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Have Aurora, Newtown affected screen violence?

By Jocelyn Noveck

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, July 16 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

"I don't think there's any soul-searching about violence on the part of studio executives," Min says. "But if a different kind of movie does well, you'll see others coming out like it."

After all: "It's all driven by economics in Hollywood."

VIDEO GAMES: IS THERE A LINK?

Video games got extra scrutiny after Newtown, especially the "first-person shooter" type apparently favored by 20-year-old killer Adam Lanza.

Industry executives say the scrutiny is unjustified.

"People who play video games have a very firm grasp on the distinction between the fantasy world of play and what happens in the real world," Andrew House, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, said in a June interview.

Researchers tend to support him. "Everybody's focusing on video games, but empirically, it just hasn't been proven," says Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University who's studied behavioral effects of video games.

Besides, he says, "it would have been surprising if Lanza hadn't played those games, because most male adolescents play them." He says games may marginally increase aggression — but not to the level of violence.

Other research, says psychology professor Sherry Hamby, has suggested possible negative effects of intense consumption of violent content across media platforms. "But just because a kid plays 'Call of Duty' doesn't mean he's going to become an assailant," says Hamby, who's on the American Psychological Association's task force on media violence.

Industry heads say it's about parental control. "Games are rated for a reason," says Vince Zampella, co-creator of "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare."

The appetite for shoot-'em-up games doesn't seem to have waned. Each month since Aurora, mature-rated shooting games have been among the top 10 sold, according to industry tracker NPD Group.

TELEVISION: ZOMBIES AND SERIAL KILLERS

Shortly after Newtown, the entertainment presidents of both NBC and Fox said they didn't believe there was any connection between violence their networks depict and real-life tragedies.

"Nothing that is on the air is inappropriate," said Nina Tassler, entertainment chief for CBS.

Executives go with what's buzz-worthy — like AMC's "The Walking Dead," a gory zombie drama. Fox's most successful new show, "The Following," features Kevin Bacon as an investigator chasing a charismatic killer who gouges out his victims' eyes. There's also NBC's "Hannibal," about serial killer Hannibal Lecter.

And one of the most talked-about TV moments this spring came on HBO's "Game of Thrones": a celebration leading to an orgy of stabbings (beginning with a pregnant woman), throat slittings and shootings.

Events like Aurora and Newtown have little impact on the thinking of television executives, says Tim Winter of the Parents Television Council.

It's, "'We can get back to business as usual as soon as people stop talking of these things,'" he says.

For TV executives, "there's so much money involved that they look the other way, even if they're socially conscious, intelligent people," says Dr. Victor Strasburger, pediatrics professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

There's been at least one pang of hesitation. After Aurora, writer-producer Kurt Sutter, whose bloody "Sons of Anarchy" follows a group of outlaw bikers, said on Twitter that "this kinda thing always make me question my liberal use of violence in storytelling."

MOVIES: A FOCUS ON RATINGS

After Aurora, Warner Bros. found itself in the uncomfortable position of having to pull trailers for its "Gangster Squad" due to a scene of gunmen shooting up a movie theater. The film was postponed and reshot.

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