Jewish World Review Jan. 16, 2003 / 13 Shevat, 5763

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Consumer Reports

"G" for verbal violence? | Standing at a bus stop recently, next to a billboard for some movie or other, I noticed that it was rated "PG," for "cartoon violence." Now, this was a new one on me. I'd always thought the movie ratings system was unbelievably stupid. Talk about the coarsening of the culture-the ratings system treats consumers like a bunch of easily bruised halfwits.

Is there a puppy involved? Rate it G. Is the puppy in some kind of mild danger? Rate it PG. Is the puppy being chased by a rabid cougar? Rate it PG. Is the puppy being chased by a pack of rabid cougars? Rate it PG-13. Is the puppy being held ransom by a psycho drug cult called the rabid cougars and only Jean Claude Van Damme can stop them? Rate it R. Is the puppy--? Oh, we don't have X-rated movies any more. Never mind. Don't go there.

I went to a play recently, and it had warnings in the lobby that cigarettes would be smoked onstage by the actors. Now come on. Are we so far gone that the very sight of somebody smoking a cigarette is enough to send us into a self-righteous swoon?

But okay, "cartoon violence." I wrote that one down. I also saw one a poster that warned of "vampire violence." And a friend of mine noted that she had seen a poster for a movie warning that it contained "scenes of pirate violence." Now, I can see cartoon violence being a category by itself. The anvil falls on the puppy's head, and the puppy gets right up again. In a non-cartoon violent scene, if the anvil falls on the puppy's head, that puppy is just going to stay there.

But is there any difference say, between, "pirate violence," and "psycho drug cult" violence, beyond the choice of weapons? I mean, pirates would probably lead towards cutlasses and flintlocks, where psycho drug cults would favor semi-automatic weapons and machetes. Other than that, the end result is probably the same. So what do these categories mean?

In every Steven Seagall movie, there's a scene where a guy breaks a pool cue in two, and comes at Stephen Seagall, whipping the two sticks around his head and even occasionally ululating. Of course, he's overweight and disrespected now, but back in the day, Stephen Seagall could break the guy's nose, leg, arm, and leave him whining in the floor, with a broken pool cue sticking out of each ear. How would you categorize that? Inappropriate pool cue use by overweight blowhard violence? Would that help you in your moviegoing decision?

All I'm saying is it's a slippery slope. Sure, if you don't know that Daffy Duck is going to get all his feathers blown off by a keg of gunpowder at some point during a cartoon, a label of "cartoon violence" might fully prepare you for that trauma. But I doubt it. Some things just need to be experienced for themselves.

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JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Ian Shoales