Mike Fleming

Well, you had to know this was coming from the gun crowd. A bunch of celebrities got together to speak out for gun control. In this video making the rounds, their pleas are superimposed with footage of the same actors taking part in gratuitous and sometimes cartoonish scenes of gunfire carnage in movies they’ve made over the years. This video goes overboard, but Hollywood has put itself on rocky moral footing by relying so heavily on violence, and when rampant gunfire is such a staple of features, TV shows and the commercials that sell them. We are not just talking about cheesy action films here–when I was at Variety and we had issues overstuffed with ads for AFM and Cannes B-films, it seemed like every one showed someone holding a gun–but also major film releases.

While Jack Reacher pulled back the gun violence in early trailers and now just shows Tom Cruise breaking the bones of bad guys even though the film’s plot is triggered by sniper fire, it seemed like every movie trailer I saw over the holidays had gunfire galore. That included Gangster Squad and The Last Stand, the latter an Arnold Schwarzenegger film where he and his cohorts are seen shooting a machine gun out of the back of a school bus (talk about tacky). I still maintain it’s the height of lunacy for an organization like the NRA to blame Hollywood for the carnage in Newtown, Connecticut while it acts as the lobbying arm for a firearms industry making a fortune on weapons that are only good for warfare or carnage. But can’t Hollywood cut back on these violent images, and can’t marketing executives find more clever ways to sell films and TV shows than simply depicting hails of bullets? Violence is such a staple of films, TV shows and ad campaigns for them that this cannot happen overnight–films depicting warfare or contemporary mob films would hardly be believable if people were throwing rocks at each other–but maybe it takes a wake up call like Newtown for filmmakers to make a conscious decision to tone this stuff down and trust that audiences want stories well told more than high body counts. Heads of studios and other distributors have control over what they release, and maybe it is high time they started insisting that films on their slates show more sensitivity when there seems to be another gun massacre in the news every week somewhere in the United States.