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Does Utah have a double standard for violent and sexual content?

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Feb 22nd, 2013 @ 8:30am



SALT LAKE CITY — Is there a double standard in Utah when it comes to viewing explicit violent and sexual content? Those who analyze the behavior say there is, though the state does not differ from any other with a strong right or left political leaning.

"Liberals are concerned about violence," said University of Utah professor of communication Jim Anderson, also an expert in the study of media violence. "Conservatives are concerned about sex."

Anderson said Utah is no different than any other "Red" state in having a large number of people who object to sexual content in movies, television and video games while letting violent content slide.

Conversely, Anderson observed, people in left-leaning "Blue" states may tend to raise concerns over violent content and less about the on-screen sex.

"If you look at political action groups and how they arrange themselves on these issues, you'll find that it holds up quite well," Anderson said.

It's a trend another local media violence researcher has noticed.


In Utah, you have so many people who wouldn't blink going to see an exceptionally violent movie who get very offended at nudity.

–Sarah Coyne, BYU asst. professor


"In Utah, you have so many people who wouldn't blink going to see an exceptionally violent movie, who get very offended at nudity," said BYU assistant professor of family life Sarah Coyne.

The topic falls into the larger discussion of violence in media, people's attitudes toward it and its impact on the recent gun violence that has scarred several states.

Violent content has come under increased scrutiny since the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and at a theater in Aurora, Colo.

Neither Anderson nor Coyne believed violence in media could turn an average, essentially "normal" person into a killer, but they had differing views on the violence having any impact.

Coyne said her research has shown that violence from TV, movies and video games has a correlation with more aggressive behavior in those who watch or participate.

"What you are more likely to do is go home and yell at your wife or kick your dog," Coyne said.

Anderson said 10 percent of the population is susceptible to media violence effects.

"On the flip side it means 90 percent of us really don't have any trouble," Anderson said.

Coyne said the problem with a lot of research is it doesn't consider more mundane, aggressive behaviors.

Anderson said the common sense approach was to take responsibility for their children's viewing habits as well as for their own — decreasing viewing of violent content at the first signs of trouble.

Coyne suggested people should consider the violence they view as if it were to play out in real life.

"I think that we would be good to be attuned to violence in all sorts of sources. I think until we are, our society is just going to continue to be violent and grow in violence," Coyne said.

Nick Weinacker said he is OK with violent movies and likes watching things "blow up," but wasn't sure how to explain the interest to his kids, ages 2 and 4, when they get bigger.

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"I'll get back to you when I figure that out," he said.

Weinacker said he'd like to see a "better layer of control" in relation to accessing violent content.

Robyn Fields, a mother of five, said moviegoers should send a message to moviemakers about violence in their films.

"Ideally we shouldn't go and support those movies," Fields said.

After his critically acclaimed, but blood-soaked blockbuster "D'Jango Unchained" was released, director and producer Quentin Tarantino told ABC News blaming movie violence for real-life crime misses the point.

"The fact that people will be wasting time talking about the violence in movies or in comic books or in video games and not dealing with what obviously is a real problem is very problematic to me," Tarantino said. "In Shakespeare's time, he was blamed all the time for the anarchy in the streets. So there's violence in the streets, there's crime — who do you blame? The playmakers, because it's very easy to blame them."

Anderson was skeptical about the impact of reducing violent content in media.

"It's a myth that we want to hang on to that if only we could fix the media, we could fix our society," Anderson said. "It's just simply foolish."

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