Thursday night saw one of the first big events at the Tribeca Film Festival, a panel called The Kid Slays in the Picture, on the relation between horror films and the debate over violence in the media. The panel featured Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, a child advocacy group that fancies itself as a sort of companion to the MPAA, Peter Block, the President of Film Acquisitions for Lionsgate, which has of course been in the media lately over the upcoming film Captivity, and the star of the evening, horror legend John Carpenter. For those who showed up just to hear and see Carpenter, however, the evening might have proved a bit too academic. Following an hour of polite conversation about how best to square child advocacy issues with media regulations, one of the first questions to emerge from the (possibly) frustrated audience was "Mr. Carpenter, what do you think of Rob Zombie's Halloween?" The entire talk went nearly an hour and a half, but here's a transcribed sampling from about the middle 30 minutes. Enjoy.
Moderator: John's films have been successful in all sorts of countries that have much lower instances of violence than the United States. Japan or Switzerland. I imagine his films have been successful there. Saw must play, Hostel must be very successful in foreign territories.
Peter: Absolutely. In fact, it keeps growing.
Moderator: So we can't really say the films are going to have the same effect in Japan as they have in the United States, if they have any effect at all. It seems that what you're looking at, Jim, is much more what people are afraid of, than what the real effects of these films were.
Jim: I actually do believe violence is a major public health issue. Again, I go beyond the film genre. I stand by -- you guys might totally disagree with me -- I don't think -- I absolutely don't think you should be able to sell ultra-violent games to kids. I don't. I think that's just stupid, and I think it ought to be treated that way, and we can agree or disagree on that. But I think that's a huge deal. I think that when you look at news media, there's a tremendous need -- this is about content in general -- there's a need on the part of the producers of the shows, Fox News, CNN, there's a degree of discretion or responsibility that is not sometimes exercised. But the one place I'm sure none of us want to go is into the land of censorship or the land of me determining what should be the content of '24.' I think their issue of torture, by the way, the fact that our society has engaged in torture over the last four or five years, is an unbelievable fact, for me as an American to deal with. But I don't blame that on what Kiefer Sutherland does on '24.' Although I think there are issues there that are worth exploring, in terms of the way those scenes are done, only if GIs will imitate what they see on a show like that.