Made in Hollywood? : The Cause of Gun Violence


Eng 102:  Essay 1-Response to a Reading

Published Date: September 22, 2012

Edward Wasserman’s article “Killing as Troubling Cinematic Art Form” focuses on one of America’s longest standing debates: the cause of gun violence.  Wasserman asserts that the cause is gun violence portrayed in movies.  He begins by stating, “The media seem to move on from mass killings more quickly… there seemed little interest in learning anything” in regards to the Aurora, Colorado Cinema Massacre.  He claims that no one was looking at the similarity of what happened in the cinema to what was portrayed on screen.  He declares that Hollywood is the forum in which “guns are exhibited, marketed and sold”.  He supports this by pointing out a lack of visual advertisements from gun companies, a graduation of detailed gun action on screen, and by stating the guns used the most in movies are the very same ones that make the gun industry the most money.

Wasserman provides a romanticized description of how the movies portray gun violence and follows that with “A 24-year-old American lad, marinated in revenge fantasies – how many cinematic montages has he seen, the quietly determined protagonist fashioning his straps and holsters, lubricating and reassembling his weapons, squeezing cartridges into clips, Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver, Jean Reno in The Professional, Keanu Reeves in The Matrix: “Guns, lot more guns.”  The essence of cool.”    He questions the similarity between the guns that are best-selling and those featured in movies.  He concludes his argument with a strongly worded “it’s impossible to imagine Aurora without Hollywood.”

Wasserman claims mass media moved on within three days of the Aurora Cinema Massacre.  The evidence he provides is The New York Times did not run the trial as the front page on the third day.  I believe his exclusion of social media and television was intentional as it did not support his view.  Both of these forums were filled with updates and analysis of the crime for weeks after the crime took place directly contradicting the argument Wasserman makes.

Wasserman’s view that no one wants to make a comparison from the movie to the tragedy that occurred is also poorly supported.  While he generally states, “Once, slaying 12 innocents would have touched off a national wave of introspection and debate…” yet again he omits news programs that brought in experts to elaborate on this exact comparison because their final conclusion was while the movie may have inspired the killing to be done in the method it was, it did not cause it. These omissions play against the rest of his article where he does explore some concerning information.

Wasserman singles out what he believes to be the cause by stating that Hollywood is the forum in which “guns are exhibited, marketed and sold.”  Though I concede his point, “that action films have become the most reliable money makers… in the movie industry” and I believe this correlation deserves to be analyzed, it directly contradicts the fact that Hollywood is a market driven business.  If people did not want to see guns in movies Hollywood would not include them, regardless of supposed gun campaigns.  I am left questioning its relevance to his argument and this question is not addressed instead it is solidified by the list of movies that he states romantically depict gun violence.  I say this because the three movies he chose were high grossing films – leading me to the conclusion that a large number of Americans viewed all three of these movies (and likely many more action films), but the majority of Americans are not pursuing “vengeance” or toting guns into Cinemas.  Therefore, I am left concluding that the action films, detailed as they are, are not to blame.

Wasserman complicates the matter further when he concludes his article with, “it’s impossible to imagine Aurora without Hollywood.”  I cannot accept his overriding assumption that without Hollywood, this terrible massacre wouldn’t have happened.  I think he proves it just wouldn’t have happened during this movie at this theatre.  It would have happened somewhere at some time with another excuse shading the true issues of a very disturbed young man.

Violence has been all around us from the beginning of time.  From cave drawings to the Bible to Shakespeare, graphic descriptions and depictions of violent acts are presented to each of us at some point in our lives even countless times during the course of our lives.  I believe those who have a desire to be violent – will be.  Seeing a gun in a movie might make you want to hold one someday, watching a bad guy break into a house might even make you want to buy a gun, but watching a movie cannot make you want to shoot someone.   The shooter had a choice to idolize many different men from all genres of movies and all the acquaintances from all the different moments in his own life – he made his choice.

In conclusion, I felt Wasserman’s claims were poorly supported and the omitted information speaks volumes against the topic as the article is read.  I believe Wasserman would have had better success discussing how violence on screen desensitizes us.  He did not provide solid evidence to deter me in my opinion that it is lack of education in the home in regards to a gun’s purpose and gun safety that is more to blame for gun violence in today’s society.

Work Cited

Wasserman, Edward.  “Killing As A Troubling Cinematic Art Form.” Guelph Mercury (ON), 08/15/12 [UW-C Library, Xerxer Article Search, Newspaper Source Plus]


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