Since the Sandy Hook tragedy, the effects of gun laws, violent entertainment, mental health care and parenting practices have all entered the national dialogue.
In the violent media debate, the spotlight has hovered over successful Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino and his ultra-violent filmmaking. But many question why, and seek to dismiss any links between entertainment and aggression as silly and tired. But America's parents disagree.
A recent survey of 1,050 parents, conducted by Common Sense Media and the Center for American Progress, shows that 77 percent believe that, "Media violence, such as content in TV, movies, and video games, contributes to America's culture of violence." Sadly, 75 percent of those same parents indicated that it is difficult to shield their children from violence.
Additionally, a poll of Deseretnews.com readers indicates that more than 85 percent agree or strongly agree that "violent entertainment contributes to a culture of violence?" Furthermore, around 85 percent also believe the amount of violence in America is "getting worse" and that the news industry doesn't take "entertainment violence seriously enough."
Still, why target Tarantino? The logical leap is actually very short: influence.
It has been shown time and again that influencers drive demand. If that were not the case, Lebron James would not have a shoe deal and directors wouldn't pay Brad Pitt's rates.
As I showed previously, Tarantino's success directing rated-R and NC-17 movies is an outlier in a less profitable category. His directing acumen is well known, but so are his story lines, which include depictions of brutal human-on-human violence. Combine that with his support from a wealthy legion of A-list celebrities, association elite, and he has exactly what any product or service wants: influence. To get a sense of his network, see the accompanying graphic of A-list celebrities who have acted in his films, or you can peruse an interactive map here.
His work is also buttressed by a litany of awards, most recently from the Golden Globes. Critics tend to laud his story lines and filmography for its blend of gruesome and genius. He also has a following from film aficionados and copy-cat directors seeking success. Combined, he wields remarkable trend-setting influence. Thus, bowl game advertisements, Red Box machines, Netflix queues and many other outlets push a heavy supply of ultra-violent entertainment that surely influences choice and consumption.
He is a lightning rod both for his content and for his defiance during this post-Sandy Hook national dialogue. Even before his recent award success, a simple search on Google quotes from his recent interviews on violence could be found in more than 400 news stories nationwide. The Twitter hashtag #Tarantino has also been trending in coastal metro areas nationwide.
It is highly unlikely that Tarantino will be harmed by the added press attention to his work. In many respects, he is receiving free publicity. But the work he and like-minded producers of violent entertainment must be part of the national dialogue on our violence-drenched society.
Matthew studied economics at Brigham Young University and business and government at Harvard University. He is a GM at Deseret Digital Media where he oversees Deseret Connect and Deseret News Service. [email protected] or @Sanders_Matt