Clinton encourages Hollywood to reduce violent movie images

He calls for re-evaluation of rating system, ban on guns in film ads, previews


LOS ANGELES -- Turning up the heat on Hollywood, President Clinton urged the movie industry yesterday to re-evaluate its film-rating system with an eye toward rooting out "too much gratuitous violence," especially in the PG-13 category.

The president also called on the entertainment industry to ban guns in movie ads and previews, and said theaters and video stores must more strictly enforce the ratings system by screening young patrons.

"You should check IDs, not turn the other way as a child walks unchaperoned into an R-rated movie," he said.

Clinton said Hollywood has helped reduce violent images seen by children with the program ratings system and the V-chip, but added: "There is still too much violence on our nation's screens, large and small."

The president issued the three-pronged challenge in his weekly radio address hours before arriving in Los Angeles as the star attraction at a Beverly Hills fund-raiser. The event, attended by Hollywood moguls and entertainers, is expected to bring Democrats an estimated $2 million in campaign funds for the battle to regain control of Congress next year.

Since the Littleton, Colo., school shootings, which claimed 15 lives, Clinton has launched a crusade to curb the pervasive violence in American culture, identifying Hollywood and the gun industry as two prime culprits.

His remarks yesterday elicited various responses from the entertainment industry, with some representatives supporting his proposals and others calling for tighter controls in other markets.

At the Cannes Film Festival in France, Regent Entertainment partner Mark R. Harris said he would back a ban on guns in movie trailers.

"I think guns should be outlawed, so I would be a hypocrite to enhance my own monetary gains" by featuring guns in trailers designed to promote a film, he said.

But John Hegeman, executive vice president of worldwide marketing for Artisan Entertainment, disagreed.

"Gratuitous violence at any level should be curtailed. But this is just a knee-jerk reaction that's hitting the easiest target," Hegeman said.

In Los Angeles, Dan Fellman, president of theatrical distribution for Warner Bros., defended industry standards on movie trailers and advertisements, adding: "I personally hope the country moves for stricter laws for gun control. That's where I want to see some action."

Clinton's hardening stance might be seen as an antagonistic move toward an industry that has ardently befriended, and generously donated to, Democrats in general -- and him in particular.

But as last night's Beverly Hills bash demonstrates, Clinton and the besieged entertainment industry remain close allies.

The president's proposals -- if embraced by Hollywood -- could pre-empt harsher measures that some members of the GOP-dominated Congress are considering.

The president is on a four-day, six-event fund-raising journey in the West that is projected to raise $3 million for his party, with stops in Seattle, Northern California, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas.

Although issuing a direct challenge to the entertainment industry to do more to reduce violence in its products, the president in his radio address called on parents and educators to do their part.

"Making progress requires taking responsibility by all of us. That begins at home," he said. "Parents have a duty to guide children as they grow and to stay involved in their lives as they grow older and more independent."

He added: "Educators have a responsibility to provide safe learning environments, to teach children how to handle conflicts without violence and how to treat all young people, no matter how different, with respect. They also need to teach them how to get counseling or mental health services if they're needed."

At the same time, the president said, communities must reach out to children -- "especially those who don't get their needs met at home."

Pub Date: 5/16/99

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