Please God Can We Stop Using Guns To Sell Things
Try to think back to the last time you saw a cigarette in a movie poster, let alone in a movie. It’s been a while, right? For decades, “men holding cigarettes,” and, to a lesser extent, badass ladies doing same, was code for coolness. He’s like Prometheus! we, the audience members, were primed to think. He can hold fire in his hands! He’s dreamy …
Smoking kills, though. Kurt Vonnegut, a lifelong addict, characterized it as a fairly sure, fairly honorable form of suicide. As a society we finally came around to the idea that romanticizing smoking is counterproductive if we want future generations to have long, healthy lives. This despite the fact that smoking remains big business in America, an industry with powerful, deep-pocketed friends.
No more cigarettes casually inserted into movie posters, magazine ads, or TV commercials simply because they look sexy. Smoking, once a huge part of mainstream American life, has become less and less accepted and less and less acceptable, even to hardened reprobates like Choire.
Why can’t we reach the same agreement as a society about guns?
There are guns in ads everywhere you look. Not ads for guns, per se, but ads for pop culture properties that glamorize guns, that offer them as tempting solutions to the enduring problem of other people.
Look this way and Denzel Washington is holding a gun. Look that way and Keanu Reeves is. When was the last time you saw Liam Neeson not holding a gun? Or Arnold Schwarzenegger? Or Jason Statham?
Guns have become a Hollywood crutch, a way to signal hardcore masculinity. (I guess Hollywood swallowed whole the gun industry’s messaging on the subject.) But ubiquity drains the symbol of its power. I signed into my Netflix account to consider my queue and, on the DVD recommendation page, was faced with a numbing barrage of weaponry.
Every row offered five selections, and there was a gun in almost every one — usually more than one, including Action, sure, but also Dramas:
Based On A Book:
Even, for the love of all that is holy, COMEDIES:
Good guys holding guns, bad guys holding guns, big guns, tiny guns, smooth guns, spiny guns, like a whole Dr. Seuss book full of nothing but guns. And this is my Netflix! Optimized for a person whose preference categories include “Movies Featuring a Strong Female Lead Based On Books” and “Critically Acclaimed Imaginative Movies.” Can you imagine how AK-47-friendly the Netflix DVD recommendation page of the average moviegoer must be?
This imagery is hardly reserved for services like Netflix. We see men brandishing guns in forty-foot tall posters on the sides of buildings, in ads on the subways, in TV commercials. Then of course we come home and see men brandishing guns in the news with fatal results, like in this week’s tragedy in Virginia.
In December 2012, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children, six adults, and himself. Since then, there have been at least 885 mass shootings, with shooters killing at least 1,144 people and wounding 3,180 more. …
Using the definition many people operate under — shootings at a public place in which the shooter murdered four or more people, excluding domestic, gang, and drug violence — they appear to be getting more common, according to an analysis from Harvard School of Public Health researchers.
Even more often we kill ourselves with them, as a recent sobering Vox report made clear:
There is a gun for nearly every person in America. The overwhelming majority of people who die from guns in the US do not die because someone shot them — they die because they shot themselves.
Yet none of this has kept us from lionizing guns and the men who carry them. Sure, it’s satisfying to blame the NRA, and the organization has a lot to answer for, but so do the people who make music, TV shows, movies, and video games, and the people who make and approve the ad campaigns for them.
Cigarettes kill us slowly. Guns kill us quick. If we can acknowledge that cigarettes are fatal, why can’t we do the same thing for guns and at the very least stop glamorizing them by lazily and irresponsibly throwing them into ads?