BMX XXX

In the movie "The People vs. Larry Flint", Larry Flint, played by Woody Harrelson, gave a lecture to the free speech society he helped fund. In it, he asked one fundamental question of the world, "What is more obscene, sex or war?"

Though I must have read a dozen pages from parent groups, many of which included a mention of this speech, every single one dodged the issue. Rather than addressing what is perhaps the most serious question about our society's morals and values, they instead attack Larry Flint's ethics and background, something that's all-too-easy to do.

I'm not saying that Larry Flint is a good person or ever was, but he did ask a question that needs to be answered. But rather than addressing it in an essay or in some kind of law, we address it every day in how we handle our society and treat the issues of sex and violence in our modern culture.

An excellent example of this is the upcoming video game from Acclaim entertainment "BMX XXX." The game, which features full-motion video of strippers, topless female BMXers, crude language and even dog copulation, has earned a "Mature" rating (roughly equivalent to being rated "R") from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) for "Comic mischief, nudity, strong language and strong sexual content."

Interestingly absent from this list of objections is any mention of violence.

While BMX XXX isn't the first game to get the "M" rating, it is the first to get it for sex and this has caused an uproar in the video game community. Many major retailers, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Circuit City have said they're not going to carry the game and groups like the Parents Television Council have been applauding the decision.

However, to put it modestly, it's a decision that smacks with hypocrisy. All three of the retailers in question carry "R" rated movies that contain content as strong, if not stronger, than "BMX XXX". In fact, Best Buy carries soft-core pornography including "Girls Gone Wild" and Seduction Cinema flicks such as "The Erotic Witch Project". In addition to that, two of the retailers, Best Buy and Circuit City, carry the violence-laden "Grand Theft Auto 3" and countless other titles that have earned the "M" rating for the vast amounts of blood and gore contained in them.

This in turn begs two very interesting questions: 1) Do we hold video games to a different standard than other forms of entertainment? 2) "What is more obscene, sex or war?"

The first question is the obvious one because it's quite clear that video games are held to a different set of standards than movies or music. Acclaim itself tried to compare it's "BMX XXX" to "American Pie", a movie all three of those retailers carry, but even though the objectionable content between the two works are very similar, their logic fell on deaf ears.

A lot of that stems from how people, like myself, grew up thinking of video games. As a die-hard member of the Nintendo generation, I grew up thinking video games were only for kids and that no adult in his right mind would want to play "Super Mario 3". But the truth is that over 60% of all modern video game systems are owned by individuals 18 or older (my younger brother being one of them) and there's no denying that the age of the average gamer has skyrocketed since the golden age of gaming in the 1980s. The simple truth is that people like myself who were raised on Nintendo have grown into Playstation 2 users while fewer and fewer young people are willing or able to shell out the $200 required to get into modern gaming.

But while marketers have noticed this trend and have begun creating more and more games for older audiences, the rules about what you can and cannot have in video games haven't changed much since the days of "Mortal Kombat". Graphic violence is OK so long as it comes with a warning (those ESRB ratings), but any glimpse of nudity or inclusion of strong sexuality is enough to get you kicked to the curb.

But this in turn begs the second question, the same one posed by Larry Flint, "Which is more obscene, sex or war?"

There's no easy answer to that question, but as a society, we've answered it in so many different ways. Movies with graphic violence are rated "R" while movies with graphic sex are rated "X", taking a child to see a violent film at worst makes you a bad parent, but showing him or her a movie about sex is "contributing to the delinquency of a minor", a crime punishable with prison time. We live in a society where books about sex, like "Lady Chatterley's Lover", are pulled from school shelves while books that depict graphic violence, such as "The Killer Angels", are made required reading.

As a society, we decided that sex and violence were not appropriate for children and no one is saying that they are. But we also decided violence is better than sex, that the destruction of life is less harmful for young eyes than the creation of it, that hate is more appropriate than love and that pain is less damaging than pleasure.

Is it any wonder why we live in such a violent society? How can we expect peace when we accept violence in order to make sex more taboo? We can't. This isn't a matter of video games warping young minds or media turning kids into monsters, rather, it's an indication of our priorities as a culture, priorities which tell kids that it's better to beat a friend over the head with a trash can than to have an sexually impure thought and that the natural instinct for love is more evil than the instinct to kill.

So, I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to decide what we should do about this. This is something that's come about over hundreds of years of near-puritan thinking and I'm stumped on how to solve the crisis now. Perhaps we've gone too far to come back or perhaps we're just too stubborn to ever change our ways, no matter how stupid they are.

But no matter what the answer is, I know that BMX XXX isn't our problem. After all, it's just a video game that shows images of nude women. As taboo as that may be in our society, at least it's not telling your kids to run around and shoot everything in sight.

Even if that is the message Best Buy and other retailers will allow on its shelves without a second thought…

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6 Responses to BMX XXX

  1. Vanessa says:

    Wow, Raven! You've done it again! Thank you for shedding light on this interesting issue. As a person that thoroughly enjoys playing videogames, I don't see how this "obscene material" that implies sexuality damages our youth. If a parent truthfully thinks this and they don't want their son playing Mr Mosquito because it shows a woman in a bathtub, fine. But don't be hypocritical and take your 8-year old to see Jason vs Freddy because you somehow think blood and gore is "safer" than the human body.

  2. Bran. says:

    Consider the Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson's movie. The violence in it is deeply terrible… But you could have a mature 10-year old watch it and understand the movie, or you could have an immature 16-year old watch it and see only how shocking the violence is. For a long while, humanity had always equated extreme violence on the same level as sex – they don't want their kids to see anything about it until they think their kids are mature enough to handle it. But therein lies the problem: Some kids (and their parents) may never be fully mature to handle such issues.

  3. jaz says:

    that is the most awsome essay i have evr read(not that i've read many) i really agree with your oppinion on this one and will certainly be thinking about it further. thankyou for being so honest and outspoken it is what we need instead of all this steriod typing and mass produced personalities. i really think love is more appropriate than violence!

  4. Phillip says:

    This may be a little off the wall but here is my view, video games do not warp minds, in the few cases that video games are involved they can be simply dissmissed through simple logic and understanding of the human mind. Now i may not have this understanding till i get older considering im only 14 years old and still very young to this world, but if anyone has ever heard of Manhunt (PS2) that is one of the most violent games that i have ever played, it includes a considerable array of foul language and gore, including heads being smashed, sawed off, and totally mutlated people. Yes we do accecpt violence to make sexuallity more taboo, still there are probably other games that are even more violent than that people blame video games for the problems with mind but still they never look at common sence such as what state of mind the person was in to begin with.

  5. bdszb says:

    nice book

  6. Jeremy says:

    Nice essay… But there is one thing I don't quite agree on… When comparing sex and violence, you talk about 'love' and 'creation of life'… But in porn and most videogames it doesn't have anything to do with love or creation of life… So isn't that a bit irrelevant with the point in this essay?

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