Movie Ratings, Gun Violence, and Street Furniture Ads

Bus bench ad for upcoming movie, 22 Jump Street

Bus bench ad for upcoming movie, 22 Jump Street

The list of reasons for giving the soon-to-be released movie “22 Jump Street” an “R” rating include depictions of violence. From the evidence of the ads like the one above prominently displayed on billboards and other signs around Los Angeles, at least some of that violence involves the use of guns.

An “R” rating means that no one under the age 17 will be admitted unless accompanied by an adult. In contrast, the bus bench in the photo is directly across the street from a city library on busy Venice Blvd. and kids of any age who frequent that library can gaze upon the actors Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum with pistols raised, presumbably ready to start firing away.

The Sony Pictures movie due out June 8 was also given an “R” rating for “sexual content” and “brief nudity.” Imagine for a moment that the ad on the bus bench showed one of the females in the movie unclothed with private parts fully in view. That scenario is not only extremely unlikely, but such an ad in public space would invoke an immediate storm of protest.

Billboard ads with people brandishing guns have stirred complaints, particularly when those ads appeared close to elementary schools or places children and teenagers congregate, and in several cases, the billboard companies did remove them. But these ads remain a staple of the movie and TV industry, appearing regularly on billboards on private property as well as bus shelters, kiosks, and bus benches in the public right-of-way.

The photo of the “Public Amenity Kiosk” (right) was taken the day after the mass shooting May 23 near the UC Santa Barbara campus.22 Movie  The kiosk, which is less than 400 ft. from the grounds of an elementary school in Venice, is part of the city’s street furniture program, which contracts with CBS/Decaux to place and maintain bus shelters, kiosks, and automated toilets throughout the city.

Because the kiosks and other items of street furniture are on city-owned property, the city can legally impose restrictions on ad content. For example, the City Council is set to vote tomorrow on an ordinance that would ban alcohol advertising on these kinds of signs, although that prohibition would not go into effect until 2021, when the contract with CBS/Decaux expires.

During committee debate on the alcohol advertising ban, several councilmembers said that the considerable revenue companies get from that advertising and the share going to the city should be irrelevant when the health and safety of many city residents is negatively affected by alcohol abuse and addiction.

A study by the Los Angeles County Departmentof Public Health reported that about 2,500 people die each year in the county from alcohol-related causes, including accidents, disease, and criminal acts. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1,141 persons in the city of Los Angeles were murdered by firearms in 2009-2010, the last years for which statistics were available.

To put those two statistics in context, consider that 3 million people live in the city while the county’s population is just under 10 million. In any case, it would seem that gun-related deaths pose a public health issue that warrants attention from the same politicians who will decide whether or not alcohol advertising should be allowed on public property.

See Also:

Gun Violence and the Visual Landscape of Los Angeles

L.A. Declares Gun Violence Prevention Day:  City Bus Shelters Display Ads With Guns


Dennis Hathaway

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