Michael White writes:
Harvey Weinstein gave the world blood-soaked films including Django Unchained, Inglourious Basterds and Pulp Fiction. Now he wants to destroy the National Rifle Association. Take out the NRA, he argues, and real-life mayhem diminishes. “They’re going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them,” the movie producer and financier told shock jock Howard Stern. Sounds like a line from one of Weinstein’s films? Well, he didn’t stop with the NRA. He also intends to sink the market value of gun manufacturers by scaring away investors. The truth is, few people have done more than Weinstein to glamorize and profit from gun violence in movies. Weinstein’s on-screen body count probably rivals the real-life tally of Delta Force. Just try counting the corpses in Django Unchained. Hard to keep up, isn’t it? . . .
Weinstein knows that at the box office, splattered bodies pay. Django, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and executive produced by Weinstein, cost $100 million to make and generated $425 million globally, according to Box Office Mojo. Add in home-video revenue and TV sales and the margins get even better.
The numbers illustrate the hypocrisy of an industry that makes guns look so very, very cool, while publicly deploring them. Off-screen, Hollywood’s elite looks on gun enthusiasts as dumb bubbas and paranoid fanatics. Yet, the movies and TV shows they make teach a different lesson. In Hollywood’s imaginary world, the good guys carry guns. And they save the day by killing people.
Personally, I don’t care what kind of movies Weinstein makes, nor do I think his films turn healthy people into murderous psychopaths. But I am weary of the intellectual dishonesty of an industry that condemns guns while portraying them as the ultimate problem solvers.
Take Paramount Pictures’ Jack Reacher, released a week after the Newtown shootings. The film opens with a horrific scene of a sniper shooting five people on a public plaza. How is the culprit brought to justice? Well, the legal system is corrupt, so Reacher kills about the same number of bad guys. From a legal standpoint one of Reacher’s killings is murder, plain and simple. And he’s the guy we’re supposed to admire.
Even if the NRA movie is made, Weinstein’s agenda has already tainted it. Audiences don’t mind learning something from movies, but they hate shelling out money for a lecture. And that’s what Weinstein’s project sounds like.
That’s what happened with Seal Team Six, the poorly received TV movie Weinstein made to highlight President Obama’s role in the Bin Laden raid. Weinstein, an outspoken Obama supporter and fund-raiser, rushed the film directly to television a few days before November 2012 elections.
Once he announced the NRA film, Weinstein’s history of exploiting gun violence took center stage. Two days later, he attempted damage control by telling CNN’s telling Piers Morgan that he wasn’t going to make any more violent movies. Well, at least not as many.
“I’m not going to make some crazy action movie just to blow up people and exploit people,” Weinstein said. But he will keep making serious films that depict violence, like Lone Survivor, the true, bloody tale about a U.S. special operation Afghanistan.
In one way, Hollywood is the gun industry’s best friend. In the 1950s and early 1960’s, the popularity of Westerns fueled consumer appetites for lever-action Winchesters and replicas of the Colt Single Action Army revolver, better known by most as the six-shooter of cowboy movies.
For another generation, Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry films made the Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum Model 29 revolver and the .44-caliber Auto Mag stars at gun shows. Never mind that their recoil makes them a bear to shoot. People wanted the gun that Detective Harry Callahan carried.
Hollywood also helped make semiautomatic pistols America’s most popular handguns. In Lethal Weapon, Mel Gibson’s dissolute cop Martin Riggs praised the Berretta 92F, with its 15-round magazine, as the gun to buy. A featured role in Die Hard helped make GLOCK a household word.
This isn’t just my thinking. In a study published in the December issue of the medical journal “Pediatrics,” researchers predicted that an increase in gun violence in PG-13 movies will likely turn more kids into adult gun buyers.
Weinstein said his movie will feature Meryl Streep as a senator who takes on the NRA. So far, Streep has been silent. The movie came up while Weinstein was promoting another movie about Jews who rebelled against the Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto. That movie is “not Holocaust story as much as it is Jews with guns,” Weinstein said. “When injustice is so great, you can’t just march into the camps.”
And if the same thing happened today?
“I’d find a gun,” Weinstein told Stern.
He might find it difficult, especially in New York, where Weinstein Co. is based. Jews rounded up by the Nazis had the same problem. Their guns had been confiscated under Hitler’s 1938 gun control law. But let’s not let history cloud the issue. As far as Weinstein is concerned, guns are bad. Unless he needs one.
[Los Angeles-based journalist Michael White covered the film industry for Bloomberg News for more than a decade. Before that, he wrote about Pacific-Rim trade and ethnic/racial issues for the for the Associated Press. He is also enjoys recreational shooting and is a devoted admirer of vintage firearms.]