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Republicans Want to Look at Gun Violence in Movies? OK, Let’s Look

On February 22, President Donald Trump suggested that violent movies and video games are the real cause of mass shootings:

I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts. And then you go the further step, and that’s the movies…. Maybe they have to put a rating system for that.

The response by tech, video game, and movie outlets, predictably, was that this is a distraction from the real issue of gun ownership. What this misses is that they aren’t actually different issues: The connection between gun violence on screen and in reality goes both ways, and if we really looked at it the way the NRA and the Republicans are suggesting, it’s unlikely that either would be happy with the results.

As far as Trump’s idea of having a rating system for movies, that system already exists. The system was created and is enforced by a trade association representing Hollywood studios called the Motion Picture Association of America, and it is deeply, perhaps irreparably, flawed. In addition to disproportionately punishing sex and female pleasure over violence (as covered in the 2006 documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated), the MPAA has always been more squeamish about the consequences of violence than that violence itself.

Batman with Batgun in Batman v. Superman

Batman with Batgun in Batman v. Superman: To appease censors, blood was left offscreen.

When comparing the PG-13 theatrical release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) to the R-rated “Ultimate Edition,” both feature the same kind of violence, but only the latter shows the blood spray and human suffering that results, including shots of blood being smeared on walls, clouds of blood after people are shot, and blood

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