Would limiting the use of firearms in movies help prevent mass shootings?
As Americans once again call for an end to the seemingly constant barrage of mass shootings in the United States, should Hollywood rethink the way gun violence is depicted in movies?
Following a series of deadly shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, some Hollywood producers have pledged to change things, saying the entertainment industry can play a role in reducing the glorification of violence army. Still others feel that these efforts are misguided and distract from more meaningful solutions.
Modeling cultural change
JJ Abrams, Judd Apatow and Shonda Rhimes are among more than 200 writers, directors and producers who have signed an open letter published by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence pledging to support “positive cultural change by modeling gun safety to fire on the screen”. “
Stories “have the power to effect change,” they say, and “it’s time to tackle gun safety” the same way movies and TV shows have helped change. “Cultural attitudes towards smoking, drunk driving, seat belts and marriage equality”.
The group emphasizes that it is not calling for the removal of guns from movies and TV shows. But the signatories pledge to “model responsible gun ownership and show the consequences of reckless gun use” in their projects, including potentially showing characters securely locking their guns and making sure they are inaccessible to children. During pre-production, the producers and writers also say they will discuss how the weapons will be portrayed and if there are “alternatives that could be used without sacrificing narrative integrity.” Finally, they call for limiting scenes involving children and firearms.
An “unbridled romanticization” of firearms
Before the open letter, Real time host Bill Maher criticized the “unbridled romanticization of gun violence” in Hollywood, saying it could contribute to mass shootings. “We don’t show movie characters smoking anymore because it might look cool and influence kids, but you’re telling me these cool guys don’t influence them?” Maher asked, pointing in particular to action movies where the heroes seek revenge by mowing down the bad guys with guns.
To the pinner, Richard Rushfield has also argued that “our national gun fetish culture” plays a role in the shootings and that Hollywood films contribute to this culture. And to America magazine, Jim McDermott wrote “the more guns appear on screen, the more normalized they become”.
While Sonny Bunch at The Washington Post said he was skeptical of claims that on-screen gun violence leads to real violence, he suggested the most important change Hollywood could make would be “to stop sanitizing what guns to fire do to the human body” via bloodless action movies. To Hustle in 2017, Olivia Truffaut-Wong also proposed that the Motion Picture Association of America could give films with excessive gun violence higher ratings.
Focusing on the wrong problem?
But the open letter on gun violence in Hollywood was quickly pushed back, including by some industry players, with director Leigh Whannell arguing it’s “focusing on anything but the real problem”. Gun violence is fueled not by movies and TV shows, but “by the lack of gun control” in the United States, said director Alex Noyerwho called for gun control measures, “not censorship”.
Reviews further pointed out the fact that films depicting gun violence are also shown in countries that do not experience the same number of mass shootings as the United States “Guns are in films all over the world,” noted review Jordan Crucchiola, yet “mass shootings and constant gun violence in real life are an American problem”. write for The Washington Post in 2018, Matthew Christopher Hulbert also pointed out that while gun violence has been in movies for decades, “mass school shootings didn’t happen in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, or even most of 1990s”, suggesting that one should not be blamed for The Other.
With that in mind, Forbes writer Scott Mendelson called the open letter “counterproductive to the point of being willfully harmful”, while IGN editor Amelia Emberwing supported this effort will be used to further the false “narrative that the media triggers violence”.
Robyn Thomas, then Executive Director of Giffords Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence, while speaking to Refinery29 in 2018 agreed that “movies don’t create the problem”. But she argued the industry could still make small changes to the way guns are depicted, like showing “characters locking up their guns” or saying things like “I don’t like my kids playing with them. guns”, as “the right character saying the right thing could make the difference.”
The open letter also points out that the blame for mass shootings “ultimately rests with lax gun laws.” But while “we didn’t cause the problem,” Hollywood executives say, “we want to help solve it.”