Movie Violence

"I unapologetically take my 10-year-old son to PG-13 movies and have for years"


Writing at, Stetson University psychologist Christopher J. Ferguson disposes of the latest study, this one in Pediatrics, denouncing the increase in depictions of fantasy violence in TV, movies, games, and the like.

Where the study's authors assert a causal link between movie violece and real world horrors ("We know that movies teach children how adults behave…"), Ferguson trots out the same data we at Reason have been citing for decades: "Both youth violence overall and gun violence specifically have declined precipitously during recent decades as movie violence rose."

Ferguson ends his column with this great passage:

As a media-violence researcher myself, I unapologetically take my 10-year-old son to PG-13 movies and have for years, knowing full well what's in them. At the theater I see mainly families, not hordes of unsupervised children. Moreover, there's a vast gulf between the cartoonish violence of PG-13 movies and real-life violence. Beliefs in the harmfulness of PG-13 movies rest on the notion that the human brain is unable to distinguish between the violence of Thor and violence in real life. Movie violence can sound offensive in the abstract, but I suspect if many parents were asked if they would stop taking their children to see The Avengers or Man of Steel, the answer would be "no."

Read the whole thing.

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  1. I remember because of seeing Thor at the theater I went around hitting people with a ball-peen hammer. And those people weren’t even the ones who made the movie, that’s how enragingly bad it was.

    1. Haven’t seen the sequal. Though the first one was decent but then I was high so I would have have prolly enjoyed about anything.

  2. My friend and I used to go to R rated movies all the time in elementary school. They didn’t care back in the early 90s, or at least where I grew up. We used to go see Nightmare on Elm Street movies and Friday the 13th stuff as 6th graders.

    It wasn’t until later in my high school years that they started making a big deal out of it.

    1. That must have been back before they realized that playing doctor was the same as first degree sexual assault and before there were pedophiles behind every tree just waiting to snatch you up and turn you into a sex slave to be passed around among their registered sex offender buddies living with them under the overpass.

    2. Yep. I saw my elementary school principle when we went to see The Rock in the sixth grade. We both talked about how great the movie was.

      1. The Rock… how great the movie was.

        More evidence on how seeing these movies too early will damage your brain.

    3. It wasn’t until later in my high school years that they started making a big deal out of it.

      It’s part of the increasing trend of infantilization.

    4. My parents used to sneak me into R rated movies at the drive-in.

      That’s probably what started me on my later life of crime.

      1. Technically if your parents were with you they weren’t sneaking since R means no one admitted without a parent or guardian.

        Now if it was NC-17 or X then they would have been sneaking you in.

    5. My oldest moviegoing experience is my parents taking me to see Jurassic Park. I would have been 6 at the time. I believe I saw it twice in theaters, both before I turned 7.

      I also believe they took me to see Terminator 2, but I would have only been 5 at the time, so I now wonder if that’s a fake memory.

      1. In fact, the only time my parents at all objected was with Saving Private Ryan (11 years old). They eventually let my brother take me a few months later.

        It was awesome, though the projector failed just as Hanks shot at the tank.

  3. Most people think that other people can’t differentiate between fantasy and reality.

    1. *ding* *ding* *ding*

    2. We could probably just use this as a rule for everything.

      “Most people think that other people can’t (insert freedom here)”

  4. Mark this date in the history of the development of alt-text: a hyperlinked alt-text!

  5. My dad took my to see Quest for Fire for my twelfth birthday. It was his way of explaining the birds and the bees.

    You see son, when you see a female of the species bent over at the local water source, you charge quickly, grunt a little, and get out of there.

    1. Wow, that borders on child abuse.

      I’m glad you able to overcome it to (apparently) live a normal life.

      FUCK that was a horrid movie! I still haven’t ever made it all the way through…

      1. Aw c’mon, Ron Perlman was perfectly cast and Rae Dawn Chong dude, Rae Dawn Chong.

    2. My mom took me to QfF too – and spent half the movie covering my ten year-old eyes.

    3. “There’s two bulls standing on top of a mountain. The younger one says to the older one: “Hey pop, let’s say we run down there and fuck one of them cows”. The older one says: “No son. Lets walk down and fuck ’em all”.

      1. My dad told me that one back when gold was $35/ozt.

        Within a year, a freckled redhead was teaching me the joys of taking my time.

    4. Don’t remember ever hearing about Quest for Fire.

      1. aka, Quest for the Missionary Position

  6. So – the same amount of evidence exists today supporting “movie/TV/game violence makes kids people more violent” theory as did when I got my degree 30 years ago.


    Good to know…

    1. the more things change, right?

  7. How long has his son been 10 years old?

    1. As long as female characters on sitcoms say they’re 29.

  8. Every time that Congressional scares video is posted, I watch it. And Senator Lieberman gets dumber every time I watch it.

  9. This is, of course, not to say that movies can’t have lasting impact.
    “Triumph of the Will” for instance. Or, after seeing “Saving Private Ryan,” my son saying war is a horrible way to settle disputes and becoming more committed to non-interventionist foreign policy.

  10. My big brother took me to see Friday the 13th Part 3D when I was like 11. And I didn’t even get thrown into foster care afterwards.

  11. I do not know, after sitting through the Man of Steel I certainly entertained violence against the filmmakers.

  12. Used to be you could see bare breasts in PG movies. Now it’s an automatic R.

  13. I thought the first PG-13 movie was Red Dawn.

  14. Dracula Has Risen From the Grave received a G rating back in 1968. One of, if not the first, film the gave out a rating to.

    1. Midnight Cowboy got an X in 1969, but an R two years later.

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