The gun industry has come under tremendous political and media pressure after the Newtown massacre a week ago today, but they haven’t been entirely alone, either. The entertainment industry has also come in for criticism for its glorification and personalization of violence. Colorado governor John Hickenlooper blamed video games for increasing violence in our culture, and Jamie Foxx said that Hollywood’s influence bears some responsibility for it as well. MPAA chief Chris Dodd — the former Senator from Connecticut, where the shootings took place — announced yesterday that Hollywood wants to be “part of the national conversation”:
MPAA topper Chris Dodd has offered his condolences to the families of Friday’s shooting victims, marking the org’s first public statement since the killings that have heated up the national conversation about gun violence and the media.
“As a citizen of Connecticut and having represented the people there for 36 years in Washington, I have been shocked and profoundly saddened by this tragedy. My heart goes out to the community as I know they will carry this pain with them long after the spotlight on Newtown has dimmed,” Dodd said in a statement issued Thursday. “As chairman of the MPAA and on behalf of the motion picture and television studios we represent, we join all Americans in expressing our sympathy as well as our horror and outrage at this senseless act of violence. Thus, I have reached out to the Administration to express our support for the President’s efforts in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. Those of us in the motion picture and television industry want to do our part to help America heal. We stand ready to be part of the national conversation.”
I’d be excited by this if Dodd meant that Hollywood might actually offer some introspection over its mind-numbing output. Somehow, I doubt that. My guess as to what Dodd has in mind, given his current and former jobs, will be to converse aboout how Hollywood can push the gun-control agenda through its products. Dodd’s expression of “support for the President’s efforts” on behalf of the MPAA makes that pretty clear.
I don’t want to see Hollywood get censored any more than I want to see the government start confiscating weapons. The proper venue to determine what products should be sold is the marketplace. Nor do I think that movies and video games are a proximate cause for the impulse to commit mass murder, any more than I think the gun is the proximate cause. The proximate cause in these cases are the shooters, and their own specific pathologies.
But there is a larger debate to be had about the nature of our culture, and whether the dominating influences on it — the entertainment media especially, but also schools and other prominent institutions — are serving us well in inculcating a shared value system based on the value and sanctity of human life. Will Dodd open a debate on that? I doubt it, especially in the same week that Hollywood is celebrating another installment of Quentin Tarantino’s revenge fests, Django Unchained. Hollywood won’t address those concerns until moviegoers stop buying tickets to their violent exploitation films, released while the entertainment industry’s biggest names get together to scold gun owners for being so violent. The hypocrisy would be laughable, if not so grotesque under the circumstances.
Update: PJTV’s Poliwood wonders whether Hollywood will rethink its relationship to violence, too:
The easy answer: when moviegoers rethink their relationship to its violent product. But as long as they’re lecturing the rest of us, our first answer should be Thespians, clean up thine own act.