Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Despite Newtown, we crave violent movies

updated 1:01 PM EST, Mon January 14, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: Tarantino's bloody "Django Unchained" got two Golden Globes
  • Film that makes mass murder look cool is hugely popular even after Newtown, he says
  • He says celebrities who protest gun violence yet star in ultraviolent films are hypocritical
  • Granderson: Films shouldn't be censored; the real culprit is our addiction to violence

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- The first statuette of the 70th annual Golden Globe awards went to Christoph Waltz, whose character in "Django Unchained" shot two men and a horse in two scenes before I even opened my box of M&M's.

But that didn't surprise me, because "Django," a bloody homage to spaghetti Westerns, is a creation of one of my guilty pleasures, director Quentin Tarantino.

One of the most important auteurs in cinema today, Tarantino's scripts are intoxicating -- with witty dialogue; surprising and satisfying story arcs, and cartoonish body counts. "Django" won him a Golden Globe for screenwriting.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

And thus the nation's conundrum. A month into our post-Newtown world, "Django Unchained" -- a movie that makes mass murder look cool -- has scooped up more than $125 million in three weeks.

Is it me, or does it seem odd that a director known for ultra gun violence in his films has the biggest-grossing movie of his career in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 kids? Not to get all Wayne LaPierre, but wouldn't you think the nation wouldn't have the stomach to see such a glorification of gun violence so close to the tragedy?

And yet, here we are: Bruce Willis is slated to "Die Hard" again; "Hansel and Gretel" has been reimagined into a tale about siblings carrying automatic assault weapons and looking for witches to kill; and 65-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking on the Mexican cartel, including shooting a Gatling from a school bus.

Jamie Foxx on 'Django Unchained'
Tarantino: Why I used 'N-word' in film

And that's just over the course of a month.

Before meeting with Vice President Joe Biden to discuss violence in films and video games, Motion Picture Association of America chairman and former Sen. Chris Dodd told The Hollywood Reporter that the movie industry is vehemently opposed to content regulation, adding "We have a free and open society that celebrates the First Amendment."

In an NPR interview, Tarantino said it was disrespectful to the victims to bring up violence in movies in relationship to Newtown.

"Obviously, the issue is gun control and mental health," he said.

I agree.

But as we wait for Biden's gun control proposals to be revealed, as well as the ensuing debate in Washington to unfold, it's important to remember this conversation is threefold.

Mass shootings -- like those at Newtown, Columbine, the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater -- and everyday street violence, like what's going on in Chicago, can be addressed immediately by legislation. But background checks and assault rifle bans will not free us from our most debilitating shackle, and that is our numbness, if not addiction, to violence, particularly in film.

Of the 100 top-grossing movies of 2012, only three were rated G. Most in the top 10 were PG-13, including "The Hunger Games," a film about kids brutally killing each other for sport; two were PG and one was R.

This is why, when celebrities came together to film an anti-gun public service announcement, they were immediately called out as hypocrites, and rightfully so. In one scene in the Tarantino movie Jamie Foxx, who plays the main character, Django, shoots a man carrying sticks of dynamite, and the guy is literally blown into pieces.

And Foxx is the first person you see in an anti-gun ad?

Please.

It's hard enough to find the right balance between the freedoms guaranteed to us by the Constitution and living in a gun-happy Wild West, without cries for control coming from an industry that continues to glorify the lack of control. For those of us who feel comfortable calling out the NRA crowd for hiding behind the Second Amendment, consider the actions of the Hollywood crowd, which hides behind the First Amendment in its manipulative glorification of gun violence.

Or consider the actions of We the People, who year in and year out spend billions to watch someone wielding an Auto-Assault 12 shotgun, which spits out 300 rounds a minute, mow down people on the big screen.

I don't believe the government should pressure Hollywood to make less violent movies. The industry is only giving us what we want to see. Even now, just four short weeks after 20 children and six adults were massacred in Newtown, we still crave gun violence and death by chainsaw.

The White House and Congress can address mass shootings and violent crimes, but the culture of violence isn't about Biden, Foxx or Tarantino.

It's about us.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
You could be forgiven for thinking no one cares -- or even should care, right now -- about climate change, writes CNN's John Sutter. But you'd be mistaken.
updated 5:32 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
David Gergen says the White House's war against ISIS is getting off to a rough start and needs to be set right
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
updated 9:53 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says making rude use of the Mexican flag on Mexican independence day in a concert in Mexico was extremely tasteless, but not an international incident.
updated 9:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Michael Dunn is going to stand trial again after a jury was unable to reach a verdict; Mark O'Mara hopes for a fair trial.
updated 7:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
updated 5:47 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Laurence Steinberg says the high obesity rate among young children is worrisome for a host of reasons
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
updated 11:01 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT