The hypocrites in Hollywood are running scared after a mentally ill 20-year-old, Adam Lanza, invaded Sandy Brook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and proceeded to murder 20 small children. Their first reaction, of course, was that guns were to blame. Mia Farrow blasted away on Twitter: “I don’t want to hear one idiotic word out of the NRA.”
Rashida Jones of Parks and Recreation tweeted, “Gun control is our only road to freedom. Freedom from the fear of senselessly losing children. I’m so saddened. WE NEED LAWS NOW.”
Perez Hilton took a break from using Microsoft Paint to dab fake bodily fluids on starlets’ mouths long enough to write, “I’m trying to be more positive these days but people who say ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ – those people are fucking morons!”
But there was a problem for the Hollywood contingent: Connecticut is one of the most heavily regulated states in the union on guns. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) pushes for a federal assault weapons ban, but Connecticut already has a state assault weapons ban in place. And no liberal can suggest a single gun law short of repealing the Second Amendment that would have prevented the Sandy Brook massacre.
The truth is that Hollywood, for all the current hand-wringing, makes more money off gun violence than the gun industry does. Take a visit to your local Blockbuster and check out the action titles; virtually every one of them depicts a muscular male carrying a piece of heavy weaponry.
Hollywood knows that of all the industries in America, it’s the most likely to earn a buck from people’s enthusiasm over firearms. Which means that Hollywood producers and stars often feel compelled to speak out against Hollywood violence from time to time—a way of inoculating the industry against finger pointing about its role in tragedies such as the one in Connecticut.
Thus, Jamie Foxx, star of this year’s over-the-top violent Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained – the same fellow who last week jokingly celebrated how he got to “kill all the white people in the movie” – now says, “We cannot turn our back and say that violence in films or anything that we do doesn’t have a sort of influence. It does.” And Harvey Weinstein, producer of Django Unchained, as well as other violent films like Kill Bill, Rambo, Halloween, and Pulp Fiction, says he wants to hold a conference on violence in movies.
But if Hollywood is responsible for tragedies like the Sandy Brook massacre, it isn’t because of movie violence. Movie violence has been around as long as movies have, and people have wrung their hands over it for just as long. There are other ways in which Hollywood has had a far broader and deeper impact on the culture.
Take a closer look at Adam Lanza’s life, for example. According to reports, Lanza was mentally ill. Richard Novia, head of security at Lanza’s Newtown High School, said that Lanza “had some disabilities … If that boy would’ve burned himself, he would not have known it or felt it physically.” Other reports say that he had a personality disorder. Why wasn’t Lanza under constant scrutiny, then? Why hadn’t he been committed? Surely Hollywood does have something to do with the notion that the mentally ill aren’t actually ill, they’re just misunderstood. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the inmates are the sanest people around; it’s their jailers who are representatives of a repressive social order. From 1955 to 1980, the resident population in state public mental hospitals dropped from 559,000 to 154,000. Homelessness increased dramatically. So, too, did incidents involving the mentally ill. Meanwhile, Hollywood told us, in the words of Simon & Garfunkle, that “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls.”
Or how about Lanza’s family situation? Hollywood has spent decades telling Americans that divorce has no consequences, and that marriage is about love alone rather than commitment. But by all accounts, the breakup of his parents’ marriage was a contributing factor to Lanza’s deranged decision to murder his mother and then shoot up a bunch of schoolchildren. Will Hollywood take responsibility for that?
Of course not. It’s easier for them to pretend to worry about gun violence, as they have during every decade since the 1960s, with no material change to the material they produce. The societal effects of that onscreen gun violence are not responsible for Sandy Brook. But if onscreen gun violence was a contributing factor, a far greater contributing factor is Hollywood’s attempt to wish away mental illness, and its commensurate attempt to undermine the traditional family structure.
But don’t look for Jamie Foxx or Harvey Weinstein to pop off about that. It might get them funny looks at those cocktail parties they sponsor from the cash they make off of bloody films.