After the sexual harassment scandal involving movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, social media campaigns such as the #MeToo movement spread quickly. One survey by USA Today that questioned nearly 1,000 women working in the movie industry found that 94 percent claimed they also were harassed in the work place. But if the entertainment industry is so upset about the way women are treated and portrayed in films, magazines and elsewhere, why are they, at the same time promoting, producing, and celebrating such demeaning material? And why do they ignore so many studies showing a strong link between oversexualized content and the objectification of women and girls in real life?
Now a recent study from the Parents TV Council is raising the same questions about another important issue, which has Hollywood’s loudest voices speaking out. Here again, as this report shows, Hollywood seems to want it both ways.
The latest hot-button is gun violence; a reaction to the deadly Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida. It’s a topic that’s on the minds of many Americans, as we try to deal with this tragedy. But as the PTC points out in the report entitled “A Dress Rehearsal for Tragedy: Violence, Guns, and TV Content Ratings on Prime-Time Broadcast Television,” violence, and gun violence in particular, has increased in the five years since another shooting tragedy: Newtown, Connecticut.
During the November 2017 “sweeps” period of prime-time TV shows, almost 61 percent (175 of the 287 episodes examined) contained violence, and 39 percent (112 episodes) contained violence and guns. Of note, the study period was approximately one month following the Las Vegas mass shooting on Oct. 1, 2017. The study period in 2013 was about one month following the Newtown mass shooting.
Every program during the November 2017 “sweeps” period was rated either TV-PG or TV-14, meaning that the television networks determined every single program to be appropriate for a child aged 14 or, in many instances, even younger. The “V” content descriptor connoting violence was absent on nearly a quarter (24 percent) of the shows that contained violence. Research conducted by the PTC in 2013 during the month following Newtown found that on prime-time TV shows, nearly half contained violence; and almost one-third contained violence and guns. PTC President Tim Winter says their research shows children are being fed a steady diet of graphic TV violence.
For the report issued this month, PTC examined all original prime-time broadcast programming airing between Oct. 26 and Nov. 22, 2017 (the “November sweeps” period). Sporting events, news programming and awards shows were not included. In 2000, a long list of profession medical organizations including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a joint statement declaring that there is a connection between the amount of violent media exposure and aggressive behavior in children. Fast-forward 18 years, and you still have Hollywood turning a blind eye to the media culture they have created. Strong statements at awards ceremonies and social media campaigns may grab headlines, but they’re not enough to promote the change that’s so badly needed. The networks and others connected to the TV and movie industry need to open their eyes, take a good long look at what they’ve wrought and do something about it.
This column first appeared on OSV Newsweekly. To read Teresa’s latest OSV columns click here.