There’s something deliciously ironic about the idea of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the protector of pop culture against the blood-thirsty commandos, barbarians, killer robots and all the other heavily armed hordes in video games. This is, after all, the man who starred films that reeked of cordite and left behind a mountain of spent shell casings.
The fight really isn’t between the action-hero-turned politician and the video game industry — it just looks that way, thanks to the semantics of legal documents that refer to an ongoing California conflict, Schwarzenegger vs. EMA. Times staff writer Alex Pham recently summed up the points of the case nicely. In a nutshell, the fight centers over a 2005 state law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. That law was ruled unconstitutional by a lower federal circuit court, but the decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case Nov. 2.
Today, at our Company Town sister blog, Pham followed up with the news that the Washington-based Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has urged the high court to reject the law, saying it “would undermine more First Amendment principles in a single case than any decision in living memory.”
Charles Brownstein, executive director of CBLDF, used historical context to frame his organization’s argument: “The case California makes against video games is one familiar to the comic book industry, which was nearly destroyed by government attempts at regulation in the 1950s. Then, as now, moral crusaders claimed that popular new media containing depictions of violence were detrimental to our youth. Then, as now, pseudo-science was used to back such claims. Those claims weren’t true in the 1950s, and they aren’t true now. We hope that the Supreme Court denies California’s attempt to diminish the 1st Amendment and spares the video game industry the fate that was suffered by the comic book industry in the past. We also encourage them to deny California’s claims so that comic books and other media don’t suffer under a new constitutional standard that creates new categories of unprotected speech and diminishes the 1st Amendment rights of minors.”
— Geoff Boucher
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Photo: Arnold Schwarzenegger as visualized in one of the “Terminator” video games.