Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sex, Guns, and Rock 'n Roll: A Double Standard

Contrary to popular opinion, I actually dabble in topics beyond gaming.  One thing I've noticed over the years is that as new media and technology comes to the forefront of human culture, there will always be someone out there trying to squash it.  It's been this way for centuries, and I don't see it changing any time soon.    What does this have to do with gaming?  Plenty.
My girlfriend is pursuing an English Literature minor degree while she's in college.  Recently, she loaned me her copy of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which had been on my "to read" list for quite some time.  Shelley used the entire preface of the book to outline that the book was a work of fiction, and should not be seen as fact.  She also strove to avoid "the enervating effects of novels of the present day."  All the way back in 1819, fictional novels were believed to be the result of and the cause for delinquency in that era's youth.  Frankenstein, one of the greatest literary classics of the 19th century, was considered worthless and unwholesome!  This is not the first time someone in the world has moved to ban a new medium or genre.  Detective Novels in the 1940s were chided for their detail of describing murder scenes.  Comic Books felt the same pressure in the 1950s.  Even the king of Rock 'n Roll, Elvis Presley himself, was labeled a danger to society.  This isn't a new phenomenon.

This is also why I was so impressed when I saw the comic book, movie, and music industries rally alongside the Entertainment Merchants association during Brown v. EMA last year.  Movie directors weave an intricate story with diverse narrative, and regularly recount the horrors of war in gritty, uncompromising fashion.  Books and music do similarly insightful works.  These industries recognized the slippery slope that could follow from Brown v. EMA, and rightfully so.  A lot of the concerns regarding violence in video games could very easily apply to other forms of entertainment media.  Why don't we block Grimm's Fairy Tales, as Justice Scalia aptly pointed out?  Why do we allow movies like the Grindhouse duo that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez released in 2007, yet flinch when a video game tells a story in the same disturbed vein?  I see this as a double standard.

Jon Stewart had an interesting tidbit to add to this discussion on The Daily Show, which airs on cable network Comedy Central.  I've posted a link to the video below.  Be warned, it shows some very gratuitous violence, all of which was approved suitable for prime time television.

All joking aside, Jon went on to call out another double standard, however.  Why are depictions of sex banned, while violence is allowed first amendment protections?  In many countries, it's the other way around.  I've seen photos from Amsterdam of billboards featuring topless women.  In Japan, it's perfectly legal to have one or both genders topless on national tv, even during the primetime lineup.  But heaven forbid an actor pull out a gun or slice up a hapless victim.  Why do we allow violent actions in entertainment media, then get up in arms when Janet Jackson has a wardrobe malfunction?  Is one societal norm better than the other?  It's kind of hard to tell.  I don't think so.

Well, I think I've ranted enough on this topic.  Feel free to discuss this in the comment section, I'd like to hear your opinions on this issue.  Also, please feel free to comment with suggestions for other rants you want to hear.  I'd love to get some feedback.

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