BURBANK, Calif., Oct. 19 (AP) The Walt Disney Company said today that it would delete a scene in its new movie "The Program" after one teenager was killed and two others critically injured while apparently imitating the scene.
The brief sequence near the film's start involves several drunken college football players lying in the middle of a busy road to prove their toughness. The scene will be removed by Friday, Disney said today, and the film's coming attractions trailer will be pulled.
A pickup truck ran over Michael Shingledecker, 18, Saturday in Polk, Pa., as he and friends lay on a highway dividing line. His parents said he was mimicking the scene from "The Program." Another teenager, Dean Bartlett, 17, was injured.
Michael Macias, 17, of Syosset, L.I., was hit by a car early Saturday while prone in the middle of a street in Bayville. He is in critical condition with spinal injuries at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, N.J., and the authorities linked that accident to "The Program" as well.
"While the scene in the movie in no way advocates this irresponsible activity, it is impossible for us to ignore that someone may have recklessly chosen to imitate it," the film's writer and director, David Ward, said in a statement released along with Touchstone Pictures, the division of Disney that released the film. "In light of the incidents reported, we are deleting the scene from the movie."
The movie is playing in about 1,220 theatres and was the nation's 12th most popular release last weekend. It stars James Caan as a hard-driven college football coach.
Patty Shingledecker said her son saw "The Program" last week.
"Michael would never come up with this on his own, "she said. "He was adventurous but not stupid."
About 200 people attended his funeral at Grace United Methodist Church in Rocky Grove, Pa., on Tuesday.
Mr. Bartlett, who also was hit by the truck, remained in serious condition today at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre.
"I thought it was a good movie," said Dean's brother, Joe, 16. "I never expected anything like this to happen."
Witnesses told the police the teenagers were following through on a dare when they went to the two-lane state Route 62 in Polk, about 70 miles north of Pittsburgh.
Neither Mr. Shingledecker or Mr. Bartlett played on the high school football team.
In the Long Island case, Detective Thomas Keteltas of the Nassau County Police Department said Mr. Macias was copying the scene from "The Program." Mr. Macias is a member of the Syosset High School football team.
The driver of the car that hit Mr. Macias, Margaret Ruffrano, 17, said she saw a group of about 50 youths standing on the shoulder of Bayville Avenue. As she slowed down, she hit Mr. Macias, the police said.
The Shingledeckers criticized movies for depicting violence. Friends of their son said they were smart enough not to imitate everything they see.
"They chose to do it," said Chad Karns, 17, a former classmate of Mr. Shingledecker at Franklin Area High School. "The movie didn't make them do it."
Psychological research has shown three major effects of seeing violence on television:
- Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others.
- Children may be more fearful of the world around them.
- Children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others.
Children who watch a lot of TV are less aroused by violent scenes than are those who only watch a little; in other words, they're less bothered by violence in general, and less likely to see anything wrong with it. One example: in several studies, those who watched a violent program instead of a nonviolent one were slower to intervene or to call for help when, a little later, they saw younger children fighting or playing destructively.
Studies by George Gerbner, Ph.D., at the University of Pennsylvania, have shown that children's TV shows contain about 20 violent acts each hour and also that children who watch a lot of television are more likely to think that the world is a mean and dangerous place.
Children often behave differently after they've been watching violent programs on TV. In one study done at Pennsylvania State University, about 100 preschool children were observed both before and after watching television; some watched cartoons that had a lot of aggressive and violent acts in them, and others watched shows that didn't have any kind of violence. The researchers noticed real differences between the kids who watched the violent shows and those who watched nonviolent ones.
"Children who watch the violent shows, even 'just funny' cartoons, were more likely to hit out at their playmates, argue, disobey class rules, leave tasks unfinished, and were less willing to wait for things than those who watched the nonviolent programs," says Aletha Huston, Ph.D., now at the University of Kansas.