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Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility
making U.S. films from 1985 to 1995 (Everett et al., 1998). Moreover, 96 percent of those films contained references supportive of alcohol use, while only 37 percent contained references discouraging alcohol use. Alcohol use even occurs in G-rated films. Among G-rated animated feature films released in U.S. theaters from 1937 to 2000 and available on videocassette, 47 percent showed alcohol use with, at best, ambivalent connotations (Thompson and Yokota, 2001). A review by Roberts, Henriksen, and Christensen (1999b) showed that alcohol use occurred in 76 percent of movies rated G or PG, 97 percent of movies rated PG-13, and 94 percent of movies rated R.
Ratings are assigned by a Rating Board appointed by the president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). According to the current MPAA Rating Board guidelines, the criteria taken into account by the board include theme violence, language, nudity, sensuality, and drug abuse. Films are rated as a whole. Under the rating system, films are rated G (all ages admitted), PG (parental guidance suggested because some material may be unsuitable for children), PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned because some material may be inappropriate for children under 13), R (restricted for children under 17 unless accompanied by parent), and NC-17 (no one under 17 admitted). Alcohol use is not explicitly mentioned as a rating criterion in the MPAA guidelines, and actual rating practice is not easily inferred. Although a film with illegal drug use cannot be assigned a G or PG rating, alcohol use (by adults) is widely depicted in films with these ratings.
Recommendation 8-2: The film rating board of the Motion Picture Association of America should consider alcohol content in rating films, avoiding G or PG ratings for films with unsuitable alcohol content, and assigning mature ratings for films that portray underage drinking in a favorable light.
Music is a popular form of entertainment for young people: 11- to 13-year-olds spend 11.2 hours per week and 14- to 18-year-olds spend 9.3 hours per week listening to music on radio, compact disks (CDs), or tape (Roberts et al., 1999a). Many parents and other adults are likely unaware of the extent of alcohol images in today’s music and music videos, particularly rap music, which is especially appealing to young people. References to alcohol and drinking, including brand-name references and lyrics and images glamorizing alcohol use, are commonplace in today’s music, particularly in hip hop songs and music videos. A recent content analysis (Roberts et al., 1999b) examined 1,000 of the most popular songs from