What is the Future Of Gun Violence in Our Entertainment?
Another week, another mass shooting, another round of thoughts and prayers. As we continue our ride on this nightmarish merry-go-round, nothing ever changes, and with a barrage of competing political and social interests, it seems that nothing ever will.
Some cry for gun control. Others blame the state of mental health in our country. Everyone turns to politicians to either make a change or stop a change, but improvement comes in short supply in our current political climate. I'm beginning to think that, just maybe, the politicians have a smaller part to play in fixing this deadly serious issue than we might like to believe.
While improving our gun laws would likely make steps toward a safer society and giving much-deserved money to mental health research and facilities would lead to a generally increased level of health in our country, it's clear that what we have on our hands is not a political issue, it's cultural.
Can you remember the last time you smiled, laughed or even cheered as a film or television hero, who was not a policeman or in the military, mowed down his enemies in a spray of gunfire? With the upcoming Netflix series, The Punisher, on it's way to our television screens November 17th, bringing with him a whirlwind of bullets, the next time is probably not too far off.
Just because a story has placed us on the side of the individual wielding the guns, and those being murdered are faceless, nameless nobodies who are mere plot devices to show just how badass our hero is, when we celebrate these moments of gun violence the fact remains: we just cheered on a mass shooting. We laughed at loss of life. We watched as a form of violence that has become all too rampant in our society took place, and we called it entertainment.
Then what happened on screen? The hero likely continued on his or her way with no thought for consequences or repercussions, and they will likely receive neither. The story goes on. Our enjoyment is unbroken.
But for many, with the frequency and scale of mass shootings on the rise in our country, those scenes are now going to call to mind actual moments of terror in their own lives or in the lives of loved ones. What was once an element of fantasy is becoming our reality, and can we as consumers of entertainment continue to enjoy these moments of violence?
Am I championing a movement to remove all violence from film? No, but there is something to be said for showing consequences and injecting a respect for the value of a human life, each and every human life, into our entertainment. When we as a culture hold up perpetrators of such violence as heroes and cheer them on, how can we expect those who are mentally ill, longing to be seen as heroes themselves, to believe that executing a similarly violent act is evil? What we celebrate in our entertainment, we condemn in our reality. Is that leading to cultural confusion? Should we strive for a consistency between the two? Does it even matter?
Where laws and politics are failing us, can a change in our entertainment and the way we consume it begin to save us? I think it might.
Changing is always harder than staying the same, especially when that change is a personal one. It's much easier to point fingers at others, demanding that someone else do something about the terrifying state of our society, than it is to look seriously at our own lives, mindsets and consumer habits, asking ourselves if we might actually be part of the problem. It's much easier to laugh off conversations about violence in media as hypersensitive or uptight, but something is culturally to blame for the state of our country, and, if this truly is a problem we hope to solve, it's worth considering whether this is, in fact, a piece of one of the most complex puzzles of our age.
What do you think? Does the way violence is portrayed and glorified in our entertainment contribute to a more violent society? Or does our entertainment have less bearing on our reality? What do you think lies ahead for the future of violence in entertainment? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!