Blaming Hollywood

One of the most violent major releases of the year is Quentin Tarantino “Django Unchained,” which is not only a slavery revenge picture but evokes the shoot-em-up spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone. The Weinstein Co. today canceled tonight’s premiere party for the movie, as other studios have of their holiday season movies, but the question is whether this P.R. sensitivity will translate into some kind of soul searching about the intensity and depictions of gun violence in movies, as well as video games.

On Saturday, “Django” star Jamie Foxx told CBS News, “We cannot turn our back and say that violence in films or anything that we
do doesn’t have a sort of influence. It
does.”

The film’s director, Quentin Tarantino, said “tragedies happen.”

He told CBS News, “I just think, you know, there’s violence in the world, tragedies happen, blame
the playmakers. It’s a Western. Give me a break.”

It’s becoming clearer that there will be continued pressure from Washington lawmakers, although the Supreme Court made it clear in 2011 that even extremely violent depictions were protected forms of speech, as it struck down a California law banning the same of violent videogames to minors. So actually legislating media violence will probably have trouble passing constitutional muster. Nevertheless, NBC News’ Chuck Todd said on “Hardball” today that “the NRA is more likely to come to the table if you have Hollywood there, if you have videogame makers” there.

The MPAA and Electronic Software Assn. did not respond to requests for comment, but in the past they have pointed to numerous studios showing no causal link between violence on screen and real-life violence. Both industries also are frequent targets of politicians in both parties looking to place blame on society’s ills, less of a liability when it comes to winning votes than the powerful NRA. So as much as the conversation may be about the violent “culture,” as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today, the danger for gun control advocates is that such a sweeping discourse will be a way to cop out on stricter firearms laws.

Update: One more point: Where Hollywood has responded is in the threat of legislation, something that resulted in the creation of the movie ratings system in the late 1960s and the V-chip for television programming in the late 1990s. It is also not out of the question that studio and videogame chiefs could be called to testify before Congress, where lawmakers could press them to take voluntary action. But so far, save for Foxx, there has been very little coming from the industry on whether it has a role in contributing to a culture of violence.

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