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From the Wire: Film Critics Blamed For Gun Violence, Onscreen and Off

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by Matt Singer
February 20, 2013 6:19 PM
3 Comments
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"The Dark Knight Rises."

In a paywalled article for Harper's, Thomas Frank lays part of the blame for last year's mass shootings on our culture of gun violence. Movies like "Django Unchained" and "The Dark Knight Rises," he says, are "advertisements for mass murder." And, in a non-paywalled article at Salon, critic Andrew O'Hehir further outlines and then rebukes that argument, which includes a portion that indicts film critics for their role in endorsing and propagating those advertisements:

"Journalists have enabled the sadistic crimes of Hollywood, he suggests, through 'puff pieces and softball interviews and a thousand 'press junkets.'' (Why the scare quotes? Are those not familiar English words?) Bootlicking movie critics have crowned Tarantino as a genius, and have refused 'to tell the world what god-awful heaps of cliché and fake profundity and commercialized sadism this industry produces.”

It wouldn't be fair of me to comment on an article I haven't actually read, so I'll simply point you to O'Hehir's examination of it -- which takes Frank's essay and accusations seriously and considers them fairly. I will say that a day after critics lost the support of NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, this is particularly disheartening to see. First, we ruined the Oscars. Then we destroyed American society at large. Not a good week for the profession.

In a world where critics are routinely laid off, fired, or forced into early retirement, and those who pursue the profession do so at their own financial peril, it's odd to see so many people simultaneously attacking them and painting them as a bunch of freeloading, airheaded boobs. When the final few remaining critics are put out to pasture, people are going to have to find another scapegoat to blame these things on. 

Read more of "Blood Sport" and "Who's to Blame For Gun Violence? Movie Critics!"

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More: From the Wire, Andrew O'Hehir

3 Comments

  • CinemaPsycho | February 21, 2013 1:01 AMReply

    Neither of those films are "Advertisements for mass murder" nor do they have anything to do with our recent outbreaks of gun violence. As recently reported, Adam Lanza was obsessed with outdoing the number of murders of a real-life Norway mass murderer. He was not obsessed with movies. Django hadn't even come out when those violent incidents happened.

    A critic's job is to look at a movie objectively and decide whether or not it works as a piece of art or entertainment and whether or not it is worth spending your money on. That's it. It is not their job to pass judgment on morality. It is up to YOU, as an audience member, to decide what you do and do not choose to consume. If you don't like films containing violent scenes, no one is forcing you to watch them. Take some responsibility for your own choices. There has never been a movie made that tells people to pick up a gun and kill random strangers. That movie does not exist.

    By the way, there have been school shootings since the early 1800's, long before movies, video games, TV or even radio existed. Look it up. As long as there have been schools and guns in America, there have been school shootings. You can't blame movies for that, and you certainly can't blame critics for it. Violent people do violent things, and insane people do insane things. What we need to do is to keep dangerous weapons away from mentally ill people, not blame made up stories and the millions of people who watch them and DON'T kill people.

  • Kelly | February 20, 2013 11:49 PMReply

    "Snake hipped word slingers" - awesome.
    I agree there are too many of them without anything meaningful or really considered to say. And I also have to agree, particularly as a woman, that they do not question the frankly ludicrous levels of hyper/sexualized/gratuitous violence drenching hollywood output; from semiautomatic butchery right through to gender straightjacketing, it just seems like an essential ingredient these days in a way that is never challenged.
    Take a look at the cover images on the ITunes movie catalogue for instance and count the number of weapons and the amount of violence depicted or implied- its gobsmacking when viewed objectively.
    Do I think critics put that shit there? Of course not.
    Should they be pointing this out instead of me? Isn't that part of their freaking job?

    And also, film critics- please stop with the astroturfing ho shit. We see what you did there. If I read one more cut and paste incentivised rim job for a stinking abomination like Avatar or Prometheus, I'll have to consider resorting to violence myself.

  • serpico | February 20, 2013 7:12 PMReply

    I thought film critics and serious film criticism weren't really relevant today. There should be a fine line drawn between professional critics and bloggers though. If you're an amateur critic & blogger, I apologize, but really, there is too many of you. It pains be to take the side of critic Armond White, but I think he's spot on in saying that a lot of current critics are "snake-hipped word-slingers," who, "don't know what they're talking about". Because we're in the internet age and people rely on useless forms of communication like Twitter. There is no longer patience for lenghty, in depth film analysis.

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