Hollywood shares the blame for mass shootings

Will Pembroke is a first-year Philosophy, Politics and the Public major. He is an intern for the Newswire from Glen Ellyn, Ill.

        Gun violence reform is a highly controversial issue. Looking for answers to a country-wide epidemic is difficult, and finding answers both sides of the aisle are willing to agree on is even more so.

As a lifelong Joker fan, I have to admit I was more than excited to view the most recent adaptation. I was so elated that when I was planning my girlfriend’s birthday dinner two weeks ago, I selfishly bought tickets for us to go see it, even though that kind of film was likely not going to be her speed. We ended up walking out half an hour in because not only was she terrified, but I was in shock at what I was viewing. My bad on that one, Hannah.

A week later, I went back to see Joker a second time so that I had the full viewing experience and could make a more complete judgement on its content. As I progressed further into the movie, I could only think about one thing: What kind of message is being sent with the airing of this film? A man, tortured by a mental illness and largely mistreated by an underfunded mental health institution, is given the opportunity to wield a firearm.

How eerily realistic does that seem? To me, it sounds like the account of many of the mass shootings we as a country have seen in the past few years. Is that something we want to encourage? Is that something we want to promote?

In an article published on the Massachusetts General Hospital’s website, it is said that the science behind violent video games and movies effect on humans is “not very good” and “clearly lacking.” “The bottom line is that for violent movies and video games, we just do not know the relationship between viewing or playing and aggression in the real world. Research to date does not inform us. But we should be concerned and wary of risks,” the article says.

Joker is not the only culprit here. Just in the past year we have seen wildly successful films featuring consistent gun violence such as Avengers: Endgame, Hobbs & Shaw, Captain Marvel, and John Wick 3 to name a few. Not too long from now in December, the ninth and likely final episode of the Star Wars saga will play in theaters, promising nothing short of firearm glorification.

Of course, all of these are put into the perspective by the fact that Hollywood is entertainment. Movies that make money are likely to be re-booted purely for financial reasons, regardless of content. Is there not something to be said, however, that we as a country have an addiction to violence-based films? Is Hollywood not to blame for getting us hooked on movies glorifying the act of killing people?

I don’t want to come off as morally superior here. I’m just as infatuated with Star Wars as the next person. I owned all the merchandise as a kid. I have supported the franchise knowing full well the content of its films. But at what point are we going to realize that the gun violence deaths we see onscreen are not all that different from what happens in real life? Is it that unrealistic to see a similar plot carried out by the Joker in our everyday lives? I would argue that it’s not.

While Congress is tied down in an ever-more meaningless debate, fed money by pro-gun lobbyists and increasingly unlikely to act on common sense gun reform, it is up to you and me to figure out how to fix this pressing issue. Criticizing all of Hollywood for problems they did not directly cause may not be fair. Nonetheless, movie studios making money hand over fist on the backs of gun violence ridden films glorifying killing as a sort of art form probably share in the blame more than they’re willing to admit.