Violence baked into popular culture
This undated publicity photo provided by Showtime shows s scene from "Homeland, "Season 2, Episode 9. (AP Photo/Showtime, Kent Smith)
NEW YORK (AP) — Well aware that the television audience may be particularly sensitive, the Showtime network aired a disclaimer warning audiences of violent content in the season finales of its dramas "Homeland" and "Dexter" last weekend. It was two days after a gunman killed 26 people in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
The political thriller "Homeland" that night featured the burial of a bullet-ridden body at sea and a car bomb that killed scores of people. "Dexter," about a serial killer, had a couple of murders.
Viewer sensitivity, it seems, was not an issue: Sunday's "Homeland" was the highest-rated episode in the two years the series has been on the air. "Dexter" was the top-rated episode of any series in Showtime history.
That's just one illustration of how violence and gunplay are baked into the popular culture of television, movies and video games. Speaking publicly Friday for the first time since the shooting, the National Rifle Association's chief executive Wayne LaPierre criticized the media and the "shadow industry" of "vicious, violent video games" as playing a role in the spate of mass shootings.
While gun control and problems with the mental health system have grabbed the most attention as ways to prevent further incidents, the level of violence in entertainment has been mentioned, too. There have been unconfirmed reports that gunman Adam Lanza was a video game devotee.
Certainly in the world of movies, danger is a constant refrain. James Bond has a personalized gun that responds to his palm print in the currently popular "Skyfall."
"The Avengers," this year's top earner with a box office gross of $623 million, features an assassin with a bow and arrow and the destruction of New York City. No. 2 is "The Dark Night Rises" ($448 million), with considerable gun violence including the takeover of the New York Stock Exchange. "The Hunger Games" is No. 3 ($408 million), with an entire premise based on violence — a survivor's game involving youngsters.
The Motion Picture Association of America expressed its outrage at the shootings this week and stands "ready to be part of the national conversation" about solutions, said Christopher Dodd, the organization's chairman and CEO. Dodd is a former longtime U.S. senator from Connecticut.
The top-selling video game in November was "Call of Duty: Black Ops II," according to the NPD Group, which tracks game sales. For players, "enemies swarm and you pop their heads and push forward," PC Gamer described. The magazine called "Call of Duty" ''Whack-a Mole, but with foreigners."