The FTC wants Hollywood to think of the children. The New York Times reports that the FTC has blasted the film industry for "explicit and pervasive targeting of young children," specifically by advertising PG-13 and R-rated films during TV shows and websites that may attract younger audiences. The "unrated" DVD craze is also said to be geared at corrupting the youth, as the films up the gore ante on films originally given a PG-13 or R rating, and retailers routinely sell R-rated DVDs to kids under 17.

While I do believe in protecting the youth of America, I'm not sure the FTC is being entirely fair to the movie industry. With the Internet, kids can go anywhere. Saying that advertisements for R-rated films "may" show up on sites kids and teens visit is casting a pretty wide and impossible net that can really only be contained by parental controls. Nor is it the fault of studios that retailers are selling DVDs to young kids. Blame that on a retail industry that's kept in motion by underpaid teens and twentysomethings who just don't want to be yelled at when they refuse to sell Watchmen to a 13 year old. Stores should put in a strict and well-advertised policy that they'll check IDs before selling DVDs, just like movie theaters do, and the problem can be solved right there. Now, could there be an insidious plot by studios to prevent such discipline, and prop up their dwindling DVD sales? I can't answer that.

While Hollywood certainly could do more self-policing, like the video game industry does, I will always feel the blame rests on two (or in some cases, one) individuals the FTC doesn't like to blame: Parents. It isn't the job of studios or stores to make sure kids aren't watching violent or explicit content.


There's a frightening tendency among many parents to just turn kids loose online, or hand them wads of money to visit the mall or multiplex with. Just last week while in line for The Road, I fell into a conversation with two young girls who had been dumped at the theater with thirty bucks and instructions to buy tickets for A Christmas Carol. They couldn't have been more than 8-years-old, but the list of splatter films they'd seen was longer than mine. It was rather horrifying -- and I'm a free-spirited sort who would let her young kids watch the same R-rated things I grew up on. To their credit, they were remarkably well-adjusted girls who really laughed it all off as "just a movie." (The same as we, who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s did, but that's probably an argument for another time.)

While I know Hollywood just wants to sell tickets and DVDs, it's hard to hold them accountable for an 8-year-old having access to "unrated" DVDs. Just a glance at the cover for The Last House on the Left makes it pretty obvious that it's not intended for a young audience, so I hardly think parents are being tricked into thinking it's appropriate because it's "unrated." The only ones who can truly prevent what kids "may" see are the ones raising them, and alarmist FTC reports just don't stress that enough.