A Change in the Way Hollywood Depicts Violence?

January 19, 2014

dove-harvey-weinstein-media-violence.jpgThe devastating December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was described in media outlets as being different. Many questioned if violence in the media actually inspires violence in the real world, and in the wake of the tragedy, many asked if Hollywood should rethink its depiction of violence for entertainment’s sake.

Well, according to uber-producer Harvey Weinstein, the Newtown, CT shooting did impact his psyche enough to consciously make a change in his behavior. CNN’s Piers Morgan Live featured Weinstein last Friday night on which the producer expressed he can no longer in good conscience partake in creating films that contain, what many have argued, excessive and graphic violence. Weinstein has produced several highly popular and critically acclaimed yet violent films such as Gangs of New York, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, Rambo, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained–and the list goes on. But the father of five also lives about 20 minutes away from the school where 20 young students and 6 adults were killed.  “[Gun violence] is in my backyard now. And as much as I want to ignore it, as much as I want to go on with my regular life, I can’t shake it this time,” Weinstein said. “I can’t do it, I can’t make one movie and say this is what I want for my kids, and then just go out and be a hypocrite.”

Weinstein explained he has no problem with real-to-life violence in movies like Lone Survivor which chronicles a team of Navy SEALs in Afganistan, but said on the other hand, I’m not going to make some crazy action movie just to blow up people and exploit people.” 

Weinstein, along with his brother Bob, co-founded Miramax Films and now the Weinstein Company. Harvey shared these convictions days after announcing their plans to make a film that will be critical of the National Rifle Association’s stance on gun control.

“The movie will be entertaining” Weinstein said, likening it to the classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. However, Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep will play a U.S. senator who dares to stand up to the NRA. “I know the power of what a movie can do, because a movie can galvanize a country,” he told Morgan.

Many with equal convictions from the opposing side of the gun argument have come forward in response to Weinstein’s interview. Rock star and gun-rights advocate, Ted Nugent, for example, expressed his belief that the movie will indeed backfire and result in ultimately strengthening the NRA. After all, many people argue the NRA represents law-abiding gun owners as opposed to armed criminals on the street. And while Michael Moore’s anti-gun documentary, Bowling for Columbine, won him an Oscar, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the U.S. firearms industry, from the time the documentary was released till the year 2011, a 54.1% increase in the number of federal background checks occurred, which is one way to measure the increase in gun sales.

Many have criticized Weinstein for changing his philosophy after making vast amounts of money perpetuating the violence he now condemns. “So is he planning to donate all the money he made using violence to people who were victims of violence?” one blogger asked. Others point out Weinstein’s Kill Bill Vol 3 and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For are still in the works, and so demonstrate how insincere he is.

Weinstein says he refuses to back down, and characterized the U.S.’s resistance to gun control as a byproduct of the big business of the gun industry.

Weinstein’s movies have been hugely successful and tremendously influential. But does he have too much confidence in his ability to affect popular culture? Do you believe Weinstein’s new movie will succeed in having a long-term effect on Hollywood and its depiction of violence in cinema? Or do you believe the film will come and go, and movie violence will continue unchanged?