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Quentin Tarantino Says Newtown Tragedy About "Gun Control And Mental Health" Issues, Not Movie Violence

by Kevin Jagernauth
January 4, 2013 1:39 PM
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With the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut still lingering on the mind on the nation, there has been an awful lot of talk (but not much action) from politicians and pundits on both sides of the issue. But perhaps grabbing the biggest headline, for better or worse, was the lunkheaded NRA VP Wayne LaPierre, who dredged up the old argument that movie violence (citing films like "American Psycho" -- which has no guns -- and "Natural Born Killers") as the cause of these kinds of incidents, not the wide availability of assault weapons and magazines that carry more payload that anyone realistically needs outside of the military. With his own blood spurting "Django Unchained" in theaters, NPR's Terry Gross broached the subject with director Quentin Tarantino, who bristled slightly at (again) being asked about the effect of violence on society.

"I'm really annoyed. I think it's disrespectful. I think it's disrespectful to their memory, actually," Tarantino said about being asked movie violence. "[It's disrepectful to] the memory of the people who died to talk about movies. I think it's totally disrespectful to their memory. Obviously, the issue is gun control and mental health." Hear, hear.

Gross started the conversation by basically asking if Tarantino is sensitive to what happened in Newtown, and his own viewing habits following such an incident. "Do you mean like on that day would I watch 'The Wild Bunch'? Maybe not on that day," he replied, adding: "Would I watch a kung fu movie three days after the Sandy Hook massacre? Would I watch a kung fu movie? Maybe, 'cause they have nothing to do with each other."

But if there's one thing on the big screen that Tarantino will not abide by, it's animal death. "The only thing that I've ever watched in a movie that I wished I've never seen is the real-life animal death, a real-life insect death in a movie. That's absolutely positively where I draw the line and a lot of European and Asian movies do that, and we even did that in America for a little bit of time," he said. "I don't like seeing horses being yanked on cables from running Ws. I don't like seeing animals murdered on screen."

"...movies are about make believe. It's about imagination. Part of the thing is we're trying to create a realistic experience, but we are faking it. And the faking it is the art. The faking it is the art of it, it's the make believe of it all. I don't think that there's any place in a movie for a real death," he continued. "And you can say, oh, [Sam] Peckinah shot the heads off the chickens in 'Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid' but it's OK because they ate the chickens afterwards. And actually, maybe those chickens got three more days of life because they were taken out of a slaughterhouse and everything. Well, you can justify it that way because people eat chicken and I eat chicken, so all good. I don't want to see real death, though, that's the problem. It's the watching of the real chicken get his real head blown off. I didn't, I don't pay money or I don't want to sit down and watch real death when I watch a movie. I don't even want to see an animal terrified. I've seen movies where they've terrified an animal to get a response from him and I don't want to see that."

Undoubtedly, this won't be the last we hear on the subject. Share you thoughts with us below.

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  • uh? | May 14, 2014 12:50 PMReply

    Just stating. American psycho does have a scene were he shoots someone. Then he shoots a police car to blow It up. Sorry to ruin your article..

  • David | January 22, 2013 5:20 AMReply

    The main problem is that no group wants to take any part of the blame for events like Newtown. Movie makers say it isn't the fault of the movies. Musicians say it isn't the music. The NRA points the finger at all the others. And I'm sure that if there were mental health stars, then they would be blaming others as well.
    The fact of the matter is, it is everybodys fault, but nobody wants to take even a small portion of the blame. Crazy person + no respect of human life + guns + bad parenting + media sensationialism = mass killings. Only when the finger pointing stops, and conversation starts, will the problem be solved.

  • Mr. B | January 13, 2013 7:58 PMReply

    Frankly, I have concluded that media nor availability of guns has much of an effect on violent crime. If you really look at the FBI statistics since 1992 violent crimes have been reduced by over 50% with the predominant amount of violence occurring in urban areas with populations over 250k - many of these areas have extreamly tight gun control. In addition the UK has about 3x the violent crime of the US when correcting for populations centers (and as you know the UK has a zero tolerance gun policy). If you are serious about reducing crime, improve the educational and economic conditions of urban areas - but I guess that might be too difficult and not feel as good as taking firearms from law abiding citizens.

  • Les grossman | January 6, 2013 2:08 PMReply

    Gun control and Mental health.two words "Tarantino Genius".i can see some frustrated people here having mental health problems who come here to bitch about QT

  • Andre | January 6, 2013 2:13 AMReply

    QT is not qualified to comment - if he uses onscreen violence to exorcise his own violence issues, what about the billions of viewers who go the other way? No American movie directors have a clue on irony, nor how to use it in film. And which of them has experienced post-traumatic-stress syndrome?

  • Mr_Qwertz | January 12, 2013 2:45 AM

    I feel like you're making a bad conclusion. Movie violence only shows u that guns are effective killing tools, in the same way a news program or any kind of entertainment does. The problem isnt the gun violence itself but the mental jump that says its okay to purpetrate gun violence on other people. Thats where good parenting and education come in: to show you why that mental jump is not valid. Millions of people watch violent entertainment but they know its wrong. That reporter isnt going to kill someone because he saw a movie do it, hes going to kill someone because there was a strong emotional component that comes from within and not the movie. That emotional component and lack of internal coping mechanism is what causes that specific type of gun violence, not portrayals of gun violence.

  • INSECTICIDE | January 5, 2013 4:44 AMReply

    Insects? Really? Really?
    I may agree with him, but asking QT what he thinks about this topic is as pointlessly idiotic as asking the NRA.

  • Rebecca | January 4, 2013 9:03 PMReply

    QT is 100% right on this. It's because we don't take care of our mentally ill people in America combined with easy access to guns that these tragic massacres happen.

  • todd | January 4, 2013 2:47 PMReply

    to say they're unrelated is weak though. accepted culture can desensitize folks to behavior. movies aren't to blame, but they add to the confusion of popular culture (for folks with lesser social skills, kids too) if the emotional junk that comes with violent actions isn't conveyed well enough. most games have zero emotional context. movies can be equally guilty. sounds like a lame question from Terry, but there are discussions that should be had about culture and violence. why not? A roundtable talk with game-makers, filmmakers, television producers would be interesting. not to lame blame, but to dig a little.

  • Ryan Sartor | January 4, 2013 5:23 PM

    But, Todd, what about the U.K.? They watch the same films as us, play the same video games. No mass shootings because they don't have guns. It's just a math problem, I think.

    I guess it FEELS like movies & games are a problem to some people, but we just stick to facts and statistics. A ban on guns in the U.S. is the only real, substantial response to Newtown.

  • JP | January 4, 2013 2:29 PMReply

    Interesting how a horse gets its brains blown out in the first scene of "Django Unchained." It's make believe, of course, but I wonder why, if he feels so strongly about animal violence, that he went that route?

  • Christopher Bell | January 5, 2013 12:35 AM

    That was needlessly condescending.

  • Alan | January 5, 2013 12:30 AM

    "But what's the difference? I know the difference, obviously, but the images are still there and feel real." Oh, and Christopher: you DON'T know the difference, clearly. There's a pretty big difference between an animal being frightened out of its mind in order for the wacko director to get what he needs, and the said animal LOOKING like its frightened, but the affect was achieved with some other method. The difference is that the ANIMAL itself was not tortured, and it has NOTHING to do with how you feel about the character being injured.

  • Alan B | January 5, 2013 12:28 AM

    Is this, like, a joke or something? Certain films have different requirements regarding animals: the animal characters might need to be angered, frightened, be killed etc. Tarantino is clearly saying that NO real animal should be made to suffer needlessly in order to 'get the shot', and the filmmakers should used humanitarian methods, instead. For instance, there is a difference between a horse being trip-wired for real on a set, and the animal character being trip-wired through a CGI effect. Why is this concept so difficult to grasp?

  • mike_m | January 4, 2013 5:11 PM

    I think he is saying that he does not think art should have real animals dying... he has nothing wrong with fake animal deaths or fake human deaths... " I don't think that there's any place in a movie for a real death." He feels strongly against REAL animal violence not fake animal violence.

  • Christopher Bell | January 4, 2013 3:20 PM

    But what's the difference? I know the difference, obviously, but the images are still there and feel real.

  • mike_m | January 4, 2013 3:07 PM

    he feels that way about real animal death in film, not fake/pretend animal death in film...

  • bohmer | January 4, 2013 2:09 PMReply

    that interview was pretty awkward at one point..

  • Pierre | January 4, 2013 6:03 PM

    You almost couldn't tell if you were just hearing Terri Gross' half.

  • ROY | January 4, 2013 1:49 PMReply

    QT's right. Blaming entertainment for the violent ills of the world is backward and stupid.

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