Aris Christofides, editor of the parental review website Kids in Mind, says violence in movies has become a nuclear arms race in Hollywood. Teenage boys, the coveted audience, want to see action on the big screen that’s more explicit than that on cable TV. In recent years the Motion Picture Association of America, which rates movies, has gotten softer, as studios lobby for more PG-13 ratings to allow high-school kids to buy tickets.
“What I can tell you, we’ve been doing it for 20 years now, and movies are definitely getting more violent,” Christofides says. “There’s definitely more gore. In a PG-13 movie 10 years ago, you expected violence, but not gore. We tend to think of the MPAA as being an independent organization. It’s not. It’s the lobbying arm of the movie industry. What they are trying to do is accommodate marketing decisions.” (The MPAA didn’t respond to my request for a comment.)
Even before Sandy Hook, the Mortal Kombat level of violence in movies was starting to feel unbearable. In Looper, Bruce Willis assassinates little kids. The Watch flopped, after the trailer had echoes of the Trayvon Martin shooting. I remember going to the movies in 1992 and seeing Batman Returns, where a villain fired a gun at Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. The 2012 version has Bane in the streets of Gotham City, mutilating crowds of women and children with his machine guns.