TW Viewpoint | Hollywood and Gun Violence

August 12, 2022 | Stuart Wachowicz

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In a recent monologue by the well-known comedian Bill Maher (aired June 10, 2022), he noted a strong correlation between gun violence (mass shootings) in the United States and what we often see portrayed in the movies.

In the past few decades, we will often see film story lines where the victim is a young male who has been poorly treated by a certain segment of society. He is ostracized, subjected to various injustices and ridicule, and is now set aside as a loser. He eventually becomes angry and seeks some sort of restitution to make matters right. As the story progresses, this male eventually rallies against his abusers, resorts to a chain of violence involving a barrage of bullets fired from a gun. He may want others to experience the pain that he has often felt. He shoots his way to triumph over his oppressors that exacts his well-deserved revenge, and he becomes heralded as a type of hero through the viewing audience. The visual and sound effects make the entire event look stunning and spectacular. Justice is served.

Interestingly this story line has an eerie resemblance to many of the backgrounds of those who engage in mass shootings. The perpetrator is likely one who was a loner and probably not well-liked or popular among his peers. Occasionally others may have seen glimpses of him that suggested this person was not completely well-grounded or balanced, but no one suspected a pending severe problem brewing. Most in our society and in cultures across the world could fit the description of someone who lacks acclaim and a satisfying level of respect among others. In reality, very few have the persona or status that leads to popularity among peers. But as has occurred in prior generations, most, will often mature over time, develop self-esteem and eventually grow up to become successful human beings.

However, our society is so fragmented today, that many young people lack appropriate role models and are not able to access and receive proper nurturing and advice. Growing up today presents many more challenges and provides a wide range of insecurities. A young person could become completely overwhelmed and undergo multiple emotional issues including depression. Without the proper support, strong traditional role models and family structure, such a young person could become dismayed, angry and also vulnerable. Hence when a movie comes along where the story closely aligns with what the person is experiencing and feeling, the person could identify with the sufferer and subconsciously adopt the solution the movie is offering.

The movie industry needs to realize, whether they accept it or not, it also performs a teaching function and promotes a mode of conduct and morality. Movies are not just entertainment. The film industry does bear a responsibility to its audience, but as Mr. Maher pointed out, this part of the narrative is often silent. Politicians prefer to focus on the weapons used (the guns) rather than the state of mind being developed among segments of the population, which is often molded and shaped by what is viewed and seen around us, though this well-known effect is frequently denied. We all need to realize the power of example and the role we play in it. An uplifting inspiring story can provide a greater benefit to our society and provide young men the incentive to become better citizens, rather than drawing them into a rage that hurts and kills many others, including the destruction of their own lives.

The entertainment industry has a responsibility and accountability for the products they make and promote, as do individuals when choosing what we and our families consume.

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