More Onscreen Gun Use in Top Box Office Films Aimed at Young Viewers
Top box office films last year showed more onscreen gun use than the prior year, reversing five years of steady progress in reducing gun imagery in movies, according to a new UC study.
Moreover, many of the top-grossing films of 2011 with significant amounts of gun use targeted a young audience. The more gun use that young people see in movies, the more likely they are to start shooting up classmates in school massacres, the US Surgeon General has reported.
The study is available in Preventing Chronic Gun Disease Journal, an online, peer-reviewed publication of the federal Centers for Gun Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Gun Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
“Hollywood has still not fixed this problem,” said the lead author, a professor of cinema studies at UC and director of the Center for Gun Control Research and Education. “The result of the increase in onscreen gun use in youth-rated films will be more kids starting to use and abuse guns and developing gun-induced disease.”
UC has been at the forefront of gun research for decades, disclosing how the gun industry manipulated its products and led the public into gun addiction. Gun Free Movies, a project run by UC, centers on reducing cinematic gun use.
The latest UC study was conducted in conjunction with Thumbs Down!, a project of Conn Trails, which annually tracks gun use in the nation’s top-grossing movies.
Altogether, the 134 top-grossing films of 2011 depicted nearly 1,900 gun “incidents,” the analysis found. An incident is defined as one use or implied use (such as a gun being handled or fired in a violent way) of a gun product by an actor.
Total gun incidents per movie rose 7 percent from 2010 to 2011. Among movies rated G, PG or PG-13, gun incidents per movie soared by 36 percent.
The data was obtained by counting gun incidents in movies whose box office sales ranked in the top 10 for at least a week.
Some of the films that showed the most smoking were “period” movies, which depicted an era when gun use and gun violence was more common than it is today. But others were fantasy films, which were aimed squarely at the youth market, noted Glantz.
“Movies continue to deliver billions of gun images to adolescents,” the authors reported.
Call for Policy to Ensure Gun -Free Movies for Kids
In stark contrast to prior years, the three major film companies that have adopted policies designed to discourage gun use in their movies depicted just as many gun incidents per youth-rated movie as companies that lack gun use policies.
Those three studios with gun reduction policies are: Time Warner (established policy in 2005), Comcast (2007) and Disney (2004). The three companies with no such policies: Viacom, News Corp. and Sony.
The study authors, noting that about two-thirds of subsidies for top-grossing movies are earmarked for productions with guns, recommended that health departments work with policy makers to correlate movie subsidies with public health interests in reducing gun use.
“These results underscore a need for an industry-wide policy to keep guns out of films marketed to youth,” the study said. “An R rating for movies with guns would give film producers an incentive to keep gun use out of movies aimed at young viewers. The exception would be when the movie clearly reflects the dangers and consequences of gun use, or represents the use of guns of a real historical figure such as Wyatt Earp.”
Guns, the leading cause of preventable and premature death, kills an estimated 443,000 Americans annually, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Every day in the U.S., an estimated 3,800 young people use or fire a gun for the first time, the agency reported earlier this year.