The movie poster for “Nitro Circus: The Movie” has a picture of a school bus flying through the air. Above the image of the bus is a warning in bold yellow that says trying to make a school bus that size jump with six people on board is a bad idea. The way the warning is worded makes it seem like the producers of the film are only putting up the obvious warning because a lawyer or some suited bigwig told them to. Most likely, this scenario is correct.
Lawyers for film and television studios are constantly on the lookout for any content that needs a warning. It goes without saying that only trained professionals should try to make a bus with six people aboard it fly. Without training, you could hurt or kill yourself and everyone else on board. However, in today’s litigious society, common sense is often subdued by the quest to try and get a quick settlement out of the production company if someone is hurt or killed trying to replicate stunts in “Nitro Circus: The Movie” or similar productions.
There is a long history of the media sensationalizing accidents that happen because people have imitated what they saw in a movie. A good example is the classic “The Deer Hunter,” which features a tense game of Russian Roulette. In this game, a single bullet is put into the chamber of a gun. Participants take the gun, aim it at their head and shoot. Most participants will make it out alive, but one will be unlucky and end up shooting himself in the head. The film was rumored to have been the inspiration for several copycats who ended up dying by imitating the scene.
For the most part, whenever these copycat allegations came up, some kind of public condolences were released and not much else happened. There were threats of lawsuits, and some were even filed. Most people felt that people had to be responsible for their own actions and stop blaming Hollywood for any tragedies that occurred from copycats.
This changed in 1993, when Disney released a film called “The Program.” In the film, a young football player, stressed out by the game he loves, gets drunk and lies down between opposing lanes of traffic. He is soon joined by other members of his team, all of whom manage to come away from the incident unscathed.
Unfortunately, in real life, a few copycats were not so lucky. Two teenagers, in separate incidents, died as a result of trying to pull off the scene they saw in the movie. Two others were critically injured. In response, Disney deleted the scene from all prints of the movie, a step that was unprecedented.
Was this step an admission of responsibility, as some groups wanted it to be? Perhaps it was simply an easier way for Disney to deal with the controversy instead of sticking to their guns. Either way, it opened up a can of worms for Hollywood executives, who would now have to decide what to do with dangerous, easily-copied scenes in the future.
The lawyers got involved and the result is that everything, even things that are very obvious, now comes with some sort of warning label. The warning on the poster of “Nitro Circus: The Movie” is a prime example of this. The vast majority of people on earth know not to imitate such a stunt. However, in order to cover themselves, the movie studio heads must use these warnings in case they get sued by someone who got injured.
Most of these lawsuits are frivolous and will be thrown out by a judge. The fact that lawyers had to be dispatched to court, even for a short dismissal hearing, means big bucks being shelled out by the movie studios for this sort of thing. That is why these warnings are not likely to go away anytime soon. In fact, the warning labels are likely to get bigger and longer as time goes by.
“Nitro Circus: The Movie” will also have a warning showing right before the movie begins. When it is time for the DVD and Blu-ray to be released, those covers will likely feature a warning identical, or at least similar, to that on the poster. The stunts and tricks that star Travis Pastrana and friends perform should not have to come with a warning label at all. However, if society continues its love affair with litigation, the labels will stay.