Guns and Hollywood

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John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction
Image courtesy Miramax

Last week there were two major news events: 58 people were murdered and hundreds wounded by a shooter in Las Vegas. And, the New York Times ran a story confirming an open secret in Tinseltown -- that Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein had long "engaged in rampant sexual harassment."

Weinstein has since been fired, and more serious allegations have been published. Given the known Democratic leanings of Weinstein and his colleagues, charges of hypocrisy in liberal Hollywood have swirled.

This DnA episode considers another dimension of liberal Hollywood hypocrisy -- in connection with mass shootings: namely, the movie industry’s cozy relationship with the gun industry, through the branding, marketing and design development of its products.

The Hollywood Reporter has detailed the very close relationship between the movie and gun manufacturing industries in the article, "Locked and Loaded: The Gun Industry’s Lucrative Relationship with Hollywood." It was co-authored by Gary Baum, who says that "gun companies are huge beneficiaries of the gun culture in film and television," and vice versa.  The love affair is demonstrated in the Hollywood Guns exhibit at the NRA Museum in Virginia and at a prop house with 15,000 guns in Sunland, California, which helps movie-makers create the illusion of violence. Guns are then aestheticized in stylish movies that objectify guns along with the cars, fashion and jewelry and the actors and actresses that model them.

So does the illusion impact real life?

Guns are playing a bigger role on the silver screen. A 2015 report by the Economist concluded that gun violence in PG-13 movies has tripled since 1985. And the Hollywood Reporter found the number of gun models pictured in big box office movies between 2010 and 2015 was 51 percent higher than it had been a decade earlier.

Of the deadliest single-day mass shootings in US history from 1949 to the present, only two took place before 1980. That means that the majority of deadly mass shootings have taken place in this period when we've seen a rise of gun violence in movies.

Weinstein, producer of Pulp Fiction and other Quentin Tarantino movies, ironically has said he no longer wants to make movies that glamorize gun violence. But Baum says most Hollywood executives don't see themselves as playing a role, even as they start to worry a mass shooting might one day hit the red carpet. "Hollywood defers blame or responsibility for the most part to its audience. It feels as though it is providing an entertainment to an audience that wants this gunplay," he said.