Guns in Hollywood movies: does violence captivate audiences?

Alec Baldwin said he was “heartbroken” when he fatally shot a cinematographer with a prop gun in a shocking on-set tragedy. (photo credit: AFP file)

Alec Baldwin said he was “heartbroken” when he fatally shot a cinematographer with a prop gun in a shocking on-set tragedy. (photo credit: AFP file)

by Brad Bushman and Dan Romero

In what appears to be a tragic accident, actor Alec Baldwin shot and killed a cinematographer while discharging a prop gun on set in New Mexico on October 21, 2021.

It is too early to guess what went wrong during the filming of the western film “Rust”. But the incident in which the film’s director was also injured reveals a simple fact: guns are common in Hollywood movies.

As scholars of mass communication and risk behavior, we have studied the increasing prevalence of firearms on screen and believe that the more guns in movies, the more likely a shooting will occur – both in and in the “reel” world. the real world.

Gun violence in Hollywood movies has increased dramatically over time, especially in films accessible to teens. In fact, our research shows that acts of gun violence in PG-13 films have nearly tripled in the 30 years between 1985 (the year after the ratings were introduced) and 2015. Similar trends have been observed with gun rates in popular TV dramas. Violence doubled in prime time drama between 2000 and 2018.

Of course, depictions of violence in the entertainment industry are nothing new. The use of guns in Hollywood movies has a long tradition going back to the gangster movies of the 1930s. Guns was also featured heavily in 1950s Western TV shows.

The boom in depictions of guns in movies and TV shows is probably related to the realization that violence attracts audiences and that guns are an easy way to dramatize violence. And here the filmmakers have a willing ally in the gun industry.

Media outlets are against allowing gun advertising on TV or mass-released magazines. But guns are featured in the highest-grossing movies and popular TV dramas.

We know that the gun industry pays production companies to have their products in their movies. He is rewarded with repeated appearances on screen, so much so that in 2010 the firearm company Glock won a “lifetime achievement award for product placement”, with a quote that GLOCK won 22 box office numbers during that year. Appeared in movies.

The payoff for gun companies can be great – leading positions in high-profile movies can result in a significant jump in gun model sales.

Making Guns ‘Cool’

But the potential damage caused by guns in Hollywood goes far beyond the occasional tragic accident on set. Studies show that merely seeing a gun can increase aggression in spectators known as the “weapon effect.”

Several studies suggest that violent movies and TV programs, which often contain guns, can likewise increase aggression and numb viewers to the pain and suffering of others.

And kids can be especially vulnerable—which makes it all the more remarkable that the prevalence of guns in PG-13 movies has grown over the decades.

Young viewers often identify with film characters as “cool” and want to imitate their behavior.

Seen with on-screen smoking: Children who see movie characters smoking cigarettes are more likely to smoke themselves. A similar effect was seen in children who watched film characters drink alcohol.

In a study conducted by one of us, pairs of children aged 8 to 12 were first randomly assigned to watch a PG-rated movie clip with guns or the same movie clip with edited guns. Was.

They were then placed in a room containing several toys and games, while being watched by a hidden camera.

In a cabinet in the room was an actual, but inefficient, 9mm handgun that had been modified with a digital counter to record the number of times the children pulled the trigger.

Most of the children (72 percent) opened the drawer and found a gun. But the children who watched the movie clip with the guns held the handgun longer, on average, 53.1 seconds compared to 11.1 seconds for those who watched the clip without the gun. They pulled the trigger more often – 2.8 times on average, compared to 0.01 times for those watching the movie without a gun.

Some children behave very dangerously with a real gun, such as pulling the trigger while pointing the gun at themselves or their partner. A boy pointed a real gun from the window of the laboratory at people in the street.

The kind of gun violence depicted in Hollywood movies highlights the proper use of those weapons. When characters use guns to protect themselves or family, their use is considered acceptable.

This results in encouraging viewers to think that using guns to protect oneself or others is a virtue.

Reflecting or glamorizing violence?

The United States of America is the most heavily armed society in the world. Although comprising about 4 percent of the world’s population, American citizens own about half the world’s guns.

There is a danger in displaying guns so heavily that Hollywood is not only mirroring society – it is encouraging the sale of firearms.

Although it is rare for actors and film production workers to be injured or killed during accidental shootings, the potential for fatal shootings in the real world – accidental or otherwise – increases with every sale of guns that Hollywood exhibits.

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Conversation


Brad Bushman is Professor of Communications and the Rhinehart Chair of Mass Communication at The Ohio State University.Dan RomeroHe is a research director at the University of Pennsylvania and the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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