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. 

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

  1. avatarWilliam says:

    Hollywood doesn’t only sell fantasy, as your friend found out; it also sells slavery and deceit.

  2. avatarDrVino says:

    “on-demand television” also sequesters certain types of content from a broader viewing audience. You may watch your gun show on hulu, but everyone else is viewing South Park or something stupid like Honey BooBoo or, worse yet, 2 and a half men…..

  3. avatarJohnny says:

    “WE CAN’T SHOW TV SHOWS THAT SHOW PEOPLE HOW TO CONCEAL GUNS!”

    *20 minutes later on that same network*

    “Yo, I’m going out to do a drug deal with my prostitutes, lemme just stick my gat in the front of my pants pointing directly at my package and then using it to shoot a cop on the way there”

  4. avatarsancahnim says:

    Well I am sure Ted could produce his own web show, and I for one would love to see TTAG get in on the action. You could have gun reviews, tip and techniques, and also invite people on to talk about gun 2A issues. Then just for fun you could have guests, you know us folks from out here on the interweb come on over for some sweet tea and blow something up! I would love to see Bruce interview Peirs Morgan! I bet he could get him to have convulsions right there in the studio..
    If enough people watch eventually the dollar signs will be to much for the networks, they will sell out due to demand.

  5. avatarMatt in FL says:

    They also perpetuate untruths simply because it’s a convenient plot device. On TV, possessing an unregistered firearm is synonymous with being a bad guy, despite the fact that jurisdictions that require registration are the extreme minority. I was in a conversation not long ago with someone who was horrified when I said “nobody officially knows how many guns I own, and that’s the way it should be.”

  6. avatarBeavis Malone says:

    I fully-expect Google to revise Youtube’s ToS to prevent channels such as Hickok45 and FPSRussia (and many others) from being uploaded.

    • avatarSaul Feldstein says:

      Hickok45 rules, looks like he is getting ad revenue from those streams too.

    • avatarg says:

      I hope not! YouTube gun channels are way better than anything else on TV these days.(though I miss History Channel’s Tales if the Gun series)

    • avatarguzzimike says:

      I’m not as concerned about Google/YouTube doing that as ISPs themselves prohibiting it. I have the capability to stream from my in-house web server right now, but if my ISP (commercial account, not home Comcast, Uverse, ATT DSL, etc) puts that as yet another way to terminate my service should they want to I’m screwed from a business POV.

    • avatarRobert M says:

      I could see the same thing happening on You Tube that is happening on Facebook. Anti start putting in complicates about the channels and getting them shutdown. Google is a little less easy to do stuff like that with but they are still pretty liberal at there core.

      • avatarPhil says:

        They refused to pull that Anti Muslim
        Film that sparked the riots earlier this year so I doupt they would pull any
        They claimed it didn’t not breach there terms of service and it was a freedom
        Of speech

    • avatarAlphaGeek says:

      Yeah, I think you’re wrong about that. I discussed this exact topic with a Google exec this past week, and this person laughed at the idea. They’re concerned about copyright issues and hate/violence material, not some disgustingly accurate old guy shooting cool guns at steel targets in the woods.

      You might be surprised just how many Silicon Valley tech-company leadership types are at least a little into firearms, either for hunting or recreational shooting — and some of them are more than a little into it. Some of it’s the tech-libertarian thing, and some of it is the increasingly popular concept that you shouldn’t eat meat you haven’t killed yourself.

  7. Unfortunately, there are too many people in the “gun community” who do put on a great freak show.

    Perhaps it is time we start policing our own and calling them out when they post idiotic YouTube videos showing complete disdain for even the most fundamental of safety procedures with firearms.

    Or, like James Yeager, when they say and do totally idiotic things.

    • avatarBrent says:

      “Perhaps it is time we start policing our own and calling them out when they post idiotic YouTube videos showing complete disdain for even the most fundamental of safety procedures with firearms.” Isn’t that the point of The Truth’s IGOTD?

      • avatarRobert M says:

        Brent,

        Have you seen the comments on many of these You Tube channels if it looks like the guy didn’t double check if the gun isn’t loaded on camera.

        Thanks
        Robert

    • avatarWilliam says:

      I think YOU should do the policing. Get your bullet, Barney…

  8. avatarJürgen says:

    Eagerly awaiting TTAG’s first gun show episode.

  9. avatarbarnslayer says:

    My opinion, these gunshop oriented shows are orchestrated B.S. They do a major disservice to us all. The TV brass do the same thing with those who are involved in preparing for catastrophes. Ditto the new crop of programing depicting rural and southern America as being inhabited by redneck retards. Freak show indeed.

    • avatarAnmut says:

      Couldn’t agree more. I just found out that the “homesteader living off the land family” in Alaska that I was watching is actually the same family that raised the recording star Jewel. It all came together how none of them worked but they could afford snowmobiles, electricity, farm equipment, etc.

      Right after we tar and feather all the lawyers, the TV producers should be next.

  10. avatarProfBathrobe says:

    One of the main reasons why I like FPS Russia. Shows like his give me hope for the internet gun culture.

    • avatarIn Memphis says:

      Are you aware of what the internet gun culture (12 year old gamers aside) think of him?

      • avatarAlphaGeek says:

        Every person he gets to put down the Xbox/PS3 controller and go on their first outing to the range is a win. Even if they have to be, um, re-educated on firearms safety as part of their rental experience.

        FPSRussia’s antics may make me wince, but he’s easily one of the top-10 forces for good when it comes to recruiting new shooters right now. Possibly in the top 3.

  11. avatarAnmut says:

    The gun-related show’s I have seen on cable TV were completely low-brow and, in my opinion, really did no justice for actual gun owners. They showed a lot of full auto, suppressed guns and everytime they shot something it blew up thanks to hidden detonators. Good riddance. It’s just too bad that they left because of a political knee-jerk reaction.

    And while it was some-what entertaining, the people that get their gun knowledge from Hollywood and video games were just reaffirmed in their beliefs of “what guns are and what they do” when trash like those shows aired.

    I will miss 3-Gun Nation though. That was a fun shooting show to watch.

  12. avatarRalph says:

    Hollywood hates us almost as much as it loves money.

  13. avatarJAS says:

    The best shows about guns IMHO are coming from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. And they are all available on You Tube. I watch them all on my internet capable TV.

    http://www.nssf.org/

    They’ve done it right and it is the model for all to follow. We don’t need no stinkin’ Hollywood cable :).

  14. avatarTaurus609 says:

    When setting up my DVR for recordings for this coming week, I noticed that Guns and Gear, Gun Talk and 3 Gun Nation were back on for Wednesday the 25TH, on NBCSports!

    • avatarTaurus609 says:

      Never mind, went back to check my future recordings, and those were gone and different shows were slotted in…….F&*king NBC!

  15. avatarBdk says:

    Hollywood was built on movies that feature gun culture and violence. They started with “The Great Train Robbery” and continue with the recent release of “Django”. The Hollywood elite are sanctimonious gun nuts and are too stupid to realize it.

  16. As an 07 and a 35 year armorer I am SO GLAD to see Son of Gun’s go it is an industry nightmare and an insult to all in the business.

    • avatarAlphaGeek says:

      You’re just jealous because the guns you build don’t make stuff explode like it was rigged with propane FX mortars.

    • avatarAl in OK says:

      Oooh but what about all that drama? It always felt so scripted and corny when they weren’t shooting or gunsmithing. It was the little things that got to me. Like when Will Hayden said “were gonna build an AK sniper rifle”. Like the Dragonov or the PSL etc concept was his original idea. It was entertaining at times but i’m not upset one bit. How about a more technical show minus the cheese? I think gunsmithing is awesome. Those of us who aren’t dead behind the eyes actually like learning new things. I guess i’m not their target audience.

  17. avatarRobert M says:

    I agree with many of Paul Markel tenants but there are 4 major issues preventing this.

    1) Hosting the video’s. Sure there is You Tube but no one is going to take anything on You Tube that seriously. There are other platform out there but I can’t picture them being able to handle a show with a million or more viewers and doing it yourself is really hard and expensive to do.

    2) Getting viewers. Network TV runs ads for there other shows all the time something even paying to get them on other channels. Even with TTAG pushing the show and word of mouth marketing you will have a real limit of the number of people who will watch the show. If you can get a real budget then maybe you can do some ads on Cable TV channels.

    3) Production value. You can really tell the difference between good production and most of the stuff you see on You Tube. In the end good production takes money not millions but more then most of us could afford.

    4) Advertisers willing to pay enough to cover the cost of doing the production work required to create a show that can compete with something being produced for Cable Network Television. Combined with the fact that Advertisers generally view Online Viewers as worth 1/10 those of on TV channels. So 1 Million Online Viewers as far as advertisers are concerned is the same as a cable channel getting 100 Thousand Viewers. It should be the opposite and in a few years I predict it will be but you can’t produce content based on how things will be in a few years when there are bills to be paid.

    Thanks
    Robert

    • avatarAlphaGeek says:

      I think you mean “tenets” not “tenants”. Unless Paul is some kind of Internet slumlord.

      In any case, WTF? Do you know anything about the economics of online video these days?

      Top channels on YouTube gross well into the six-figure range yearly. You don’t even have to go out and round up your own advertisers (though that helps) because YouTube will monetize your videos for you.

      Why did you feel it necessary to tell Paul all the reasons you think he’s going to fail?

    • avatarWilliam says:

      Why, I nevah knew he was a landlord.

  18. avatarMatt in FL says:

    I happened to be watching a Yankee Marshal video just now, and I saw something that I thought fit well into this post. Those of you familiar with him know that he puts little “asides” throughout his videos as text at the bottom of the screen. Halfway through the video linked above was this:

    “Thinking Hollywood accurately portrays firearms usage in history is like thinking the p0rno industry accurately represents the average p*nis size.”

  19. avatarag1299 says:

    I saw this trend in reality tv sort of coming. First it was the blue collar badass tv of real men doing manly things, preferably dangerously. Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch, Axe men, that sort of thing.

    Then came Redneck TV. Where the boob tube was inundated with shows about rednecks doing super redneck things. All are impossible to watch for me because every single show is just so patronizing and treats the people in them like circus freaks culminating in Honey Boo Boo thing. I think the only one not like this is Call of the Wildman although I’ll be honest, Turtleman is straight up awesome and its animal planet so they were focusing on his catch and release thing. Gun shows seemed to fall RIGHT into that category of freakshow though and I could never watch them. They were too dumbed down. And I lost my shit when the one about the gunsmith recommended and did a sporterization on a rare Hungarian bolt action for this insane price and freaking ruined an awesome antique family heirloom (I can’t remember the name. Its the one where everything they shoot blows up)

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