly, at length, and very inappropriately for a G-rated movie. It was frightening for me and I’m 37. The movie should have been rated PG.
It totally pissed me off. I did my homework and at the time, no one who reviewed it (since it was new) made any mention of the gun scene or the other knife-throwing violence. So I chose to take my kindergartner and toddler to see it. I went home and did some more research and found one tiny mention of it in some obsure movie review site. The reviewer also said that they couldn’t find any criticism of it, and it seemed “mild” to him, but nevertheless, it was there.
Yes, it’s there. That’s my point. It’s even in a G-rated movie. When I go to a G movie, I expect it to be completely Pollyannish if nothing I’ve read tells me otherwise, and why shouldn’t I? That’s what G movies have always been like for me (though I’m sure there are others containing violence). Why is it the opposite, where now I should expect to see some kind of violence unless, miraculously, there’s not?
It’s clear that the television and film industries refuse to change their standards and take violence out of kids’ programming. And the only thing I can do about it, as usual, is not give them my money. But it doesn’t really matter, because someone else will, no matter how many kids take guns in their own hands in real life because, at least in part, TV and movies say it’s okay.
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