Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Despite Newtown, we crave violent movies

January 14, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
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
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 1624 GMT (0024 HKT)
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2322 GMT (0722 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT