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« Homo Sapiens: Spreading Like the Common Cold The RantsGolfing with God »

Legislators Lagging Behind Media - By About Fifty Years
2005.07.27 (Wed) 18:19

Another good post from Les Jenkins — yes, we've been catching up on our SEB after a busy week — directs us to a press release regarding the recent ESRB rating change on the extremely popular game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas:

Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO) announced today that the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has changed the rating of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on all platforms from "Mature 17+" (M) to "Adults Only 18+" (AO) because of the so-called "hot coffee mod," an unauthorized third party modification that alters the retail version of the game. Take-Two cooperated fully with the ESRB's investigation.

If you've missed this particular merry-go-round, here's the skinny: a mini-game containing explicit sexual content can be accessed in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas by using a special third party modification provided by some enterprising hackers. Originally, Rockstar Games claimed that the third party modification created the sex mini-game; it has since been proven that the mini-game was already included in the software, and was simply accessed by the mod.

All this is not the crux of our Rant.

Okay, so the ESRB has re-rated the game; assuming that vendors follow the rules, kids won't be able to buy the game unless their parents or guardians buy it for them. Done — right?


...[Hillary] Clinton said she would soon author a bill to create a federal law that would "put some teeth into video game ratings." Reminiscent of a California bill introduced by Assemblyman Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and similar measures in several other states, the legislation will "prohibit the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors" and make such action a federal offense. Clinton said the penalty for violating the law would be a mandatory $5,000 fine.

Whoa, there, Hillary. Down, girl.

$5,000? Five THOUSAND dollars? A federal offense? For selling a video game?

As Les pointed out, it's not a federal offense to sell a minor a ticket to an R-rated movie, nor to sell music with a "parental advisory" to a minor. Nor is it a federal offense to sell a pornographic magazine to minor. Yes, it should be up to a minor's legal guardian to determine the propriety of materials their children can have. Yes, regulations reflecting that should be in place. But five thousand freaking dollars?

Once again, we see legislators lagging so far behind modern media technology that, when they finally catch up, they overshoot the mark and come up with outlandish legislation that simply isn't in line with the scale of the crime. It's like killing a fly with an atomic-powered supersonic planet-smashing axe. (And yes, major bonus points for that reference.)

We think part of the problem here is that the current crop of young adults (in that cherished 18-35 demographic) is the first generation of adults that frequently play video games. Video games first came out when we were kids — so we played them. We're adults now — and we still play them. The majority of the people who were already adults when video games first came out in the seventies do not play them — they believe that video games are a "kid thing."

So basically, it never occurred to the current generation of legislators (who are generally one or two generations older than us) that video games could have "adult content." They were made for kids, right? Who would ever put out video games aimed at adults, right?

That was their mistake. They didn't get into the gaming industry early enough; now they're struggling to catch up, and overcompensating severely in so doing.

Legislators: stop with the "outcry" bullshit, the "oh, it's offensive" bullshit. Just make sure the ratings system is up to snuff, and rework and enforce the laws regarding the sale of "adult-rated" video games (the ones with "objectionable" content) to minors. Just like a bar, or a movie theatre, or a porn shop — if you walk into a gaming store to order an adult-rated game, you get carded. Pretty damn simple!

Then: stop blaming the creators of these games. If "those-who-shouldn't-see-it" play these games, either their parents or guardians got it for them — in which case, no foul, shut up, parents do get to decide these things — or the vendor mistakenly gave it to them, in which case it's just like a bookseller giving porn to a kid. Seriously, how fucking simple could this be?

In a perfect world, all entertainment media should be rated by the same organization. Movies, books, magazines, television, video games, music...all of it. There is no intrinsic difference between these things; set up a system that covers it all!

We think it's just ridiculous that the legislators are "Shocked! Shocked, I say!" at the idea that there's "Dirty stuff!" in video games. It's just another entertainment medium. Violence and pornography have found their way into every medium since the dawn of civilization. A medium is born...and, eventually and inevitably, it is used to convey pornographic content. This is true of song, stage, prose, poetry, painting, sculpture, photography, movies, television, video games, the internet...all of it. Seriously, people — there are pornographic coloring books and candies! That's just how human civilization works, and it's nothing new! These laughable legislators are cut from the same cloth as Bernard Goldberg (who we'll be Ranting about soon), who thinks the culture is just now going down the tubes. What, are you legislators blind? None of this is new.

This seemingly deliberate blindness may stem from the fact that these folks grew up in the fifties. That decade was just a huge steaming pile of repression, with an "idyllic" façade that covered up the fact that the nasty stuff was still going on, just as it always is. Just because nobody was acknowledging it publicly doesn't mean it wasn't there. If nothing else, the Kinsey report should make that point clear. (We've discussed this before.)

It was a stupid, silly decade. It was such a socio-psychologically immature period that it stunted the growth of these people's brains. It created a false morality and behavioral model that didn't actually exist in reality. And now the folks who were indoctrinated by the Fifties Mentality are the ones in charge of our government. No wonder the Religious Right folks are finding such sympathetic ears in legislation these days.

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[  Filed under: % Computers & the Internet  % Government & Politics  % Media & Censorship  ]

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.twopercentco.com/rants/tpc-trkbk.cgi/194

Comments (9)

Grendel, 2005.07.28 (Thu) 11:56 [Link] »

"It was a stupid, silly decade. It was such a socio-psychologically immature period that it stunted the growth of these people's brains. It created a false morality and behavioral model that didn't actually exist in reality. And now the folks who were indoctrinated by the Fifties Mentality are the ones in charge of our government. No wonder the Religious Right folks are finding such sympathetic ears in legislation these days."

I'm one of your 1950s people indictrinated with the 50s Mentality and desperately trying to function with brain growth stunted by socio-psychological immaturity. I'm also a local government employee placed in the upper layers of administration.

Gosh, I had NO IDEA I was so clueless and I thank you for pointing that out.

Now, let's see if I can find that recent rant where y'all castigated a poster for painting an entire class of people with the same ugly brush.............

The Two Percent Company, 2005.07.28 (Thu) 13:49 [Link] »


And now the folks who were indoctrinated by the Fifties Mentality are the ones in charge of our government.

We were talking about the folks who were indoctrinated by that bogus fifties mentality, not "everybody who lived through the fifties." We personally know lots of people who lived in the 1950s but who were not indoctrinated by it. What we need is more of that latter group of people in positions of influence.

So, assuming for a moment that you are not among the people raised in the 1950s who are "shocked" about sexual content in various types of media, who are shouting about what they see as the downward spiral of culture in America, and who are therefore calling for extraordinarily harsh penalties for anything that even seems sexual in nature, we certainly weren't painting you with the brush in question.

In our opinion, the fifties were a silly and immature decade in this country, and many of the people we know who lived through it share that opinion. The fact that there was all the "fun" stuff going on beneath the stunted façade just shows that not everybody was indoctrinated by that repressed status quo.

We have a whole slew of insults handy for the seventies, too — in case you think we're singling out the fifties.

Grendel, 2005.07.29 (Fri) 01:11 [Link] »

Name one decade not tainted by silliness. The assignment is done in hindsight, obviously. I've no doubt I was just as guilty of it 'in my day', but it does get tiresome to see each new generation cast aspersions on previous generations as if the same won't happen to them by future generations, lol.

Everything in every generation was exactly as it should have been.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.07.29 (Fri) 12:21 [Link] »

Every decade has its problems, Gren, as we suggested at the end of our last comment. What we are pointing out is that one of the specific problems that we see with the fifties is the rampant repression that seems to have characterized it, and which some people who lived through the fifties seem to have been indoctrinated by. While there sure is a lot of silliness (and more broadly, stupidity) that we can assign to, for example, the seventies (winner of our coveted Worst Fashion Decade Ever award), we certainly wouldn't label the seventies as "repressed."

We aren't pitching the idea that "older generations are silly compared to the more recent past" — more accurately, we're saying that all generational time periods have their specific brands of stupidity, and for the fifties, that brand was repression. No era is perfect, but each of their imperfections is different. The current Zeitgeist is pretty far removed from anything resembling "repression," which is why the conservatives are having such difficulty accepting it.

One thing we have to disagree with, though, is your statement that "Everything in every generation was exactly as it should have been." Huh? If we read that literally, it seems to say that any generation that endorsed and embraced slavery or state-sponsored racism (for two of many examples) was "exactly as it should have been." We know you don't mean that, but then...what do you mean?

Grendel, 2005.07.29 (Fri) 13:52 [Link] »

I meant exactly what I said, but can clear it up for you by appending an explanatory phrase:

"Everything in every generation was exactly as it should have been -given their circumstances."

Shawn McCormick, 2005.08.03 (Wed) 10:00 [Link] »

On an unrelated note, to your partisan bickering between the skepticrats at 2% and skepticans represented by Grendel...

The absurdity of this entire issue was made clear to me in my mid-twenties with a single episode at Blockbuster. I was working there and a mother was in there with two girls who were probably early teens. The brought a movie to the mother to rent and here's the conversation that happened:

GIRL: "Here mom, we want this one"

MOM: "Child's Play 2? It's R-rated, you can't have this."

GIRL: (sighing) "Mom, it's a horror film, there's not sex in it, just killing."

MOM: "Oh, Ok."

This is a nearly verbatim recitation of their conversation. It struck me so hard, that I remember it clearly years later. It pretty much covers all the points of the rant, I think.

Grendel, 2005.08.03 (Wed) 13:02 [Link] »

I'm not sure how well the Two Percent Company, or I, or anyone else can differentiate between a politician's sincere position (if antiquated) and simple, cynical posturing for the voting masses.

For example, Hillary has made statements indicating she'll vote in support of the nomination of John Roberts to the US Supreme Court. I think it's safe to say that were she not setting herself up for a 2008 presidential run, she'd be among the primary liberals at the barricades with a bullhorn screaming for the guy's neck.

When a politician's stated intent seems ridiculous, perhaps it IS ridiculous and stands as evidence of their disingenuousness in pursuit of some political agendum. So, the problem lies not in politician's behaving like, well, politicians, but in our error in taking them at their overt word.

There is always political gold to be found in appealing to parents' concerns about media content. It needn't be sincere.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.08.04 (Thu) 17:09 [Link] »

Frightening stuff, Shawn, and very apropos to the Rant. As Trey Parker and Matt Stone have so eloquently proven time and time again, those trying to legislate entertainment have their priorities seriously out of whack. The thing that amazes us is that so many parents seem to welcome this legislation in lieu of actually parenting their children themselves. We touched on this in a previous Rant, after citing some poll results on the subject:

Wait...it seems that people actually understand that the lack of parental supervision is the main culprit here — in 1999, 90% of people polled seemed to think that was the main cause of increased violence in American society. It is also clear that many of these same people, who freely admit that lack of parenting is the problem, have no desire to fix this problem themselves. Instead, they want the government to do something about it. In a nutshell, they aren't doing the job themselves, so they want the FCC to take care of it. What a load of #@*&!

And Gren, you're dead-on-balls correct...a large part of the problem with politicians is not their consistent display of dishonesty and corruption, but our expecting them to do anything else.

We often find ourselves just as furious at the victims of pseudoscientific con jobs as we are at the perpetrators. It sure does seem natural to extend that position into the political arena — but the sheer magnitude of the trickery, and the multitudes of victims, give us pause to think whether we should, perhaps, blame the system rather than those fooled by it.

Grendel, 2005.08.04 (Thu) 20:49 [Link] »

Please don't use the words 'dead' and 'balls' in the same post with a guy my age around....

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