This is not a column about gun rights, pro or con. I’m not going there.
This also is not a column about the National Rifle Association, pro or con. I’m not going there, either.
This is what it is about: guns and movies.
Let’s start here: Harvey Weinstein, the movie “mogul,” detests guns. He detests them so much that he recently told a national radio host, “I never want to have a gun. I don’t think we need guns in this country, and I hate it. I think the NRA is a disaster area.”
He hates guns so much that he says he is going to make a movie that will cause people to hate guns and the NRA.
“I’m going to make a movie with Meryl Streep, and we’re going to take this head-on,” he said, “and they’re going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them.”
He vowed that it will be a big movie, like "Mr. Smith goes to Washington," that will hurt gun manufacturers: “It’s going to be like crash and burn,” he said.
Fine. If people want to take a stand for or against guns, that’s their right. There’s just one little problem with all this anti-gun talk when it comes from Weinstein or, for that matter, anyone else in Hollywood, and you’ve probably already guessed it by now.
It is blatant, you-gotta-be-kidding-me hypocrisy.
Has anyone done more to glorify guns and violence than Hollywood? Actors, writers, producers, directors, studios – all of them – babble about guns and violence in America, and then get in the Bentley and drive back to the mansion they bought with piles of money they made from movies that featured characters blasting away at each other with guns.
They’re saying one thing and doing another. That discounts anything they say about guns. If you don’t walk the walk, don’t talk the talk.
If an alien from a distant planet judged life on Earth based solely on what it saw in movies and or on TV, it would think the average American shoots somebody as routinely as brushing his teeth, probably during his daily commute.
Weinstein’s rant is especially galling. He was the executive director of "Pulp Fiction," "Reservoir Dogs," "Rambo 4," "Kill Bill Vol. 1," "Kill Bill Vol. 2," "Inglorious Basterds," "Django Unchained" and "Sin City." Seven of those films were included on CNN’s list of the 20 most violent movies ever, most of them featuring an arsenal of guns big enough to arm a third-world country.
Weinstein has built his career on such movies, not to mention a fortune estimated at $150 million – and now he wants to speak out against guns? Weinstein The Movie Maker doesn’t hate guns; he loves guns. He can’t work enough of them into the script. For a man who professes to hate guns and would never own one, he sure knows a lot about them and seems to have a certain fascination with them.
It’s not just Weinstein, of course. The entire Hollywood culture has spoken out against guns while also spraying automatic weapons across America’s big screens. About two dozen actors made a gun legislation video a year ago in which each takes turns reciting the names of places where there has been a mass killing at the hand of a gunman.
Jamie Foxx starts things off by invoking the name of “Columbine” and then Jeremy Renner says “Newtown.” Are they kidding? Foxx and Renner have made countless movies in which they slaughter people with guns. Same for most of the video’s other participants — among others, Reese Witherspoon, Cameron Diaz, Jason Bateman, Jon Hamm, Julianne Moore, Jennifer Garner, Chris Rock and Courtney Cox. It's their best acting performance yet, combining self-righteousness and hypocrisy without any visible self-consciousness.
What are they going to do next, tell us not to use profanity?
If they want to do something about guns and violence in this country, they should look in the mirror. There is little doubt – despite Hollywood’s disingenuous denials – that violence in movies influences behavior. If not, then why does TV sell 60-second advertisements for millions of dollars, and, for that matter, why would Weinstein make a movie to make us hate guns and the NRA?
In the landmark book "Hollywood v. America," by Michael Medved, Daniel Linz, a professor of psychology at the UC-Santa Barbara at the time, said, “The consensus among social scientists is that very definitely there’s a causal connection between exposure to violence in the media and violent behavior.”
Linz devoted his career to the subject. The book cites a University of Illinois study of 400 children over the course of more than 20 years that came to this conclusion: Kids who watched significant amounts of TV violence at age 8 were consistently more likely to commit violent crimes or engage in child or spouse abuse at age 30: “It cannot be denied or explained away,” the scientist concludes.
In the aforementioned video, the actors and actresses conclude their gun legislation pitch by saying, “As a mom, as a dad, as a husband, as a wife, as an American, as a human being ... demand a plan right now."
They are talking to us, but they should be directing such sentiments to themselves and their industry, as well as those who watch their movies. They should question the cavalier, gratuitous use of guns on the big screen, where there is little value for human life and guns are frequently an answer for solving problems.
A recent study published in the Pediatrics journal reported that gun violence in PG-13 movies has tripled since 1985, from less than one shooting sequence per hour to almost three.
Memo to Hollywood: If you want to talk about guns, put up or shut up.
Doug Robinson's columns run on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Email: [email protected]