The entertainment industry is constantly under scrutiny―whether it is the sex and violence in movies, the language in music, or the focus of video games. As entertainment becomes more progressive, those who are vocal against that progression try to speak up louder to drown out the noise. For them, it is a seemingly winless battle, though as there are few if any instances in which moral disagreement has had a significant impact on the way the industry operates.
Music has long since settled into a groove in which essentially anything is okay. The result is, a music industry that does not provide nearly as much objectionable and public material as it once did. There was one point in the early 1990s, when it seemed like every day had another music artist’s name in the papers alongside that of an angry senator. While albums are still marked with the Parental Advisory stickers that were introduced in those early days of moral objection, the bounds are essentially gone.
Access to music is as free and prevalent as ever, with services like iTunes and MySpace making it nearly impossible to filter out the unwanted noise anymore, and so, for the most part, the watchdog groups have stopped. It’s an interesting result, and has only occurred in the music industry.
Film has always been subject to scrutiny. After all, it features graphic images of violence and sexuality that can be offensive for a number of demographics, from children to adults and everyone in between. And while violence and sex have essentially wormed their way into mainstream acceptance, there are still plenty of topics that can bring about an uproar in certain communities.
Consider the recent uprisings in religious groups over what they feel is morally objectionable material such, the most recent example of which is The Golden Compass. The film is based on a series of books that depicts a fractured sector of society acting as a metaphor for the author’s vision of the Church. This sect kidnaps and experiments on children, forcing them to stand up and fight back. The result is a series of books that teaches an alternate view of religion, one in which it is not as cut and dry as organized dogma would have you believe. It is a strictly agnostic approach and one that the Church finds offensive.
Similar to their response to The DaVinci Code in 2006, the Catholic League―with its 350,000 members―has decided to boycott the film in the hopes of convincing other Christians to ignore it. The result is a wash of publicity and controversy over a film which is not supposed to be that good.
It is interesting that the current state of moral ethics provides ample space for protest against films that breach religious and racial boundaries (The Passion of the Christ is a good example), but the long time proliferation of sex and violence that has recently seeped into even the most innocent of children’s films and television programs continues.
By far the biggest source of discussion and controversy in recent years in regards to moral obligations is the video game industry. Today, the ESRB rates and labels video games between E (for everyone) and AO (adult only). The rating system is effective in telling parents what their children will be facing in a video game. However, the ESRB is a self-regulatory board run and operated by the gaming companies, which has caused many senators and ethics pounding lawyers to grow even more upset at games like Grand Theft Auto, or the most recent maelstrom in Manhunt 2.
Most recently, senators have called for an overhaul of this system for a particular instance in which Manhunt 2, which originally received an AO rating for its violent portrayal of murder, was rerated with an M rating for Mature. No game console will currently support an AO game, meaning that for Manhunt 2 to be released, it needed to be edited and rerated. However, there has now been additional controversy over the leniency with which the ESRB rerated the game.
For the Nintendo Wii edition in particular, which allows players to act out the specific violent techniques with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, senators are concerned as psychologists have come forward citing the damage this can do to a child’s mind.
While video games have continued pushing the same boundaries of sex and violence as films, they have a slightly different hurdle to overcome. Because they are traditionally considered for children, and because acts are specifically handled by manipulating an on-screen character, they pose a more substantial threat for some individuals to the child’s mind. Regardless of how much they might grow or change, they will always be scrutinized for what they allow you to do.
The moral dilemma that strikes any entertainment medium will continue to strike as long as popular media is available to the masses. While music and film have become more accepted over time, the video game and eventually Internet mediums will probably continue to spark controversy, both in the media and in government.