Carpenter: Horror films don't cause violence

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Horror movies reflect the culture we live in and cannot be blamed for causing real-life violence, said the slasher genre director of the Hollywood classic "Halloween."

As the top U.S. media watchdog is suggesting Congress could regulate violent content on television, John Carpenter told a Tribeca Film Festival panel on violence on the big screen that government control of films is not needed.

"Real life causes this, fake life does not cause it," Carpenter said Thursday. "The reason for a lot of these movies is the culture that we live in, the events that have gone on in our world."

"Censorship never works. You cannot destroy an idea. You can hide, you can try to cover it up, but you can't destroy it, it will be there and it will bubble up again," Carpenter said.

Others on the panel agreed, including Peter Block, executive producer of the "Saw" series of horror films, and Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, a group aimed at improving media and entertainment for children.

The FCC released a report Wednesday that found exposure to violence in the media can increase aggressive behavior in children, at least for a short while.

The FCC's list of recommendations included a suggestion that Congress could develop a definition of excessively violent programming, though it said such language needed to be narrowly tailored.

The FCC regulates obscenity, sexual content and profanity on radio, television, wire, satellite and cable, but does not have the power to regulate violence on the airwaves.

"I do believe media impacts people's behavior. The average kid today spends about 50 hours a week consuming media, and they now get it on every kind of platform imaginable," Steyer said.

"We have a violent society, and we as a broader society need to address that, but I don't think limiting ... creative freedom has anything to do with addressing that," he said.

The MPAA controls a voluntary system of rating movies to indicate what age group a film is suitable for. Most filmmakers submit their movies for a rating as it makes it easier to distribute and market.

"I worry so much more about my kids wandering into the room when the news is being blurbed on television and they're watching," said Block, who is also president of acquisitions and co-productions at Lionsgate Entertainment.

"It's never happy shiny people stories, it's the war or murder or something that happened and I can't protect them from that and they know that's reality," Block said.
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