Originally created 07/21/02

Bop! Boom! Crack! Boing! Ouch!



Bugs Bunny is making people besides Elmer Fudd angry.

A study of college students showed they were 25 percent more likely to be aggressive after watching a "Bugs Bunny" cartoon than students watching a travelogue, said Paul Gathercoal, a professor of education and a media expert at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

The solution, Gathercoal said, is education. Viewers, adults and children alike, can prevent cartoons from making them more angry if they're aware of the effect animation can have on them, he said.

"Children do have this ability if they're taught about it," said Gathercoal, who is a supporter of more media courses in public schools.

Cartoon characters aren't real, and that means viewers find it more acceptable to watch them fall off a cliff or see an anvil to fall on their heads. On the positive side, cartoon superheroes can save the day.

Donna Friedman, executive vice president in charge of Kids' WB!, said The WB avoids weaponry or hand-to-hand combat in its cartoons. The emphasis instead, she said, is on chases and Indiana Jones-style adventures in cartoons such as The WB's "The Mummy."

Albie Hecht, president of film and TV entertainment at Nickelodeon, said his company makes certain its cartoons are nonviolent.

Probably the network with the best record on nonviolence is Nickelodeon, which is the highest-rated cable network.

The industry is trying to change, Gathercoal said, but he said the changes are being done through loopholes. Animators are replacing hand-to-hand combat with machines attacking each other, he said.

"The soundtracks can be incredibly violent," Gathercoal said.

"Turn off the picture, and just listen to the soundtrack. It's all action, all the time. For an adult, it can be incredibly annoying."

But youths in today's video-game culture can get caught up in all the action, he said.

For storytellers, it's an age-old dilemma.

Good drama requires a good amount of conflict, and violence is definitely one way to show it.

Anime, shown at late hours for adult viewers on Cartoon Network, is a Japanese art form that sometimes stresses violence.

Many of today's animators are more careful than their predecessors.

The old "Looney Tunes" shorts frequently featured rifles being fired. No guns are fired on "The Powerpuff Girls," and instead of dropping bombs, the villains in the sky spit on the good people of Townsville in the new movie.

Even that could have an impact, Gathercoal said. "You could see a lot more spitting from kids."

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com)