In a move stunningly unconscious to outrageous hypocrisy, the group “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” have posted a video on on its website and Youtube (of course), featuring an impressive array of solemn Hollywood celebrities chiding Americans for not doing something about guns “yesterday” and to “demand a plan” to end gun violence. The problem? Many of these same celebrities owe their presence on the video to Hollywood’s obsession with gun violence, without which they would be just anonymous pretty faces. They owe their mansions and private planes to that gun violence too, which they have happily, willfully and lucratively acted out in scores of violent films and television shows. How can they presume, given how they make their living, to lecture anyone on the topic of guns?
I have some theories. Many of them are dumb as bricks. Most of them are automatic co-signers of the manifesto for any cause branded as liberal, the Hollywood religion,and don’t bother to think about whether it is consistent with their life choices or not. Probably all of them, working every day in one of the most ethics-free, cut-throat, dishonest and hypocritical sub-cultures that has ever existed in the United States are completely numb to the concept of hypocrisy, as apparently are the mayors, who work in the culture of politics, which is only somewhat better.
Still, you would think it such complete lack of integrity might set of a few ethics alarms, wouldn’t you? If Quentin Tarantino, fresh from writing and directing Django, made a pious public service announcement telling us to stop saying “nigger” because it was demeaning, would anyone fail to notice how ridiculous he looked? If Ben Stiller, he of “the full retard” in the comedy “Tropic Thunder,” was featured in a video telling us that we were insensitive to use the word “retard,” wouldn’t people be jeering? Samuel L. Jackson on civility? Adam Sandler on dignity? Cheech and Chong on the dangers of pot? How about any number of Hollywood sex bombs urging girls not to dress provocatively or have sex before marriage—would that be regarded as anything but the height of hypocrisy?
I see no difference.
Now if, inspired by the events at Sandy Hook Elementary, any of these sensitive actors pledged that they would never again accept a penny to portray gun-wielding as sexy, powerful, patriotic and a handy solution to peril and crisis, then by all means, lecture us. And if those celebrities in the video who have never used firearms on-screen—I can’t recall Ellen DeGeneris blowing anyone away, for example—refused to participate in the video with any gun-slinging star who didn’t make such a pledge, I’d have some respect for them too. But none of that has happened, or is likely to in the future. For many of these actors, if you’re not willing to shoot people for entertainment, you won’t work. Ever.
Hollywood is as much a part of America’s historical gun culture and the problem of its intractable violence as any other factor, including the availability of guns themselves. I watch a lot of TV and movies, always have, and since I was five, I am sure I have seen more than 300,000 human beings shot, many graphically. I see more every day. Let’s see: yesterday, which was not a heavy TV day for me, I saw at least 20. I have never seen a real gun fired in anger however. Hollywood relentlessly reinforces the idea that guns are the ultimate solution to life’s greatest perils, and the great equalizer when evil lurks. I love gunplay in movies when it’s well done, don’t get me wrong; as a director, I also appreciate the dramatic and visceral power of guns, as well as the usefulness of guns in plots that communicate moral and ethical lessons. John Wayne never shot anyone who didn’t deserve it (well, except in “Red River”). Clint Eastwood, Allan Ladd, Gary Cooper, Steve McQueen, Bruce Willis and many, many others have made my day shooting bad guys. I don’t advocate Hollywood censorship.
I do advocate that people who make their living and fame by increasing and entrenching the nation’s gun culture refrain from making me retch by pretending to have any principles where guns are concerned, other than “show me the money.”
Some wag took the time to take the “Demand a Plan” video and insert footage of the same celebrities shooting people in their day jobs. Perfect. You can see it here. I would post the video itself, but the maker had to diminish his creation, which speaks eloquently for itself, by giving it a vulgar title and ending it with a string of obscenities—a lesson in how incivility can be counter-productive.
The theme of the post-Newtown gun debate continues to be that the anti-gun advocates are presenting their case so hysterically, offensively, ignorantly, assaultively, self-righteously, and now hypocritically, that they are thoroughly undermining their own position. The United States needs to devise a rational national policy of measures that will make gun violence less likely, but it’s not going to happen if the most vocal and prominent advocates for such measures continue to behave and sound like—I’m sorry, but there’s no more appropriate word—assholes.