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