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Deceptively Innocent

Study: G-rated Cartoon Flicks Surprisingly Violent

Stu, Tommy, Didi and Dil Pickles, from left, star in The Rugrats Movie, an animated feature based on the popular series on cable TV’s Nickelodeon channel. (Paramount/AP Photo)


By David Germain
The Associated Press
L O S   A N G E L E S, May 23 — Many G-rated animated films — from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio through Toy Story and The Rugrats Movie — contain a surprising amount of violence, researchers say.
    
In a study published in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association, two researchers cited scenes of fisticuffs, sword-fighting, gun play and other aggressive action.
     Hollywood is often criticized for violence in movies for adults, but parents should be aware of what is in G-rated movies, the researchers said.
     The survey examined 74 G-rated theatrical films available on video and found that each contained at least one act of violence. At least one character was injured in 46 of the movies, and at least one was killed in half of the films.
     The movies averaged 9.5 minutes of violence, with the 1998 King Arthur tale Quest for Camelot topping the list with 24 minutes of violence, or almost 30 percent of the movie.

Violence in Every Flick
The researchers said they believe their study included every G-rated theatrical feature available on video before last September.
     “We were surprised that every single one of them had some act of violence,” said Kimberly Thompson, assistant professor of risk analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. “We’re just raising the red flag. It’s important for parents to be aware of the violent content in these movies.”
     Much cartoon violence is slapstick intended for comic effect, whose influence on children’s behavior is uncertain, said Fumie Yokota, a Harvard doctoral student in health policy who co-wrote the study.
     “It may desensitize kids so much, they think it’s OK and no big deal for somebody to be smacked in the head with a hammer,” Yokota said.
     Many of the movies may send the message that force is an acceptable way to resolve differences, the researchers said.

Cartoons Likely to Promote Imitation
“Cartoon violence is one of the most likely forms to promote imitation,” said Joanne Cantor, a communications professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has researched media influence on children. “It normalizes violence and also trivializes violence in a way by focusing not on negative consequences of violence but making it funny.”
     Thompson and Yokota recommended that the Motion Picture Association of America consider changing its rating system to include more detail on the content of G-rated films.
     MPAA chief Jack Valenti said in a statement that the ratings system in place since the late 1960s consistently receives “high approval marks” from parents.
     The researchers also advised parents to screen G-rated movies beforehand or watch them with their children so they can discuss the violent content. They noted that Web sites such as Kids-in-Mind and Screenit provide details about violence, sex and other content for many movies.

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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