While it’s true that we currently have no power at home and it’s cold and dark (though blissfully quiet I might add), I’m confident that my ornery feelings about the upcoming Oscars have nothing to do with the nor’easter and everything to do with the hypocrisy that will inevitably be front and center Sunday night. In the name of gun violence.
Each Oscar presenter will be gifted a basket of goods (or “swag bag”) worth $100,000—75 percent of American households earn less than that in a year. And many of these actors will add that high value goody bag to the millions they earn, or have earned, in films that glorify violence (because I hope no one is pretending that the films that often earn the most at the box office aren’t also the most violent.) In fact, gun violence in PG-13 films has tripled since 1985 and 94 percent of the most popular movies since then contain at least one violent scene, half of which involve involve a gun.
I personally have very strong feelings about the topic of gun violence in America. While I’m by no means a “ban all guns” kind of gal, I feel strongly that weapons as lethal as the AR-15 have no business being in the hands of civilians. I know plenty of responsible and well trained gun owners and do not believe that a single one of them should have the legal right to own any weapon designed to literally tear apart the insides of whatever it hits. These are weapons of war.
But I don’t particularly want to hear celebrity voices on this issue that is rightfully front and center in America right now. I want to hear the thoughtful opinions of people who have personal knowledge of firearms, not only as expert marksmen or former military but also as victims of gun violence. Whether it’s Kenrich Henderson who lost her 9-year-old daughter Jamyla child to a stray bullet while doing homework on her mother’s bed in Ferguson, Missouri, or Nicole Hockley of Sandy Hook Promise, who lost her son Dylan in the Newtown shooting, or Andrew Pollack who just lost his daughter Meadow in Parkland, Florida, their voices should be front and center in this essential conversation about gun violence.
The inconvenient truth is that while school shootings are top of mind at the moment, Black parents and students have been calling out for action on the issue of gun violence for decades. And while some high profile folks like former secretary of Education Arne Duncan have chosen to devote themselves to this very cause, George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, and the media at large didn’t think their voices deserved the same attention and resources as the ones from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.
But aside from the totally different treatment of urban gun violence and suburban school shootings, Hollywood really has no business lecturing the rest of us about the horror of gun violence because they quite literally drive gun sales. Whether bolstering gun sales for the Glock in the wake of Diehard 2 or doing actual product placement Beretta in Lone Survivor, Hollywood peddles in guns. As The Hollywood Reporter reports, “simply put, two industries that position themselves as mortal enemies have a lucrative, symbiotic relationship.” Yes, this whole idea of guns that some of Hollywood’s biggest stars find so grotesque and immoral off the big screen will now be fodder for their annual and tiresome calls for action from a highly secure and well protected stage in Los Angeles. Ban the AR-15 and weapons like it? Yes, I’ll fight for that, but not because some action star who makes millions showing one off tells me that I should.
I certainly have no advance knowledge of any of the speeches that will be given at the Oscars and if I’m wrong, I’ll be most pleased to say so on Monday morning. But if history tells us anything, we will see lots of people clad in the highest of fashion, donning the anti-gun violence pins custom made for the event, and dripping in diamonds telling average Americans how to think and what to do.
No thank you. I prefer to take my cues from people who actually have some credibility on the issue, possess real first hand knowledge, and don’t profit from the culture of violence they have helped to create.