by David Burnett
America’s 1st Freedom, February 2014
Hollywood has never been a willing ally to gun owners. For decades, activist writers, directors and actors have used the creative vehicle of fiction to attack traditional values, including the individual right to keep and bear arms.
In addition to banking eye-popping salaries each year, the venerated storytellers of Tinsel Town amass a wealth of fans, followers and supporters to whom they pander a radical and hypocritical anti-gun agenda. Although often disguised as compassion for victims, the rhetoric of recent years has intensified to a malicious rancor.
Part Of The Solution?
In late 2012, following the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., a consortium of actors including Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Alba, Reese Witherspoon, Jeremy Renner and Cameron Diaz appeared in an ad titled “Demand A Plan,” calling for more gun restrictions.
Last January, actor Danny Glover baselessly admonished Texas students that the Second Amendment was invented by racists to suppress slave revolts. In July, leading comic Jim Carrey tweeted “[Anyone] who would run out to buy an assault rifle after the Newtown massacre has very little left in their body or soul worth protecting.” Carrey then released a video mocking gun owners and former NRA President Charlton Heston, as well as decrying one of his own films for its violence. (He didn’t say whether or not he’d return the film’s royalties.) In November, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” actor Brent Spiner used Twitter to announce his belief that all gun owners were dangerous.
These were just the latest in the ongoing barrage of offensive lectures by Hollywood’s self-appointed social engineers to which we’ve, sadly, grown accustomed.
Past examples include Matt Damon, who famously admitted, “I actually hate guns. They freak me out.”
“I haven’t used a gun anywhere other than on a movie set,” actor Mark Wahlberg insisted, defending the cringe-worthy timing of his film “Shooter” just days after the Virginia Tech shooting. “I’d like to see if we could take them all away. It would be a beautiful thing.”
Famed James Bond actor Sean Connery has campaigned for gun bans in Great Britain.
“Second amendment my a**,” ranted Danny DiVito via Twitter. “Melt ‘em.”
These cinematic luminaries are convinced they’re converting their platform into meaningful social change, presuming a fan base accumulated through entertainment gives them license to lecture the rest of society about gun violence. For actors who are accustomed to reciting whatever words someone else puts in their mouths for top dollar, it isn’t hard to become a pawn of the anti-gun industry. And in a meticulously staged world where they get to be the good guys who accomplish things no one else can, it’s an easy philosophy to adopt.
But law-abiding gun owners aren’t amused or entertained by professional pretenders uniting to curb our rights. Instead, it’s time to turn the spotlight back on the film industry and highlight its role in desensitizing millions of individuals to acts of violence.
Leading the Way?
A study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics last November surveyed nearly 1,000 of America’s top movies since 1950 to study trends in depictions of violence. Among the study’s key findings, researchers found that overall movie violence has doubled since 1950, with incidents of gunplay in PG-13 movies—which account for half of the top-grossing film revenues—having tripled since 1985, outpacing even R-rated films.
Of course, as in any 5 million strong organization, nra members undoubtedly have a widely varying taste in films. The arts have always featured depictions of violence, and obviously some have their place in movies as well.
But for an industry that spends its time (on and off the clock) arguing against gun ownership, Hollywood isn’t exactly blazing a trail to peace and pacifism. Instead, combat and conflict are the silver screen’s bread and butter. Hollywood doesn’t just glorify a culture of violence—it thrives on it.
TV violence fares no better. Following an industry meeting with Vice President Joe Biden in January 2013, the Parent-Teacher Council (PTC) surveyed 392 episodes of prime-time network programming over a period of 30 days, finding that nearly half contained violence, and nearly a third depicted gun violence. The PTC audited one popular network’s fall line-up and found eight of its nine shows contained graphic violence and brutality.
Another report from 2007 indicated televised violence overall has increased 75 percent since 1998. Similarly, a report from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2004 showed an increase in the amount of violence portrayed on television from 1992 to 2003, and an increasing leniency from ratings committees.
Law enforcement shows such as “Criminal Minds” and “Law & Order: SVU” have given way to grittier, edgier shows such as “The Walking Dead,” “Breaking Bad” and “Sons of Anarchy,” along with titles such as “Game of Thrones,” “True Blood” and “American Horror Story”—all purveyors of graphic aggression and violence.
Thanks to developments in technology, these shows are also more readily available, while advances in computer-generated effects empower Hollywood to portray violence in far more realistic ways than ever before.
Part Of The Problem
After the release of the Sandy Hook “Demand A Plan” appeal, a widely circulated rebuttal to the video demonstrated just how far the hypocrisy went. The “Demand A Plan” re-edit portrayed the absurdity of the actors’ anti-gun platitudes by interspersing their high-minded pleas for gun control with movie scenes in which they butchered, massacred and mowed down victims with guns.
It’s a stark conundrum—denouncing violence while exploiting it. Hollywood just can’t escape the rules they created—guns are both necessary and kind of cool. Naturally, they take a principle to unhealthy extremes, but when things go haywire and the zombies, aliens or enemy agents are on their way, the first order of business is finding a weapon. And when preparing for the worst, heroes from Bond to Bourne are outfitted with the latest and greatest in offensive weaponry. Hollywood is legendary for fashioning the worst-case scenarios that drive home the utility of guns, and the actors claiming to shun violence ironically spend their careers portraying its inescapability.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Kevin Costner are just a few examples of Hollywood he-men who founded cinematic dynasties on tough-guy roles. In the latest installment of “Rambo,” the muscle-bound cutthroat is commissioned to protect missionaries. “You’ll need guns,” Rambo intones. If you aren’t bringing firearms, he tells the missionaries, “You aren’t changing anything.”
Yet in 1999, Stallone told “Access Hollywood,” “Until America, door to door, takes every handgun, [violence] is what you’re gonna have. It’s pathetic.”
It’s hard to imagine a role in which “The Governator” wasn’t maxed out on firepower, but in 2003 then-candidate Schwarzenegger stated to Time magazine, “I’m for gun control. I’m a peace-loving guy.”
“I hunt but I think there should be gun laws,” actor Kevin Costner affirmed after the Virginia Tech shooting. “I think there should be a lot of gun laws.”
Do as they say … not as they do.
Of course, even Hollywood knows that the movies are the only place their ideas could work. That’s why when the rich and famous leave the set, they employ hired guns for protection. When the cameras shut off, the prop weapons are stowed and actors emerge into the real world, the likes of Jim Carrey and other notably outspoken “celebrities” like Piers Morgan, Michael Moore and Dianne Feinstein all require armed security. (To offset his hypocrisy, Carrey helpfully offered that, “No one in my employment is allowed to carry a large magazine.”)
For some actors, however, reality has forced a change in perspective. After confronting actress/wife Jennifer Garner’s stalker, Ben Affleck told the Hollywood Reporter that he owned several guns and had “embraced” them since dealing with the stalker.
“It gave me a stronger sense of feeling protective about my family,” he said. “There’s a lot of crazy, weird people out there. It’s an ugly world.”
A-listers Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have unabashedly announced their enthusiasm for guns. “I bought original, real guns … for security,” Jolie told the Daily Mail in 2008. “Brad and I are not against having a gun in the house, and we do have one. And yes, I’d be able to use it if I had to. …”
Starring in “Taken,” a film about a retired CIA operative who revives his training to rescue his kidnapped daughter, prompted the film’s star Liam Neeson to re-evaluate his views.
“As a father, you can’t imagine anything worse than your kid being put in danger,” Neeson told Parade magazine. “Of course, you wonder what your own reaction would be. You picture what you’d do to the kidnappers and you soon come to the conclusion that you’d do anything in your power to save your child. I found this particularly interesting territory, because I’m traditionally against violence, especially the kind of violence my character resorts to in the movie. But it’s a case of them or me.”
The Bright Side
Of course, Hollywood has also produced its share of actors who have no hypocritical standards tainting their image. Among them are Chuck Norris and Tom Selleck, along with the immortal greats like Ronald Reagan and former NRA President Charlton Heston.
In fact, during filming of the show “Blue Bloods” in 2011, actor, gun advocate and NRA Board member Selleck made headlines by chewing out an extra for unsafe behavior with a prop gun.
Needless to say, not all actors are reflexively anti-gun, and more nuanced views on firearms have appeared in quotes and tweets that get picked up by the media. Examples have come from the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Johnny Depp, James Earl Jones, Ice-T, Katee Sackhoff and Bruce Willis, among others.
A Mixed Bag
Hollywood has always been a bag of mixed tricks. The use of story and art can deliver powerful messages, but discerning parents already know to check reviews to see what exactly is being mingled with those messages. Movies can spawn an anti-hunting sentiment (such as hunters who play a role in wildlife management being told they’re “killing Bambi”) or persuade an actor that extreme pacifism isn’t so philosophically feasible.
These actors are undoubtedly part of some sensational filmmaking. They have a right to an opinion, though we often wish they’d just “shut up and sing.” But by dipping into the political world and advocating gun control, they become part of the problem—one we can’t ignore.
Guns in media aren’t always a bad thing, and portrayals of violence can have a legitimate place in the arts. But to romanticize misuse of firearms before walking off set to denounce them—while surrounded by armed guards and gated compounds—is hardly the spoonful of sugar to make the desired “medicine” go down.
The antidote to Hollywood hypocrisy remains the job of every NRA member: to exemplify gun safety and responsibility; to share the truth about firearm ownership whenever possible; and to continue introducing new shooters to the sport.
America's 1st Freedom
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