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A Clockwork Joystick:

In 1971, I was nearing high school graduation and dating a girl a few years younger than myself. We had both looked forward to seeing the highly anticipated new film from Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange. That many parents were already up in arms about the film’s depiction of violent acts perpetrated by a futuristic youth gang only whetted our appetites. Man, here it comes: the movie everybody is rattled about.

And then, we couldn’t get in to see it. Actually, I was old enough. but my girlfriend was not. We had counted on the movie theater personnel not caring too much about proof of age, but Kubrick’s film and the controversy surrounding it had put everybody on point.

Ah, those were the days. When you could rely on a pimply-faced kid in a red corduroy theater vest to protect your own teens from violence and sexuality and nudity and depictions of drug use and — Really? Then how come, at one point or another, it felt like every movie I was seeing in the 1970s was rife with that stuff?

Because they were selling those movies to people my age. And now, whether one looks back at that period’s exploitation of a “youth market” in anger or nostalgia, there’s no question that many consider those films a treasure in the canon of Hollywood filmmaking. They represented free thought, resistance to the Viet Nam war, sexual freedom, and a level of respect for audience intelligence that many argue has not been seen since.

So, 35 years from now, will we look back at video games like “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” and see the important contributions it made to the canon of sitting on your ass and killing cartoon humans? I doubt it.

There’s a temptation to accept the notion that issues of exposure to violence and sex are relative to generation. Thus, if young audiences in 1971 could see Clockwork Orange in some — or any — kind of context, then audiences for violent video games today are somehow magically implanted or born with similar context in place. This is often expressed by the people selling the games as “Kids know this is pretend, kids know this is a game and not real…” and on and on into the digitally blood-soaked afternoon at Billy’s house.

Recently it came to light that “GTA: Vice City” contained hidden sequences of sexual acts that could be accessed inside the game by way of a free Internet download. The revelation of that information was rife with contradiction. First of all, media went with the story because it was about sex. That’s fun for them and their viewers. Then, publicizing the sexual content created a market for the download and a wider market for the game. And finally, what should parents be more concerned about: the brutal, sometimes mutilating violence in the game or a depiction of oral sex?

At a time when a Google search on “bestiality” brings up 937,000 sites in 13 seconds of searching… what are we looking for from all this concern about violent video games? I suppose we remain hopeful that the cretins devoting their lives to profiting from something like violent video games will, like repentant drug dealers, find a new and better way to make a living. It’s wishful thinking, but the kind you hope never quite goes away.

Some yearn for the industries involved, then government, to somehow step into the picture. In 2004, a movie theater chain in the Midwest began issuing an “R-Card” to teen movie customers, allowing them to see R-rated films after returning a form signed by their parents. The parents saying, in effect, “Let my child into R rated films, we’re okay with it.” Who knows? Maybe the parents and the child actually sat down and talked about it.

This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz

1) Tony Blair will take measures against

(a) radical mosques and clerics.

(b) the Knights who say “Ni.”

(c) any Spice Girls comeback.

2) Dick Cheney visited Saudi Arabia

(a) as part of “Oilapalooza 2005.”

(b) to visit King Abdullah.

(c) where he’s known as “The White God.”

3) Mayor Villaraigosa warned parents about

(a) their kids’ school truancy.

(b) calories in “Sunny Delight.”

(c) dialogue in “Dukes of Hazzard.”

Answer Key

1) (a) “Enjoy your plane ride…”

2) (b) “That caftan is fab on you…”3) (a) Some parents skipped the meeting.

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