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With a skit posted on the Funny or Die website on March 25, Jim Carrey became the latest celebrity to take aim at the National Rifle Association (NRA) and show his support for stricter gun legislation.
The video features Carrey doing an unfavorable impression of former NRA president and star of classic films like Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments, Charlton Heston. The 51-year-old comedian then sings a country song that mocks Heston’s famous line that the government can have his gun when they “pry it from my cold, dead hands” and asserts that firearm enthusiasts like Heston are only trying to make up for certain anatomical shortcomings. The parody ends with Heston, who died of pneumonia in 2008, accidentally shooting off his foot while the cast of Hee-Haw laughs uproariously.
In response to public outrage following the release of the skit, Carrey tweeted, “‘Cold Dead Hand’ is [about] u heartless motherf***ers unwilling 2 bend 4 the safety of our kids. Sorry if you’re offended by the word safety!” He later added, “I’m appalled at [what] I’ve seen on [this] stream the last few days, all in hatred’s defense. No wonder it’s so dangerous to be a child today.”
But like Jamie Foxx (star of the ultra-violent Django Unchained), Chris Rock (co-star of Lethal Weapon 4), and other actors who’ve recently spoken out in favor of gun control, Carrey’s career choices appear to undermine his cause. His most recent production, slated for release on Aug. 16, is the sequel to the bloody R-rated film Kick-Ass that featured a gun-toting 11-year-old girl who gleefully kills dozens. An early trailer for Kick-Ass 2 shows Carrey’s character, a conspirator of the now-15-year-old vigilante, giggling while aiming a revolver at a man tied to a chair.
The movie makes the timing of Carrey’s statements especially ironic as the Parent’s Television Council (PTC) recently released a study showing that gun violence is Hollywood’s favorite form of violence. The PTC found that of 392 television shows monitored over a one-month period, 193 of them contained violence; 121—nearly a third—contained gun violence.
“Every network aired programs that contained violence and gun violence, but CBS, CW and Fox had the highest percentage of programs with gun violence at 54 percent, 48 percent and 29 percent, respectively,” said PTC President Tim Winter, adding, “Those three networks also aired the highest number of scenes containing violence and gun violence.”
It’s worth noting that shows featuring heavy gun use tend to be popular with audiences. CBS, which the PTC found had the highest percentage of gun violence, is also currently the No. 1 one network. For the first 26 weeks of the 2012-2013 broadcast television season, it placed first among the viewers advertisers care most about, adults 18-49, as well as in audiences of all ages. CBS dramas like NCIS, Person of Interest, and Criminal Minds, which regularly depict shoot-outs and gun use, routinely win their time slots, often beating the competition by millions of viewers.
But Winter said that may be because the networks aren’t abiding by the law and informing parents of the content of their programming. He argues it’s not just gun regulations that are going unenforced, but the television ratings system.
“Every single program that contained violence or gun violence during the study period [Jan. 11 and Feb. 12, 2013] was deemed to be appropriate for children aged 14 or younger,” said Winter. The PTC study found that ABC and NBC in particular regularly failed to provide a “V” descriptor for shows that contained violence, as required by The Parental Guidelines system enacted by Congress in 1997 to inform parents of negative television content.
The PTC was inspired to conduct the study after Vice President Joe Biden met with entertainment industry executives to discuss what measures could be taken to prevent another shooting rampage like the one that left 20 children and six adults dead in Newtown, Conn. Though few details emerged from the meeting, the Directors Guild of America, Independent Film & Television Alliance, Motion Picture Association of America, National Association of Broadcasters, National Association of Theatre Owners, and National Cable & Telecommunications Association did issue a joint public statement. “This industry has a long-standing commitment to provide parents the tools necessary to make the right viewing decisions for their families. We welcome the opportunity to share that history and look forward to doing our part to seek meaningful solutions.”
But Winter doesn’t buy it. “The industry representatives did what they routinely do when called to task by our public servants. They told the vice president how responsible they are, and they pointed fingers at parents as the problem, hiding behind the purported ‘tools’ they foist on parents as the only protection from harmful program content.” Consequently, Winter said, the PTC decided to put Hollywood’s claims to an empirical test and discovered that their tools are failing. “The notion that the entertainment industry is somehow being ‘responsible’ with the volume and degree of violence it is producing and distributing is laughable. The industry must come out from behind its armies of lobbyists and do the right thing by exercising real responsibility for the content it produces and distributes.”
Following the Biden meeting, the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), a lobbyist group for home video and video game retailers, sent a letter to the vice president’s office touting their own efforts to abide by ratings regulations and cautioning against further federal investigations into links between violent entertainment and real-life violent behavior.
“Make no mistake: blaming movies and video games is an attempt to distract the attention of the public and the media from meaningful action that will keep our children safer,” said the EMA. The letter later stated, “In the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, we have seen proposals put forth to authorize studies of the impact of violent entertainment on minors … we would recommend that, prior to another review of this topic, the federal government take stock of its existing studies and determine what new knowledge could be generated.”