Reader L.M. comments on Jane Fonda’s planned reprise of her “Hanoi Jane” role during the Vietnam War: traveling around the U.S.A. on a bus fueled by “vegetable oil” in order to protest the war in Iraq (see “But She Won’t Be Sitting Atop A Suicide Bomb,” July 26):

“From what I can tell, Jane Fonda studied art and acting during her youth but doesn’t seem to have earned a degree in art or drama, let alone political science or history. In a just universe, actress Jane Fonda acting as an as activist would have to watch Bush, Cheney and Rice put on a play. Wait, Dr. Rice is a good pianist. Make it Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.”

True enough: If Jane had talken a few more history and poly sci classes in college, she might not have gushed so fulsomely over the ballet about the bees being trained to attack American servicemen.

Now for the flap over the blue seersucker Eton suit that 4-year-old Jack Roberts wore to the White House for President Bush’s announcement of papa John Roberts’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court (to catch up, see the Mailbag for July 26, which has all the links). Inky reader K.P. e-mailed pointing out that the reaction to Jack’s short pants was a “Southern” thing, and I wasn’t sure what she meant–or even whether the Robertses, who live in Maryland, qualify as Southerners. Now K.P clarifies:

“More on Southern attire for boys. Yeah, they dress them like little Eton boys. They get a blue blazer and long pants way after the rest of the country thinks they should. As for Maryland’s place on the Southern map, that be a ‘yes.’ Baltimore is home to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals [serving Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and other states], and all those boys wear searsucker and bow-ties at their annual June meet, alternatively at the Greenbrier [a resort in West Virginia] and Homestead [a resort in Virginia]. The ladies dress just like Mrs. Roberts.”

Thanks for the data from a true-blue Southerner, K.P. But I hope none of our oh-so-proper InkWell readers would want to put a 4-year-old into a long-pants suit, no matter where they live.

And now for the flap over “Grand Theft Auto San Andreas,” the video game that just got its ratings changed from “M” (for mature) to “AO” (for adults only). (To catch up, again see the Mailbag for July 26, which has all the links). I’ve outraged at least three Inky readers for wondering why the sex scene-accompanied game didn’t have an AO rating to begin with, considering that unchaperoned adolescents could buy the game from a “not-so-conscientious store employee” before the change, because, as I wrote: “The fact remains that video games are games, and their biggest market is children.” Here goes:

From S.K.:

“I must say I disagree with your steadfast argument that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is corrupting the precious children due to video games in general being geared toward them.

“In fact, according to the Entertainment Software Association, 55 percent of console players are over 18. Further, 84 percent of the people who make the actual video game purchases are over 18, with the average buyer age being 37. If GTA is getting into the hands of…impressionable moppets, I believe it is most likely due to parental negligence. Sure, it is entirely possible a child could scrape together the $45 to purchase GTA from an unscrupulous retailer, but why are you singling out video games? Said unscrupulous retailer could just as easily sell the kid a bottle of Scotch or a copy of “Barely Legal.”

“While I don?t believe you have come out and explicitly stated it, it seems to me that you are in agreement with Sen. [Hillary] Clinton?s ?there oughtta be a law? position. This plea for government intervention in the marketplace (not to mention within families) doesn?t seem like one a truly ?independent woman? would make. Shouldn’t this be a parental decision?

From N.M.:

“From this Google Answers thread…I found, among other interesting statistics, the following:

–The average game player is 30 years old and has been playing games for 9.5 years.

–The average game buyer is 37 years old. In 2005, 95 percent of computer game buyers and 84 percent of console game buyers were over the age of 18.

–Eighty-seven percent of game players under the age of 18 report that they get their parents’ permission when renting or buying games, and 92 percent say their parents are present when they buy games.

–Forty-three percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a greater portion of the game-playing population (28 percent) than boys from ages 6 to 17 (21 percent).

“I found here that 35 percent of players are under 18, and here that 36 percent are 19 or under. Thirty-five percent not insignificant, but it is hardly the biggest portion of the market. And if  ninety-five percent of computer game buyers are over the age of 18, I seems to me we need to look to the adults buying these games for their kids rather than ?not-so-conscientious store employees.?”

And from G.H., a previous e-mailer:

“Thanks so much for posting (part of) my letter to IWF about l?affaire San Andreas. However, there?s something else that needs to be clarified. You wrote: ?The fact remains that video games are games, and their biggest market is children.?

“That was true once — and I was there. I was 10 years old when the Atari VCS arrived in 1977 and back then it was most definitely a kids? thing. That is not true now, and hasn?t been for some time. As far back as the early 90s, when Sega deliberately targetted its Genesis to older teens and twentysomethings, the core market demographic has been aging. When Sen Joseph Lieberman held his (in)famous hearings on videogame violence, the Sega reps who showed up to testify buried him in marketing and retail sales data which proved flat-out that the majority of their players and buyers were 18-plus. By the time Sony rolled out PlayStation One in 1995, there was no question about the centrality of the adult market. Ditto for their later PS2 and Microsoft?s X-Box.

“The one video game market that is still notably ‘child-centric’ is Nintendo’s….Accordingly, the Grand Theft Auto games have never been available on Nintendo platforms. So no, it’s not a kid thing, and WHATEVER one thingks of GTA and Rockstar, they shouldn’t be slammed based on that misconception. Here’s a link to some interesting stats.”

Thanks to you, hardworking and libertarian-minded readers, I stand corrected on my assertion that children form the biggest market for the games. Nonetheless, 35 percent is a fairly large fraction (more than one-third), especially considering that people are adults for decades but chidren of game-playing age for perhaps only 10 years. And I repeat: I do not favor goverment regulation of the content of video games, which among other things, would easily lend itself to political censorship. What I do favor is more care on the part of the industry to ensure that games designed for adults don?t fall into the hands of children. And I also repeat: Parents owe their children the duty to make sure that their kids aren?t watching inappropriate material.  

To G.H.: All letters to InkWell are edited to conserve space and avoid repetition. Your last e-mail contained an assertion about GTA-manufacturer Rockstar that I coudn?t verify. Remember that we humble, pajama-clad bloggers are subject to the same libel laws that govern our cousins in the Mainstream Media.

And finally, a non-Eton suit, non-video games letter from fan G.L.:

“I am impressed by the goals of IWF, the credentials of the leadership, and most importantly its current role in developing a voice for women in the new Irag. I am beginning to believe that it just might take the women of the world to stop the insanity of terrorism. Why can?t we battle terrorism by taking back our children from the political and religous fanatics that teach them evil by demonstrating the value of good? It?s a winnable war if we can persuade the women of the world of all faiths and cultures to unite for this purpose.

“In addressing unity, however, I am alarmed at the increasing emphasis on a bilingual America with signage, etc., in Spanish as well as English. Historically, immigrants were expected to learn English in order to succeed in this country and contribute to the melting pot. A common language insures better communication and unity…. I believe it is a disservice to the Hispanics and sets them apart. Why did we not do the same for the many Italians, Asians and other nationalities that came to this soil? What is IWF’s position on this issue?”

I’m not sure that we have one, G.L. But here at the IWF we do stand for equal treatment of all Americans and against singling out any one group, be it women or an ethnic minority, for favored treatment. Government-sponsored bilingualism could fall into that category. And it’s pretty clear by now that bilingual education has proved a disaster for minority children–which is why many school districts are abandoning it.