Tuesday, April 10, 2007

article on the marketing of violent horror films

read this as a companion piece to my posting from yesterday. Richard Corliss of Time magazine looks closely at the marketing of today's horror films to young teenagers. link

Some telling quotes regarding our descent into the abyss of violent imagery led by the marketers of film and television include...

Protecting the children. That ritual has been played for ages across the generations. Parents fret about what their children see/hear/read, and the youngsters shrug it off until they have kids of their own and renew the worrying cycle. Parents hate violent movies, so kids just have to love them.

That's why horror films don't need stars. One letter sells the movie: R (meaning kids are restricted from seeing it unless accompanied by an adult). Another lure is the MPAA description of offensive elements, like this one for Saw III: "strong grisly violence and gore, sequences of terror and torture, nudity and language." Parents read this as a warning, kids as a come-on. "'Terror and torture'? I'm there!" Can't see it? Must see it...

Rule No. 2: Expand your consumer base. Do movie companies try to lure 11-, 13-, 15-year-olds to their violent movies? Of course: that age group is their prime market. And with the Internet, it's easy and cheap to do. If the Saws and Hostels were never seen by young teens, they'd lose a big slice of their audience.

The MPAA needs the teen market. Tougher than most other national ratings boards on sexual images in movies, it's far more lenient when it comes to violence. In many countries, Saw was forbidden to those under 18. In the U.S., your 17-year-old could go and chaperone his younger siblings. The argument may be that sexuality is real and disturbs kids more than pretend maiming. But these ratings teach that sex is forbidden and killing is cool. They also tell the world that America is a place where violence rules.

Of course, horror films aren't the only place kids can go to for their violence fix. Eli Roth, director of Hostel, an R-rated film about a European backpacking trip gone horribly wrong, knows that kids under 18 are seeing his films. He thinks they should be 15 or 16 to see the Hostel sequel, due out in June. "Kids that age have seen enough TV and real-life violence by then that they understand the difference," he says. "You can turn on Fox at 9 p.m. and see someone drilling into someone's head [on the series 24]. You can turn on CNN and see soldiers who have been tortured. As the violence on TV gets more extreme, the violence in movies has to top that to keep getting people into theaters."
It is going to continue to get worse, especially if American Christians (and thoughtful Americans in general) continue to approve of violent entertainment, especially with their pocketbooks.

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