In 1962, Chuck Connors took a firm stance on TV violence
Chuck Connors wasn't afraid of a little rough-and-tumble in the Old West.
Chuck Connors was one of the best actors in the Old West. While that opinion was shared by many TV viewers, Connors had a few opinions of his own that he wasn't afraid to address in a 1962 interview with The Paducah Sun.
Connors played the role of Lucas McCain on The Rifleman (1958) for all five seasons of the hit series. During this time, television was vastly changing. Both producers and viewers alike were calling for less violence on TV, and Westerns were the number one target.
At the time, there was a growing awareness of the potential impact of violent content on viewers at home, especially children. Many were worried about desensitization to violence — especially the moms. In addition, many believed it was important to set good moral grounds for everyone watching.
But not Connors.
"Violence for the pure sake of violence has been pretty well cleaned out of TV," Connors said. "It's apparent to anyone that the networks have done a pretty good job of that. Sometimes a little undue violence creeps into a particular episode of a series, but should the whole series — even the entire TV industry — be condemned for that?"
He took a firm stance in believing that depictions of violence have been a way of dramatic life since words were first printed on a page. Violence is everywhere, and he wanted to show it in the most realistic form.
"What do they want to do, cut out violence all together?" Connors asked. "That would be ridiculous. And a disservice to growing children. Yes, you heard me right. How can children learn to cope with violence unless they know what it's all about?"
Any Rifleman viewer who had children may have disagreed with the star, but the series still had quite a large young fanbase. In part because of the widowed rancher's son, Mark McCain, who was a young face children could relate to.
According to the interview, Connors gave children a lot of credit and was certain that adults should never underestimate their intelligence. He went on to say that children could learn from being exposed to violence in a Western series, or any TV show for that matter.
"Even if some parents disagree with this theory, they don't need any laws passed to assure that all fiction on TV will be sweet and lovely, in other words, unbelievable," Connors said.
And if you're wondering if Connors would let his own children watch him be violent on TV? Absolutely.
"I have four young sons who mean more to me than anything in the world, but I'm teaching them the difference between good and evil," Connors said. "All this, I believe, TV action dramas also teach or have I been watching the wrong shows?"
Connors ended the interview by explaining that he had just finished shooting an episode of The Rifleman where he played a dual role for the first time ever. He played the fair and just Lucas McCain, and the most ruthless villain the series had seen yet.
And if you're wondering if Connors would let his own children watch this episode? Again, absolutely.
"You can bet I'll let my kids see this one, despite the questionable violence," Connors said.