Rust Gun Shooting Sparks New On-Screen Gun Violence Debate | Film industry


As police investigations continue into the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins following a shooting during production of Alec Baldwin Rust’s film, calls for a ban on live firearms on film and television sets intensified, with lawmakers in California and New Mexico threatening to take action if the entertainment industry does not.

The continued presence of firearms on the sets has also reopened the wider debate on the prevalence of gun violence on our screens and its potentially harmful effects. For Steven Gaydos, executive vice president of content for Variety, the nature of on-screen violence is dictated less by American gun culture than the realities of the international film market. “The shooting game in the movies is arguably more important now than it ever was,” he says. “If you’re trying to fund a movie, you’ll quickly find that if you don’t kill someone – through horror, guns, or superheroes – you’re in an area that no one wants to go to.”

“It doesn’t have much to do with Hollywood’s own preferences,” he adds. “It has to do with what computers tell financiers how they can get their money back – and these are movies where people kill each other.”

Daniel Craig in No Time to Die. Photograph: Allstar / MGM / Universal Pictures / Eon

If big franchises are anything to go by, then the James Bond films certainly seem to suggest greater preparation for violence in blockbuster cinema. Informal research shows that before the release of No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s 007 – which debuted in Casino Royale in 2006 – was responsible for nearly twice as many screen deaths (235) as the next one (Roger Moore, who starred in two other films, with 121). The film death toll places Craig 007 in the lead with 59, followed by Pierce Brosnan with 26, Moore with 17 and Sean Connery with 11, suggesting that Bond films since 2000 have been considerably more violent than their predecessors.

Data on the effects of violence on the screen are not readily available. A highly cited study from 2013 found that violence in American films had more than doubled since 1950, and gun violence in films rated PG-13 (equivalent to a 12A in the UK) had more than tripled since 1985. In 2017, another study carried out an experiment this indicated that children who watched a movie containing guns were more likely to aggressively play with seemingly real guns and try to shoot than those who watched a movie without any weapons. As early as 1993, the American Psychological Association reported in its Commission on Violence and Youth that “there is absolutely no doubt that higher levels of viewing violence… correlate with increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and increased aggressive behavior.” The same has been reported for video games. A 2001 study concluded that “exposure to violent video games increases physiological arousal and thoughts and feelings associated with aggression.” Conversely, a study in 2019 failed to find a correlation between the increase in violence in the PG-13 films and real-world violence during the same time period.

At first glance, the United States’ long-standing internal conflict over the gun violence crisis and its reluctance to consider limiting gun ownership appears to determine individual responses to this problem. In 2012, National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre responded to the Sandy Hook massacre by accusing “vicious and violent video games” and “blood-soaked slasher movies”, even as the National Weapons Museum at NRA fire presents a Hollywood weapons section. Conversely, apparently liberal Hollywood producers have concluded product placement agreements with gun manufacturers for years, and convicted felons such as Mark Wahlberg and Danny Trejo have regularly portrayed armed characters on screen, but would not be allowed to hold a firearms license in real life. In 2019, the violent satire The Hunt saw its release postponed after a series of shootings, as well as an attack on the film by Donald Trump (“They create their own violence, then try to blame others,” he said. he said about Hollywood). It was then released in March 2020.

Betty Gilpin in La Chasse.
Betty Gilpin in La Chasse. Photograph: Photo credit: Patti Perret / Universal Pictures

Overall, Hollywood figures have been reluctant to criticize on-screen violence. In 2013 Arnold Schwarzenegger said he should be “kept separate” from real world shootings, stating: “We need to analyze how we deal with mental illness, how we deal with gun laws, how we deal with parenthood. ” Quentin Tarantino, whose films are often at the center of the on-screen violence debate, adopted a similar line in 2013: “Obviously the problem is gun control and mental health.

Any attempt to take concrete action appears to have stalled. In 2013, film industry leaders met with then-vice president Joe Biden as part of Obama’s failed White House attempt to pass gun control legislation, but declined to consider government restrictions on content, citing the First Amendment. In 2014, disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein said he would no longer be producing “crazy action movies” and announced an anti-NRA The Senator’s Wife project, but the film was never made. A pro-gun control movie that hit theaters, Miss Sloane starring Jessica Chastain, is doing badly at the box office.

Gaydos suggests that the films are produced in response to the public’s “insatiable appetite” for violence, ranging from films such as the John Wick series to television shows such as Squid Game to video games. “In the same way that Facebook has found a way to make products to create a need, the need to see violence and gunshots on the screen is addictive in nature at this point.”

“Today’s new film is designed by an algorithm, and the algorithm dictates the violence. And that’s what people watch.