Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco released a study earlier this year stating that portrayals of smoking in the movies in 2011 were up 7% over 2010. That reversed a five-year trend downward.
Public health officials wanted the studios to cut down on the number of portrayals out of fear that young people would see their favorite actors and actresses lighting up on the big screen and would go home and do the same.
But no one has such compunction regarding the portrayal of gun violence on screen. In the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, the premieres of Django Unchained and Jack Reacher, two violent films starring Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise were either cancelled or closed to the public. I must point out, though, that the producers of Django claim that the cancellation of the public premiere of the movie had nothing to do with the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary.
However, on Christmas Day the viewing public will get to see Quentin Tarantino's latest ode to a bucket of blood when the film opens nationally. Mr. Tarantino's films have been marked by gratuitous violence and lots and lots and lots of blood. Alongide Django will be plenty of other action-adventure, suspense and thrillers featuring scores of dead bodies.
What does it say about our society that we are more obsessed with keeping smoking out of the movies than we are about gun violence?
There is approximately one gun in circulation in this country for every citizen of the United States. Gun sales have continued to rise while violent crime rates have continued to decline. Most cities in the US are safer now than they've ever been (at least in recent history) but still we are stocking up weapons like there's no tomorrow.
I suspect part of the reason is the mass marketing of fear. The other reason has to do with something that Bill O'Reilly said on Election Night. While his comment that President Obama won re-election because he was giving "stuff" to various interest groups neglects the fact that Mitt Romney's entire campaign was dedicated to him pledging to give lots of "stuff" to the rich and to corporate interest, his comment about the end of the "White Establishment" was right on target.
For most of this nation's history older white males have dominated positions of power and white voters vastly outnumbered everyone else. That has changed. There are more and more urban areas in this country where whites are in the minority. That's scary to some people. I think there's a reason that most of the doomsday "preppers" are white. They are trying desperately to hang on to a past that no longer exists and it scares the shit out of them.
Over the last week I have heard colleagues whom I believe to to be rational and intelligent say some of the dumbest things I can remember. Now we may disagree on what measures we can take to address the rising level of gun violence in this country. I know we need to do something because the course we've been taking isn't working, but I don't know what. While we're talking about how to get a handle on guns, we also need to get to the bottom of why there are so many guns on our streets.
I have colleagues who have proposed that we arm teachers and administrators. I have colleagues who believe we need to implement school security measures than simulate airport security measures. I have colleagues who believe the answer is to post armed guards at schools. They then veer into the slippery slope argument about banning any particular type of weapons.
We don't need draconian security measures at our schools. Such measures will only indoctrinate students into the view that whatever the government wants to do in the name of protecting us is okay. Our children will be turned into lapdogs who don't question authority. Is that what you really want?
And we don't need more guns at schools. We need fewer. As a society we don't need more guns on the street. We need fewer. And we need to address our addiction to guns. We need to diagnosis our illness and find a way to heal ourselves. Because if we don't, there will just be more bodies that need to be buried.