All of us were shocked if not surprised by the recent deaths and injuries at a movie theater in Colorado – which sadly continues a long-standing and increasing tradition of mass murder by gunfire: Columbine High School (13 dead), Virginia Tech (32 dead), Fort Hood (13 dead), Norway (77 dead), Tucson (six killed, and US Representative Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded), and as of this moment, 12 dead and 11 critically wounded in Aurora, Colorado.
Some newspaper editors and some politicians have again spoken about the need to prevent future gun violence. Others have not. As Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City and an outspoken advocate of stricter gun-control laws, has suggested, “Maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about it.” But that seems unlikely: the politics of gun ownership vs. gun control are simply too divisive. The New York Times points out that “Politicians are far too fearful of the gun lobby to address gun violence, and, as a society, we keep getting stuck on a theoretical debate about the Second Amendment, which keeps us from taking practical measures that just might help avoid the all-too-frequent tragedies like the one in Aurora.”
The movie playing in Aurora ("The Dark Knight Rises”/TDKR) was rated PG-13, although the Internet Movie Database noted the following gun violence (among much other mayhem):
- Two armies engage in a violent battle … many are shot to death.
- A woman shoots a man in the stomach.
- A man is shot in the leg while swimming.
- A man shoots two men after they try to kill him.
And when TDKR was being filmed, it’s been reported that 911 emergency response operators in the city where filming was occuring were told to expect a rise in calls related to gun shots and explosions during filming of the movie's fight scenes.
Nonetheless, the Motion Picture Association of America gave TDKR a PG-13 rating; that rating states that “Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.” Or, IMHO, some might be inappropriate for teenagers or even for adults.
The next-more-restrictive level of MPAA ratings is R: “Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the motion picture before taking their younger children with them. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.”
The final level is NC-17: “Patently adult. Children are not admitted.” The MPAA adds “An NC-17 rated motion picture is one that, in the view of the Rating Board, most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under. No children will be admitted. NC-17 does not mean “obscene” or “pornographic” in the common or legal meaning of those words, and should not be construed as a negative judgment in any sense. The rating simply signals that the content is appropriate only for an adult audience. An NC-17 rating can be based on violence, sex, aberrational behavior, drug abuse or any other element that most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children.”