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Have Aurora, Newtown affected screen violence?


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Besides, he says, "it would have been surprising if Lanza hadn’t played those games, because most male adolescents play them." He says games may marginally increase aggression — but not to the level of violence.

Other research, says psychology professor Sherry Hamby, has suggested possible negative effects of intense consumption of violent content across media platforms. "But just because a kid plays ‘Call of Duty’ doesn’t mean he’s going to become an assailant," says Hamby, who’s on the American Psychological Association’s task force on media violence.

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Industry heads say it’s about parental control. "Games are rated for a reason," says Vince Zampella, co-creator of "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare."

The appetite for shoot-’em-up games doesn’t seem to have waned. Each month since Aurora, mature-rated shooting games have been among the top 10 sold, according to industry tracker NPD Group.

Television: zombies and serial killers » Shortly after Newtown, the entertainment presidents of both NBC and Fox said they didn’t believe there was any connection between violence their networks depict and real-life tragedies.

"Nothing that is on the air is inappropriate," said Nina Tassler, entertainment chief for CBS.

Executives go with what’s buzz-worthy — like AMC’s "The Walking Dead," a gory zombie drama. Fox’s most successful new show, "The Following," features Kevin Bacon as an investigator chasing a charismatic killer who gouges out his victims’ eyes. There’s also NBC’s "Hannibal," about serial killer Hannibal Lecter.

And one of the most talked-about TV moments this spring came on HBO’s "Game of Thrones": a celebration leading to an orgy of stabbings (beginning with a pregnant woman), throat slittings and shootings.

Events like Aurora and Newtown have little impact on the thinking of television executives, says Tim Winter of the Parents Television Council.


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It’s, "‘We can get back to business as usual as soon as people stop talking of these things,’" he says.

For TV executives, "there’s so much money involved that they look the other way, even if they’re socially conscious, intelligent people," says Dr. Victor Strasburger, pediatrics professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

There’s been at least one pang of hesitation. After Aurora, writer-producer Kurt Sutter, whose bloody "Sons of Anarchy" follows a group of outlaw bikers, said on Twitter that "this kinda thing always make me question my liberal use of violence in storytelling."

Movies: a focus on ratings » After Aurora, Warner Bros. found itself in the uncomfortable position of having to pull trailers for its "Gangster Squad" due to a scene of gunmen shooting up a movie theater. The film was postponed and reshot.

Further scrutiny came with Newtown. In January, former Sen. Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, met with Vice President Joe Biden, and said the industry was "ready to be part of the conversation" on gun violence — while still vehemently opposing content restrictions.

In April, the MPAA and the National Association of Theater Owners announced a new "Check the Box" campaign meant to supplement the ratings system, which has been criticized as soft on violence, by making reasons for a rating slightly more prominent.

"Our industry has a long history of voluntary engagement on this issue," the MPAA said in a statement for this report, declining an interview request.

Unveiling the "Check the Box" campaign, John Fithian, president of the theater owners group, suggested studios should make fewer R-rated movies: "It’s cool to be Quentin Tarantino ... But there’s a bit of a disconnect between exhibitors and the studios as to what works."

Just what kind of screen violence is appropriate has been widely debated.

The recent Superman film "Man of Steel" was criticized, for example, for showing the demolition of huge swaths of a city as mere backdrop for a fight. A film like Derek Cianfrance’s "The Place Beyond the Pines," on the other hand, illustrates the generations-long reverberations of a shooting between a police officer and a bank robber.

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