Whenever there’s a mass shooting — or, as has been the case in the U.S. in recent weeks, many of them — certain discourse and talking points tend to repeat themselves, many of them many years old.
There’s always the blaming of violent movies and shows for real-life massacres, which is usually followed not long after by the charge of Hollywood hypocrisy. How can Hollywood stars speak out against gun violence, when their movies are full of guns?
As bad faith arguments go, it’s often misdirected; Reese Witherspoon, for instance, participates in anti-gun rallies, but she also doesn’t brandish a lot of firearms in her movies and shows. And depiction, of course, is not endorsement. Pointing a gun in a movie does not condone doing so in real life, any more than any other behavior by any other fictional character.
And then we get stuff like this:
This is “hypocrisy,” I suppose, in featuring a movie, Scarface, that was released 40 years ago, in 1982, as a cudgel against the anti-gun Hollywood liberals of today. I also don’t believe I’ve ever heard Al Pacino express any public opinions about gun control.
Not So Gun Crazy
But the truth is, while current movies are far from devoid of guns, such weapons are probably less a part of the movie firmament today that at any other time in my lifetime.
Take the ’90s, for instance: Guns were all over studio action movies, as well as those of Quentin Tarantino and his various imitators, the sort of films that always seemed to end with a Mexican standoff. There were generally a lot more indie crime thrillers back then than we get today, nearly all of which were all about shootouts and gunplay.
But now? Almost no blockbuster movies are especially gun-centric.
Take the genre that currently dominates Hollywood, the superhero movie. The primary weapon in those movies isn’t guns at all: it’s superpowers. Same with Star Wars, where the main weapon is the lightsaber. Top Gun, its title notwithstanding, is about planes, not firearms.
The Fast and the Furious genre is about cars, not guns. There are some guns in the James Bond and Mission: Impossible series, sure, but they’re better known for nonconventional gadgets. The signature action moments in the Bourne series were hand-to-hand combat, not shootouts, which is also the case with Taken and the rest of the Liam Neeson Ass-Kicking Dad Extended Universe. (Sure, some of the Taken posters have Neeson brandishing a gun, but the iconic moment and image from that photo is the actor on the phone, threatening his daughter’s abductors.)
Such weapons are probably less a part of the movie firmament today that at any other time in my lifetime
John Wick, I’ll give you — the guy is an assassin. But the groundbreaking scenes in those movies, once again, are hand-to-hand fights, as is also the case with Wick-adjacent action pictures like Atomic Blonde and Nobody (both directed by John Wick‘s David Leitch.)
Did this get to be the case as a result of any particular effort by Hollywood decision-makers? That’s hard to say. But the recent mass shootings — as well as the tragedy on the set of Rust last October — can only nudge Hollywood further in the direction of making the movies even less focused on the gun than they already are.
I am not and would not call for a total prohibition on guns or gun violence in movies. There’s nothing inherently immoral or illegitimate about telling such stories and, once again, depiction does not equal endorsement. But it’s really time to stop blaming Hollywood for real-life gun violence, especially when there’s a lot less gun violence on screen now than there used to be.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.