16 Jan

Hollywood’s gun hypocrisy

Michael Medved:

Within weeks of A-list celebrities coming together in a painfully earnest video to “demand a plan” from President Obama to end gun violence, leaders of the industry that employs these stars told the White House and the world that they opposed any organized effort to curb glamorization of brutality in popular culture.

The timing of the contradictory messages exposed the hideous heights of Hollywood hypocrisy in especially embarrassing terms.

Jamie Foxx and his fellow gun control activists solemnly declared to the camera, “No more lists! … We can do better than this! It’s time for our leaders to act,” just as that very performer’s sadistically violent Django Unchained was about to hit No. 2 at the box office.

Jennifer Aniston, Will Ferrell, Cameron Diaz, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock and other stars pleaded in the video “for the children of Sandy Hook, we demand a plan.” But last week, before meeting with Vice President Biden about gun violence, former senator Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, told The Hollywood Reporter, “What we don’t want to get involved with is content regulation. We’re vehemently opposed to that.”

Industry denial

The same day as the vice president’s well-publicized meeting with Hollywood bigwigs to discuss firearms and needless killing, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its Oscar nominations, with a majority of best picture choices (Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, Argo, Les Miserables and even the noble Lincoln) featuring scenes of expertly rendered gun violence. Last weekend’s big studio release Gangster Squad stars double-Oscar winner Sean Penn and deploys scores of assault weapons in a seemingly endless series of artfully choreographed blood baths.

As to the potential social impact of such excesses, the Entertainment Merchants Association, “dedicated to advancing the interest of the $35 billion home entertainment industry,” sent an open letter to Biden warning him against even investigating the linkage between movies, video games and real life violence.

No reasonable observer could claim that this connection counted as inevitable and direct — any more than a balanced view argues for a simplistic association between gun ownership and rates of real world brutality. With more firearms in private hands and with entertainment media relying as heavily as ever on violent imagery, the national murder rate has been cut by more than half in the past 30 years.

On the other hand, the notion that gory amusements in film, television and video games wield no influence at all also counts as scientifically unsupportable. The fact that violent entertainment doesn’t influence everybody doesn’t mean that it fails to influence anybody. The habits of prolific mass murderers — including the insane shooters at Columbine,Aurora and, apparently, Newtown — reveal a taste for brutal diversion.

What stars can do

To understand the nature of media influence, consider the example of television advertising. Luxury car companies such as Lexus and Audi spend tens of millions of dollars on commercials despite the fact that 99% of those who see these ads could never even consider the purchase of such expensive cars. Nonetheless, enough people across the country will feel swayed by the imagery on TV messages that they end up buying spiffy new rides. It’s that influence at the margins that can change a company’s bottom line, justifying very smart corporate honchos in their massive investment in media advertising.

After all, the Hollywood glitterati who assembled the “Demand a Plan” video supposed that their aesthetically accomplished advocacy could prod viewers into real world action: getting them to contact the White House to push for gun regulation. But how could they reasonably expect that a few minutes of imagery on the Internet could induce positive behavior but that thousands of hours of blood-soaked entertainment will never encourage destructive behavior?

Instead of begging for faraway bureaucracies to impose new regulations on other people’s handling of firearms, the influential Hollywood activists could impose new regulations on themselves — by refusing to handle guns of any kind in their own screen roles. Taking such a stand wouldn’t put an immediate end to incidents of mass killing, but it could draw public praise for courage and consistency while sending the welcome message that killing isn’t a healthy form of entertainment.

Yes, we can do better than this.

       

7 Responses to Hollywood’s gun hypocrisy

  1. Old Guy says: 1

    Even the coming attractions are too violent for most people. Just listen to the people in the movie theater gag about the upcoming movies.

    ReplyReply
  2. liberal1(objectivity) says: 2

    Year after year, for the past 50 years, studies have been published stating the conclusi0n that violent movies do not contribute to the violence in America. Does Michael Medved have some new data, or is he just spouting his form of conventional wisdom?

    ReplyReply
  3. retire05 says: 3

    @liberal1(objectivity):

    Nothing ironic in the fact that the “studies” you refer to were funded by (wait for it, you know it’s coming) THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY.

    ReplyReply
  4. johngalt says: 4

    @retire05:

    Another “do as I say, not as I do” situation. Lib/progs detest any “study” on the environment funded by energy concerns like “Big Oil”, even to the point of discounting those studies based on that fact alone. Yet, when the shoe is on the other foot, their typical response is to suggest that the facts have nothing to do with the funding. That the conclusions are independent of where the dollars came from. Then they turn right around and will tell you that facts and conclusions about gun violence, and the reduction of it, in a study funded by the NRA, is tainted because of who funded it.

    Hypocrits, and lib1 is no different than the rest when it comes to that.

    ReplyReply
  5. Wordsmith says: 5

    @liberal1(objectivity): Medved’s pointing out Hollywood’s hypocrisy in soapboxing the issue of guns while glorifying them in movies.

    Most sane people can live vicariously through those movies as fantasy, without acting them out or being negatively influenced.

    However, we are all influenced in some manner by what we expose ourselves to. Unless you believe life’s experiences and exposures have zero influence on our hearts and our minds and our behaviors, both subtle and overt.

    Advertisers spend billions trying to influence consumers to buy their products. Do you think they’re wasting their time? That not one individual might consider buying due to something that connected with him in the ad or commercial?

    When celebs dress a certain way, act a certain way, sport their hairstyles a certain way….not one person is influenced to mimick and do something similar? Come on….

    You don’t need scientific studies to point out common sense observations.

    Here’s what I wrote in another post (comment #45):

    I think the issue is rather complex.

    In Dr. John’s list of movies, there are a couple that are Japanese and not of Hollywood make. And if you’re familiar with Japanese pop culture, including manga (comics), they are filled with perverse violence and pornography. And you can find these things sold in vending machines on street corners. Yet Japan for the most part has a low violent crime rate (my mom once blamed rising crime in Japan on immigrants).

    I believe we are all influenced to one extent or another by what we expose ourselves to. We are shaped by what we experience and witness. Many of us “experience” violent images- I’m sure Dr. John has seen some of these very movies- and yet we remain law-abiding citizens.

    Some think that when Clark Gable appeared without an undershirt in a movie, sales for men’s undershirts declined. People are easily influenced by the latest fashion from pop stars and movie icons; but just because millions may enjoy watching a perverse slasher flick or listen to gangsta rap, it will not lead millions into criminal acts.

    It might be the case that we “damage” ourselves by watching and listening to violent, perverse movies and music, in subtle ways we ourselves are not aware of. And we go on living as normal, law-abiding citizens, never acting out on any dark fantasies. Perhaps most people can weather exposure to such movies and music and not be changed for the worse by it all; but, when exposed to those who are wired differently from most people…who have a moral short-circuit in them….

    So do movies, music, art, literature, etc. deserve a share of blame anymore than guns?

    I believe there are probably those human aberrations who live among us who are made the worse by exposure of “bad” things in art, literature, movies that glorify guns and anti-heroes, etc. But this accounts for what percentage of the population?

    We’re a nation of 311 million. How many are bad apples? And should they “ruin” it for the rest of society that is “normal”? Can we be so sure that if not Hollywood movies and music, something else would not have triggered them into arriving in the same, dark place?

    You wrote:

    Does Michael Medved have some new data, or is he just spouting his form of conventional wisdom?

    Here’s what he wrote again:

    No reasonable observer could claim that this connection counted as inevitable and direct — any more than a balanced view argues for a simplistic association between gun ownership and rates of real world brutality. With more firearms in private hands and with entertainment media relying as heavily as ever on violent imagery, the national murder rate has been cut by more than half in the past 30 years.

    On the other hand, the notion that gory amusements in film, television and video games wield no influence at all also counts as scientifically unsupportable. The fact that violent entertainment doesn’t influence everybody doesn’t mean that it fails to influence anybody. The habits of prolific mass murderers — including the insane shooters at Columbine,Aurora and, apparently, Newtown — reveal a taste for brutal diversion.

    ReplyReply
  6. retire05 says: 6

    @Wordsmith:

    Of course celebrities have an influence on consumers/people. Walk into any hair dresser’s shop and you will see scads of magazines that are full of photos of Hollywood stars pointing out their hair styles. Same with clothing; just pick up a copy of Vogue or any other fashion magazine. How many home videos have we seen, taken when we were kids, of other kids running around their yards with sheets tied around their necks to emulate Superman?

    Yet, the entertainment industry will continue to pump out violent movies because THEY SELL, but will accept no responsibility for the increased violence in this nation. Same with game/video manufacturers.

    But let me tell you how dishonest our press is. Yesterday, Greggie asked me if I supported the new video game put out by the NRA. He repeated the articles statement that the video was suggested for ages 4 and up. The NRA video is available via iPhone app only. Since I have a new iPhone 5, I checked on the “free” video this morning. Apple, not the NRA, recommends the video for ages 12 and up. The free video is only available if you download it, and there is another, more detailed, video that can be uploaded if you pay for it. Any parent that allows their kids to upload videos that come with a cost is not monitoring what their children do. But the bottom line is that the CNN article was wrong by indicating that the NRA approved the video for age 4 and up, and wrong about the age to begin with. Yet, Greggie accepted the CNN article as God’s truth.

    That’s a liberal for you.

    ReplyReply
  7. Wordsmith says: 7

    One of the things about today’s video games and some movies is the amount of graphic “realism”.

    One of the things I remember reading in Lt. Col Grossman’s book, On Killing, is in regards to how the military in the last century were able to desensitize soldiers to overcome the natural aversion (in most people) to the act of killing another person through advancement in training them. Instead of shooting bullseye targets during combat training for example, targets were made human-shaped and would pop up and pop down (instant reward/gratification). So well-trained soldiers- such as snipers- were conditioned to perceive what they were shooting at as no different than the targets they’d hit in practice.

    ReplyReply

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