Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Despite Newtown, we crave violent movies

updated 1:01 PM EST, Mon January 14, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson: Tarantino's bloody "Django Unchained" got two Golden Globes
  • Film that makes mass murder look cool is hugely popular even after Newtown, he says
  • He says celebrities who protest gun violence yet star in ultraviolent films are hypocritical
  • Granderson: Films shouldn't be censored; the real culprit is our addiction to violence

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- The first statuette of the 70th annual Golden Globe awards went to Christoph Waltz, whose character in "Django Unchained" shot two men and a horse in two scenes before I even opened my box of M&M's.

But that didn't surprise me, because "Django," a bloody homage to spaghetti Westerns, is a creation of one of my guilty pleasures, director Quentin Tarantino.

One of the most important auteurs in cinema today, Tarantino's scripts are intoxicating -- with witty dialogue; surprising and satisfying story arcs, and cartoonish body counts. "Django" won him a Golden Globe for screenwriting.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

And thus the nation's conundrum. A month into our post-Newtown world, "Django Unchained" -- a movie that makes mass murder look cool -- has scooped up more than $125 million in three weeks.

Is it me, or does it seem odd that a director known for ultra gun violence in his films has the biggest-grossing movie of his career in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 kids? Not to get all Wayne LaPierre, but wouldn't you think the nation wouldn't have the stomach to see such a glorification of gun violence so close to the tragedy?

And yet, here we are: Bruce Willis is slated to "Die Hard" again; "Hansel and Gretel" has been reimagined into a tale about siblings carrying automatic assault weapons and looking for witches to kill; and 65-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking on the Mexican cartel, including shooting a Gatling from a school bus.

Jamie Foxx on 'Django Unchained'
Tarantino: Why I used 'N-word' in film

And that's just over the course of a month.

Before meeting with Vice President Joe Biden to discuss violence in films and video games, Motion Picture Association of America chairman and former Sen. Chris Dodd told The Hollywood Reporter that the movie industry is vehemently opposed to content regulation, adding "We have a free and open society that celebrates the First Amendment."

In an NPR interview, Tarantino said it was disrespectful to the victims to bring up violence in movies in relationship to Newtown.

"Obviously, the issue is gun control and mental health," he said.

I agree.

But as we wait for Biden's gun control proposals to be revealed, as well as the ensuing debate in Washington to unfold, it's important to remember this conversation is threefold.

Mass shootings -- like those at Newtown, Columbine, the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater -- and everyday street violence, like what's going on in Chicago, can be addressed immediately by legislation. But background checks and assault rifle bans will not free us from our most debilitating shackle, and that is our numbness, if not addiction, to violence, particularly in film.

Of the 100 top-grossing movies of 2012, only three were rated G. Most in the top 10 were PG-13, including "The Hunger Games," a film about kids brutally killing each other for sport; two were PG and one was R.

This is why, when celebrities came together to film an anti-gun public service announcement, they were immediately called out as hypocrites, and rightfully so. In one scene in the Tarantino movie Jamie Foxx, who plays the main character, Django, shoots a man carrying sticks of dynamite, and the guy is literally blown into pieces.

And Foxx is the first person you see in an anti-gun ad?

Please.

It's hard enough to find the right balance between the freedoms guaranteed to us by the Constitution and living in a gun-happy Wild West, without cries for control coming from an industry that continues to glorify the lack of control. For those of us who feel comfortable calling out the NRA crowd for hiding behind the Second Amendment, consider the actions of the Hollywood crowd, which hides behind the First Amendment in its manipulative glorification of gun violence.

Or consider the actions of We the People, who year in and year out spend billions to watch someone wielding an Auto-Assault 12 shotgun, which spits out 300 rounds a minute, mow down people on the big screen.

I don't believe the government should pressure Hollywood to make less violent movies. The industry is only giving us what we want to see. Even now, just four short weeks after 20 children and six adults were massacred in Newtown, we still crave gun violence and death by chainsaw.

The White House and Congress can address mass shootings and violent crimes, but the culture of violence isn't about Biden, Foxx or Tarantino.

It's about us.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:46 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT