Ever since actor John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., in 1865, there has been an uneasy relationship between the worlds of entertainment and politics.
Of course, no one would equate a political murder with the kind of everyday protesting that usually marks the spot where actors and politicians collide.
Many in Hollywood seem to be particularly engaged in being a thorn in the side of the Republican party these days. The beautiful people of stage and screen are calling the party out for a perceived unwillingness to consider legislation that would lead to significant gun control.
In the wake of the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla., we’ve heard plenty from the most liberal left of the Hollywood elite about guns, gun violence and gun control.
But does Hollywood as an industry really have the high moral ground?
They certainly believe they do. They seem to think they speak for the better angels of our nature through their films, podium pronouncements and social media posts that are unleashed to millions of admirers around the world.
So excuse me while I point out the obvious: the fetishization of guns on both the small and silver screens is and has been Hollywood’s stock in trade since the very dawn of its existence. There are even classes aimed at teaching aspiring actors how to realistically brandish, point and fire them.
For all the talk about Hollywood being a bastion of left-leaning and entrenched liberal ideology, the producers, actors, writers and studios responsible for churning out our daily dose of entertainment use guns to a degree that one wonders if they would ever have the courage of their public convictions to eliminate – let alone limit – that celebration.
At this year’s Oscar ceremonies, it would be refreshing to see the self-righteous braying sure to come from the podium accompanied by a consideration of Hollywood’s own role in having created, solidified and perpetuated the mythology that portrays guns and gun violence as being as American as apple pie.
It would be astonishing if those gown-and-tuxedo-wearing, Democratic-party-voting stars spent any time engaging in self and industry-related reflection, instead of bleating the already tired mantra of blaming Congress and the National Rifle Association (NRA) for a situation and epidemic that will never abate, absent a societal and cultural shift that has nothing to do with what laws Congress may or could pass to limit access to guns.
It leaves me wondering if they need to get their own house in order before throwing stones at someone else’s.
This reality is not lost on filmmaker Abigail Disney, who commented to the New York Post in 2013 that “the gun is the leading character in the blockbuster Hollywood film.” While promoting her documentary The Armor of Light (which follows an evangelical minister who preaches against gun violence) she asserted that, “the gun brings in more in box office than George Clooney, Chris Pratt or Quentin Tarantino could ever hope to generate.”
Whether it’s Clint Eastwood challenging someone facing his .45 caliber Magnum to “Make my day,” or Al Pacino famously inviting everyone to “Say hello to my little friend!” before wildly firing his assault rifle, Hollywood feeds a fascination with guns that borders on pornographic.
National Public Radio reporter Nancy Shute writes, “There’s lots of research showing that watching violence in movies makes people more aggressive and less compassionate.” Supporting this assertion on the “weapons-effect,” Ohio State University psychologist Brad Bushman has research showing that “Just seeing a gun tends to make people more aggressive.”
So, Hollywood, it’s time to lock and load. Instead of blaming Congress and the NRA for gun violence in America, ask yourself how much blood has soaked into your own red carpet.
But, hey, it’s all make believe.
Troy Media columnist Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
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