[ I wrote this blog a month ago at the request of a publisher who ultimately decided not to run it. I’m posting it here in hopes of starting a conversation about the subject. Comments are moderated and intolerant comments will not be allowed. Discussion and disagreement are encouraged. ]
After the tragedy in Sandy Hook, there is a rush to find villains and assign blame. But the situation isn’t that easy. It took a lot of hard work from a lot of people in a lot of organizations to get us into this mess. It will take a lot of work to get us out.
There is no one villain. There is no one single “magic bullet” (pun intended) that will resolve the issue of violence in our society.
However, I was struck by how quickly our industry tried to distance itself from any responsibility for the attack, or violence in general. The current flashpoint is Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” described as an an ultra-violent take on slavery and societal division.
The Los Angeles Times quoted Samuel Jackson echoing the industry theme when he said: “I don’t think movies or video games have anything to do with [whether on-screen violence has an influence on someone who decides to behave violently in real life]”
While it is true that violence is bigger than a single industry, to say the media industry bears no responsibility misses the larger point. Ask yourself the following questions and see where the answers lead you.
If films have no impact on real-life, why is film merchandizing a billion dollar industry?
If films have no impact on “real-life,” why do producers make millions of dollars in product placements within their movies?
If the programs we create have no impact, why does the multi-billion-dollar advertising industry exist?
If the messages we create have no impact, why did advertisers play $7 million dollars a minute to advertise on the SuperBowl?
If what stars wear, do, or say makes no difference, why does the tabloid industry exist?
If what our scripts say makes no difference, why have so many catch-phrases entered every day speech? I mean, “go ahead, make my day.”
If what we do makes no difference, then why is “Django Unchained” the fourth Hollywood-related event to be postposed or canceled since last Friday (according to the Los Angeles Times)?
Can you honestly say that a film titled “Bullet to the Head” has no societal implications?
If we are being honest, we could say: “The money is more important.”
Or, “My story is more important.”
Or, “I’m not really paying attention to the results of my work.”
Or, “I don’t really care what happens to some little kid.”
All too often, we add violence to our stories because we don’t have any better ideas. Now look at where that attitude has taken us.
We could say that we are simply cogs in the machine, doing what we are told to do. But this is disingenuous — we always have a choice – to say “yes,” or say “no.” How can you explain to a group of children that you blow people up for a living?
Violence is complex, there are many different factors involved. But we can’t say: “What we do doesn’t matter.” None of us would be in this industry if that were true.
When pointing fingers of blame, one of them needs to point to us.
As always, let me know what you think.
– – –
UPDATE – Feb. 4, 2013
I am very grateful for the thought-provoking reactions and comments to this blog. Please click the Comments button below to read what others have said.
NEW & Updated!
Edit smarter with Larry’s latest training, all available in our store.