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Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, September 29, 2000

It hurts to
watch violence

VIOLENCE is in the eye of the person whose eye is being poked. Curly of the Three Stooges was often poked in the eye by Moe and made a lot of money at it

Today, it would be Larry, Moe and Curly sitting before the U.S. Senate committee investigating violence in the entertainment industry.

Sen. Worrywart Handwringer: Mr. Moe, do you think it s right for children to watch you stooges beat up on each other?

Moe: Shaddup or I'll twist the nose off your face.

Larry: What he's trying to say, your honor, is ... OUCH!

Moe (Putting the microphone stand back down after beaning Larry with it): Did I ask for your help, birdbrain?

Curly (waving his fingers at Moe): Nyuck, Nyuck, Nyuck ... OUCH!

The fact that the Three Stooges only pretended to hurt each other doesn't matter. You think Bruce Willis actually gets blown to smithereens in every movie he's in?

But there is proof that kids do emulate violence they see on the movie screen. In the 1950s, armies of kids were going around fake-slapping each other and smacking the tops of their heads like Curly. We were a country of stooges back then. But we survived.

Why? Because one man's violence is another's entertainment. An ice hockey player is on trial right now for assault because he hit another player with a hockey stick.

If you can prosecute a hockey player for assault, the World Wrestling Association better watch out. Those guys hit each other with chairs and tables. And what about all those bench-clearing baseball brawls? If that happened outside a bar a paddy wagon would be called.

Violence in the movies is harder to gauge. The beginning of "Saving Private Ryan" was a mother lode of violence. But most people were not offended because it made a serious historical point: War sucks.

On the other hand, a lot of people outraged to see two girls beat up a cheating former boyfriend on the "Jerry Springer Show" even though it made a valid point: Living in a trailer park sucks.

But trying to control violence in the entertainment industry is one of those no-lose situations that politicians love. They come off on the side of virtue because no normal-thinking person would be in favor of violence, especially in front of children. Even Vice President Al Gore, wagging his finger righteously at the Hollywood violence mongers, warned that if they didn't clean up their act within six months of his taking office, he'd do it for them. He said this just days before flying to California to accept millions in campaign donations from the very same violence mongers. So it's safe to say they weren't exactly shaking in their Birkenstocks.

The senators have one point. Hollywood shouldn't be showing trailers for violent adult movies to children there to watch a children's movie. But where are the parents? If theaters were showing trailers with explicit sex scenes to kids, parents would be outraged, or at least send the kids to the lobby while they finished "investigating" the sex scenes.

Why the entertainment industry has decided seeing explicit sex is more dangerous to kids than explicit violence, I don t know. I do know that the last thing we want to see is government censorship of movies and television. God knows what we'd be forced to watch if the Supreme Court had final editing authority. Instead of the Three Stooges poking each other in the eye, they'd be slapping each other with subpoenas, which has become another form of obscenity of our times.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
or send E-mail to

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