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I love action shows. I’m a sucker for anything with guns, bravado, and a bit of ironic reparté. One of my favorite shows of the past couple of seasons has been Human Target. Starring Marine Vet Mark Valley, Chi McBride, and Jackie Earle Haley, it’s the story of a reformed hit man (Valley), an ex-cop (McBride) and a black ops guy (Haley) and their adventures as they try to right wrongs, give help to the helpless, hope to the hopeless, and feet to the defeated. It’s an entertaining show, well written, and fairly exciting, with enough explosions, gunplay and action to befit your average action/adventure feature film. That’s the good news. The bad news? Hollywood’s got it in for guns, at the same time that they’re milking the gunluv for all it’s worth. Sound schizo? You bet.

The latest episode of Human Target, Cool Hand Gurrero, features a scene where Valley visits a sporting goods store, using the pretext of a telephone repairman. Several customers are in the store, which is apparently a full-line firearms dealership. When Valley’s subterfuge is discovered, the employee, and a couple of customers unload on him, with a shotgun, handguns, and a fully-automatic submachine gun. Anybody wanna tell me what’s wrong with this picture? Anybody? Somebody? Beuller? Beuller?

Well, first of all, I don’t know of a Walmart, Academy, Bass Pro Shops, or Gander Mountain that sells fully-automatic weapons. There are some major hoops you gotta go through to sell – or buy – a fully-auto weapon. And then there’s the ammunition issue. Have you ever been inside a sporting goods store that keeps their weapons loaded? I know, I haven’t.

But never let a few things like the law and reality to get in the way of a good story line and some impressive special effects. Problem is, this leaves a dangerous impression in the minds of general public (who are largely ignorant of gun laws), that your friendly, neighborhood big-box store is a powderkeg, a abattoir waiting to run your blood through the sluices. I don’t think it’s much of a cognitive leap for most people to go from “Wow…look at all the guns! Cool!” to “Wow…I wonder what would happen if someone decided to start shooting up the store with one of those guns behind the counter?”

It seems odd that the same Hollywood that is so dependent upon guns to inject some much-needed excitement in action shows, is the same Hollywood that simply can’t help itself from campaigning against guns, both overtly and covertly. For every Danny Glover or Sean Penn screaming about guns at some left wing rally, there are dozens of scenes on TV and in the movies where the directors, producers and screenwriters play fast and loose with the truth in order to make things just a little more exciting – and do their subliminal bit to push those that no nothing more about guns than what they learn on TV over into the anti-gun camp. Because, from the lens of Hollywood, the only good gun is a gun that’s shootin’ blanks.

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  1. “When Valley’s subterfuge is discovered, the employee, and a couple of customers unload on him, with a shotgun, handguns, and a fully-automatic submachine gun. Anybody wanna tell me what’s wrong with this picture?”

    So THAT’S where they lost you? Up to that point the story seemed entirely plausible? Really?

    OF COURSE Hollywood trivializes, ritualizes, and glamorizes violence. And at the same time, many Hollywood personalities campaign against gun violence. Sure, that requires a degree of hypocrisy, but since when did that stop anyone?

    I’m just amused with the idea that the show’s truly wrong and misleading message is that people can purchase automatic weapons in a sporting goods store. As if otherwise, the show is an accurate and appropriate depiction of the use of firearms in our culture. No offense, but that’s pretty screwed up.

    • Magoo, this is escapist fare, and requires the willing suspension of disbelief, from the credits roll at the start of each show. I don’t mind a little over the top action. That’s why I watch it. For instance, if a character walks into a bar, pulls a gun and yells “this is a stick up” and it turns out to be a cop bar, I’d find it funny to see the guy face thirty or so handguns. That’s not real, either (although more real than the situation I cited in the post). The problem I had with it is that they are suggesting that guns are kept loaded inside a store like that. It would have been far more realistic, and just as entertaining, to see the woman pull a concealed handgun out of her purse. But then, that begs the question, “if you carry concealed, when do you start shooting?” And that’s not a situation where everyone in the store goes all vigilante on someone.

      However, if these shows were forced to use accurate depictions of things, the hero would die in the first five minutes of the show. Each week.

  2. I’m willing to give this show a bit of a pass. Keep in mind that it’s based on a comic book. A lot of the action hyperbole has a comic-book feel to it, and the episode you describe seems to be right in keeping with that.
    I’d be much harder on a show if what you described took place on Law and Order.

  3. These guys are all terrible shots and shouldn’t be allowed near a gun ever again. I don’t understand how every one of these fools missed him at such close range, that’s what gets me. LMAO

  4. 1) I didn’t know anything about Mark’s story, but he was in the US Army, not Marines, according to his wiki page:

    (imdb just has his experience as “Served in Operation Desert Storm”)

    2) If you like Human Target’s sense of humor, you should check out Keen Eddie (also with Mark Valley) as a sarcastic NY cop sent to England. 1 Season, 13 episodes from 2003-2004. Not as much gunplay, but very well written dialogue.

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