In our opinion: Excessively violent entertainment and its impact on culture

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 26 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

This undated publicity file image released by The Weinstein Company shows Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candle in "Django Unchained," directed by Quentin Tarantino.

ANDREW COOPER SMPSP, AP

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For over two decades, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino has become a Hollywood darling by directing some of the most brutal movies ever made. His first film, 1992's Reservoir Dogs, featured extensive gunplay, along with a lengthy torture sequence set to pop music in which the centerpiece is the severing of a human ear. His next film, Pulp Fiction, highlighted what the Washington Post called a "rousing scene in which a gunshot sprays somebody's brains around a car interior." That film won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Each time it seems Tarantino has gone as far as he can go by way of cinematic carnage, he somehow manages to push the envelope even further.

His latest film, Django Unchained, is perhaps his most violent offering yet, replete with mayhem aplenty, most of which is launched from the end of a gun. Yet somehow Tarantino doesn't grasp the connection between a culture that produced the Sandy Hook Elementary school tragedy in Connecticut and his own contributions to it. When his producer cancelled the Los Angeles premiere of Django in light of the Connecticut massacre, Tarantino dismissed any voiced concerns.

"I just think, you know, there's violence in the world, tragedies happen, blame the playmakers," he stated at a New York press conference. "It's a Western. Give me a break."

Give him a break?

In 1999, two high school seniors at Columbine High School in Colorado murdered a dozen of their classmates and one teacher before turning the guns on themselves. Prior to the massacre, they filmed themselves bragging about their plans and specifically citing Tarantino as the man who should tell their story in the movies. Can anyone credibly argue that the violence in Tarantino's films in no way inspired the real life violence that followed?

This does not mean Tarantino should be held personally responsible for Columbine or Sandy Hook or any of the mass murders in between. Certainly people are accountable for their own actions. But as the nation looks to any solution to prevent another such nightmare from taking place, it is far past time to ignore the impact that excessively violent entertainment has had on the culture at large. Studies repeatedly show that violence on screen desensitizes individuals in their approach to violence in real life. Movies, video games, and any entertainment glamorizing extreme human suffering certainly aren't helping the efforts to create a safer society.

Too many innocents are dead.

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