Contact: John Cones 310/477-6842


Los Angeles--Securities/entertainment attorney John W. Cones stated Thursday that our nation's ongoing debate regarding the relationship between feature films and the violent acts of children, recently renewed by the tragic events in Jonesboro, Arkansas, is going in the wrong direction and that direction is a dead end! Cones provides a summary of the debate as follows: Concerned citizens point out that graphic violence depicted through feature films (and other media) is a contributing cause to some violent behavior in certain children. They seem to suggest that the federal government must step in and impose reasonable limits on the levels of violence that can be depicted through film. The film industry responds that movies are merely entertainment, that there is no proof that violence on the screen causes violent behavior in anyone, that any attempt to restrict their right to portray violence on the screen is censorship, and that such efforts violate their constitutionally protected right to free speech. That ends the debate. The film industry wins. Violence in films and on the streets continues. In the alternative, Cones contends, we should be taking a broader view of the impact of feature films on society. For example, he suggests that we should recognize that all movies communicate ideas and ideas have always and will always influence human behavior. Therefore, it is proven by pure logic alone that movies influence human behavior (i.e., movies communicate ideas, ideas influence human behavior, therefore movies influence at least some human behavior). This means that not only are movies a contributing cause of violent behavior in some children, but movies also influence our society's thinking and behavior about appropriate sexual conduct, graphic language, the use of violence to solve problems in general, our attitudes toward religion and other authoritative institutions and/or individuals in our lives (as a result of Hollywood's consistent anti-religious and anti-authority themes), and how we think about and behave toward each other (i.e., as a result of the blatant patterns of bias consistently portrayed through Hollywood movies over the years).

Further, Cones contends that this "patterns of bias" issue is the key to both understanding and reforming the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry. Here's how that argument goes. Hollywood movies have long contained blatant patterns of bias. They have consistently portrayed whole populations of our diverse society in a negative or stereotypical manner. During a significant segment of many individual lives (particularly those who are relatively young, uneducated or unsophisticated), repeatedly watching hundreds of powerful motion picture images that consistently portray whole populations of our diverse society in a negative or stereotypical manner can contribute to prejudicial thinking, which in turn, is often the basis of real-life discriminatory behavior. Thus, at minimum we must concede, movies that consistently portray certain people in a negative or stereotypical manner are clearly not helping us solve our society's problems of misunderstanding and mistrust, but more likely, making them worse.

Furthermore, the motion picture industry is dominated by a small group of so-called major studio/distributors, based in and around the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. The studio releases are the movies seen by more than 92% of the domestic moviegoing audience, and significant portions of moviegoers in other countries. The people in Hollywood who have the power to decide which movies are produced and released, to determine who gets to work in the key positions on such movies and to approve of the screenplays serving as the basis for these movies are the three top studio executives at the major studio/distributors.

The major studio/distributors, through various approval rights, are consequently able to determine to a great extent which movies are produced and to some extent the content of these movies. The process for determining who rises to assume one of these control positions at the major studio/distributors arbitrarily excludes large segments of our multi-cultural society. Since movies to a large extent, tend to mirror the values, interests, cultural perspectives and prejudices of their makers, the result is a severe limit on diversity and creativity in movie making and the above noted patterns of bias.

To make matters worse, this narrowly-defined Hollywood control group gained and has maintained its power for the nearly 90-year history of Hollywood through the use of several hundred specifically identifiable unfair, unethical, unconscionable, anti-competitive, predatory and illegal business practices, including massive employment discrimination and antitrust law violations. The Hollywood control group gets away with its "proclivity for wrongful conduct" by routing huge political contributions to presidential candidates and key members of Congress through excessively overpaid studio executives, their spouses and multiple political action committees, so as to discourage vigorous enforcement of the employment discrimination, antitrust and other laws in the Hollywood-based U.S. film industry. Federal government policy, specifically, the federal government's anti-trust law enforcement policy currently contributes to the ability of the major studio distributors to control and dominate the marketplace.

Efforts to reform the U.S. film industry must focus on creating a level playing field for all persons striving to work in the film industry and creating diversity at all levels in the industry. In the process, we will create a film industry whose players are less powerful and less arrogant, along with being more sensitive to the needs of society as a whole.


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