We Are All Complicit

Like everyone else, I was shocked, saddened and outraged at the tragic shootings in Newtown, CT last month. The aftermath was predictable. Paid talking heads and everyone with an opinion took to the airwaves and social media to vent, opine and debate the merits of gun control and the dear price we pay for mental illness in our society. What surprised me though was the relative lack of attention given to what I believe is the single biggest root cause of these tragic events: The glorification of violence in our society.

Over Christmas break, I took my 12 year-old son to a matinee movie. We sat through the obligatory previews and I was dismayed that we sat through six previews and nearly 20 minutes of massive gratuitous violence. Every single preview was filled with graphic and glorified violence – each with smartly crafted and glib one-liners for kids to repeat over and over again with their friends. No preview was more offensive to me than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Last Stand (no link provided because I’m not going to promote it). Consider yourself warned that if your kids go see it when it opens this weekend you’ll be hearing “Consider yourself deputized,” “Nice shootin’ Sheriff,” & “You effed up my day off” for weeks to come.

What’s so disturbing about Arnold’s latest is that he was a Governor for cripes sakes. He knows what’s going on. He’s been privy to the dark side of violence. Yet the first thing he does is make a film that is a two-hour homage to gun violence, all for a buck. I think he should be ashamed.

Look, I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve enjoyed a good deal of violent films in my life. I also don’t think my 12 year-old son is going to go postal some day because he likes this stuff. He’s a mentally healthy, thoughtful kid and we have regular conversations about the glorification of gratuitous violence in our society. What worries me is how many kids out there that don’t have engaged parents. Impressionable kids that might have undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues. Kids that play killing games for hours and days on end on their computers and TVs.

I don’t remember films and games with nearly the degree of gratuitous violence when I was a kid, and I surely don’t recall killings like Virginia Tech, Newton, CT or Columbine back then either. Call me crazy but I believe in my heart that there’s a connection. So I’ve decided to take a stand. I think that every time we go to one of these movies, or buy our kids another shoot ’em up game, we become complicit. Every time we buy a ticket, watch a TV show or play or a game which glorifies guns and killing, we’re telling Hollywood and the gaming companies that this is what we want – more guns and more killing. The feedback loop is simple: we stop buying and they’ll stop making – I can promise you that.

I’m not getting on a soapbox here. I subsequently took my son to see Lincoln – plenty of violence but certainly not glorified – quite the opposite. I’m not even forbidding my son to see these movies or play these games. I won’t buy him the games or play them with him but I believe forbidding a kid to do something is the surest way to get them to do it. All I can do is stay engaged and teach him to make good decisions. The rest is up to him.

I can do one more thing though. I can vote with my wallet. I’m done with gratuitous violence in my life. There’s a plethora of alternative movies and games out there. If enough of us do that, I really believe we can turn the tide.

Showing 10 comments
  • smilecalm

    Nice encouragement towards non-violence. May all feel happy and safe in their heart.

  • Michael O'Brien

    Two suggestions
    Join the Mayors Against Illegal Guns
    and. Write to your senator/ representative to ban the sale and use of automatic weapons.

    Media and mental health are important focus topics, but only by having access to automatic killing people guns causes death to innocents. Why does anyone need an automatic weapon?

    • Mark Solon

      Great suggestions Michael. I’ll look into the former and certainly do the latter.

  • Clare

    I agree wholeheartedly. We rented Looper the other night and I couldn’t even sit through the first scene. At what point did gore and violence become a standard form of American entertainment? I want no part of it.

  • Andy Rowland

    The use and sale of automatic weapons is already banned by many states and an individual must complete a very detailed (and expensive) ATF process for each and every item that falls under the National Firearms Act (automatic weapons are just one example). If a person is found in possession of a NFA firearm without proper authorization by the ATF, s/he is subject to a $10,000 fine and 10 years in prison. I think that law is pretty straight forward and sufficient.

    You are very correct in your article. I also think education of kids on the safe handling and use of guns, and the consequence of misuse is important. Whether you like or dislike guns, they are a part of our culture and country and kids should receive education on them.

  • Ken Holsinger

    Thanks so much for this perspective! I don’t know how we expect our culture to deal with a constant diet of garbage without consequences. Very thoughtful post, thanks Mark

  • Beth Rowland

    Thank you for the thoughtful post Mark. I agree with you across the board on this difficult topic.
    I have a friend who is a CHP officer. He recently transferred from L.A. to San Luis Obispo. He’s amazed how violence has increased just in the past 6 years (and at a rate quite alarming to him). It is my belief that change begins with honest discussions like this one. Do you recall certain popular sit coms from the ’70’s? Some of the language and behavior which was once the norm for humor would cause quite a stir today. I believe we moved forward as a culture after decades of discussions, protests and change in legislation. I’m hoping that after this horrible tragedy, we will see a cultural shift for the better with respect to guns and violence.

  • Marilyn Locander

    Great for you Mark! You already know my feelings about this as I went on record this year telling my grandson’s, “No more violent games or toys from this Mimi”! I can only control my dollars, but in my heart I know I am doing the right thing. I have nothing against gun ownership , I grew up with a family of hunters. But first came the training, and lessons of responsibility.
    So now there are 2 of us Mark.

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