Welcome to the Freak Show: How Hollywood Views the Gun Culture

For outdoorsmen, gun owners and shooters the last few years of TV have been rather gratifying. Television shows such as Top Shot, Sons of Guns, American Guns, etc. all aired on “mainstream” channels. People in the gun culture tuned in to see their favorite hardware featured on prime time along with shooting personalities old and new. Many members of the gun culture, those who own firearms and believe it’s every American’s right to do so, pointed to these many “gun shows” as proof that firearms and the people who use them had finally become mainstream. They saw the plethora of gun-related television programs as proof that the folks in Hollywood had come to accept the gun culture as normal. But . . .

Healthy Skepticism

Despite this new crop of TV shows, more traditional outdoor and shooting sports media people remained skeptical. During a discussion with one gun show producer, an illustrative story about Hollywood reality was related to me. After receiving the green light to make a television show about firearms, related accessories and training, my friend explained that they went on to produce the show and submitted the first three episodes on schedule.

Shortly after the episodes arrived at the mainstream sports network, my producer friend received a phone call from a distraught network vice president. “We cannot and will not air this show,” the executive explained. “…You are showing people how to hide guns on themselves. That’s illegal!” What the man was referring to were show segments discussing “concealed carry”, holsters, guns, etc.

When the show producer attempted to explain that lawful concealed carry was quite common and that the show didn’t demonstrate or advocate breaking the law, the network executive became even more adamant. “You can’t tell me that it’s legal for people to hide guns on themselves. I don’t believe it and we won’t show it on our channel.” The producer tried in vain to explain that concealed carry was legal in 48 of the 50 states (at that time) but the V.P. would not be swayed.

The Freak Show

My friend and I laughed at the stubborn ignorance of the network executive and how he lived in the Hollywood bubble of make believe. When relating this story to a mutual friend, the man hit the nail on the head: “Gun people are a freak show. Hollywood people view gun owners and shooters with an odd curiosity. They see them as out-of-touch barbarians, as freaks. These gun nuts are fun to watch, but you don’t take them seriously.”

In the wake of yet another heinous act of violence committed in a “gun free zone,” Hollywood is running scared from all their gun shows. In one week the Discovery Channel announced it was cancelling Ted Nugent’s “Gun Country” and the “American Guns” reality show. Another show, centering on the day to day routine of a popular firearms training academy, was in pre-production and has been officially axed by Discovery.

As these words are put to paper, a Discovery Channel spokesman has just put out a statement regarding “Sons of Guns,” one of their most popular shows. Laurie Goldberg of Discovery stated “All I can say is, it is not on the schedule and it is not on the schedule in the near future.” Such a statement might be a bit of a political non-answer, but it seems pretty clear that Hollywood executives are running scared from anything gun-related.

The reaction from the Hollywood left and their hangers-on, while not at all surprising, does indeed confirm what true firearms media people have realized all along. Hollywood views the gun culture in this country as a freak show. In the minds of “mainstream” television executives, guns are perfectly fine in the hands of fictionalized cops, soldiers, hit men, assassins, drug lords and others. Guns are not fine in the hands of genuine American citizens.

An Outside Solution

For more than fifty years the Hollywood establishment has had a near complete monopoly over what the American viewing public could see on television and in the movies.  If you wanted your motion-picture material to be aired you played their game, period. If Hollywood insiders didn’t like you, you were out. Then along came the Internet.

The year 2000 Internet was merely a fledgling, a shadow of what was to come. The dirty little secret, one that Hollywood decision makers don’t want to discuss in public, is that every day the traditional television and movie-making establishment becomes less and less relevant. Yes, it’s true that motion picture producers in California have the know-how and experience to produce high quality material, but every day their dominance is challenged.

Today, in 2012 (almost ’13) more people have Internet access than they do cable or satellite television. For the last three years running, subscribership for cable television, DirecTV and Dish Network has dropped steadily. Television networks have been revamping their program distribution and putting heavy emphasis toward “On-Demand” video via the Internet. One producer put it quite plainly to me, “Viewers want to watch their shows on demand via the Internet. They’ve come to expect it.”

What does this on-demand television trend mean to the firearms/shooting world? First, it means that you can now reach your viewing audience directly via the Internet without cable or satellite and, most importantly, you don’t need the approval and blessing of network brass.

Gun-related “television shows” can now be produced and delivered to the viewer completely independent of the traditional network process. It doesn’t matter any more whether or not network executives believe “hiding guns” is illegal or that gun people are a freak show.

The California left and Hollywood insiders have always operated in their own make-believe world. They use guns and violence to sell their TV dramas and action movies, while at the same time telling the Americans they have no “need” for guns. As time and technology march on, more and more gun people can get genuine and realistic firearms related “TV” by simply typing in a web address and clicking the play button on the screen.

Gun TV might be in the Hollywood doghouse now, shunned like the proverbial whore in church. But gun show producers no longer need Hollywood’s approval. It may take some time, but the era of the online gun TV show has arrived and is just getting started. And, as an added bonus you don’t need to pay for satellite or cable televions to tune in.

Paul G. Markel 2012

About the Author

Paul Markel has been a firearms industry writer for twenty years and now hosts and produces “Student of the Gun” a show dedicated to education, experience, and enjoyment of firearms. Episodes of Student of the Gun can be viewed by simply going to www.studentofthegun.com and clicking the “play” icon.