An open letter to Hollywood about guns

Dear Hollywood (whoever you are),

Thank you for so many beautiful and entertaining movies over the years. You have filled my imagination with incredible stories that have forever shaped my life.

Babbette’s Feast showed me how redemptive a meal can be, restoring broken relationships by getting people to sit down, relax, tell stories, enjoy excellent food, and be mended.

Lars and the Real Girl was absurd in its basic premise, but it showed me how a community can rally around a broken hearted person with a super crazy quirk and love him toward healing.

The Princess Bride has it all. I even quoted from it this morning.

There are so many more. Those were just the ones from the top of my head.

But as grateful as I am to you, dearest Hollywood, you haven’t just filled our American imaginations with healing stories. You have filled our imaginations with guns. Lots and lots of guns.

It’s because of this that I find it more than ironic that Matt Damon, who has made many, many millions of dollars toting and shooting guns in a long list of movies, including his soon-to-be-released fifth Bourne movie, is calling for a ban on guns like that in Australia. Now, the ban may be a good idea and I would probably support it, not being a gun guy by any stretch of the imagination.

But the best way to make change in a culture is not through legislation. It’s through imagination. And you, Hollywood, are in the imagination business, not the legislation business.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 9.55.34 AM
Image from the new Bourne movie. A little over the top with gun violence?

I find it odd that an actor, whose job it is to fill the world’s minds and hearts with living stories, speaks out about gun control laws instead of about controlling the use of guns in movies.

Because here’s the thing, dear Hollywood. Your use of guns in movies is beyond irresponsible. You can hardly put out a movie without someone running around with gun in hand and firing it at someone. You make the world look like a first person shooter video game.

Yes, I know. Gun movies make big money. Babbette’s Feast and Lars and the Real Girl didn’t make much money. They’re slow, talk-a-lot movies, not face-paced, shoot-a-lot movies. And being a business, you want to make money.

So, here’s the connundrum. You’re willing to feed the imagination of a gun culture while actively lobbying to eradicate that gun culture. This is called talking out of both sides of your mouth. Cut it out!

If Matt Damon thinks we’d be better off without guns, then why doesn’t he use his millions to bankroll a movie that helps create a post-gun imagination? How about something like Clive Owen’s Children of Men, where he never touches a gun and those who have them end up lowering them in a powerful climactic scene that always gives me chills?

Again, legislation may very well be needed to curb gun violence, but those who are at the helm of the imagination business ought to use their clout to create gunless imaginations rather than feeding our overly armed imaginations.

And while we’re at it. Let’s give a nod toward the use of sex in movies. If you, Hollywood, want women to be treated better in our culture, then stop using women as sex objects in movies. Remember, you’re in the imagination business.

And inter-racial relationships? You’re doing better, but there’s a long way still to go. Stop casting black men as thugs. You’re in the imagination business. I loved how John Boyega’s character Moses journeys from street thug to hero over the course of Attack the Block. Challenge our imaginations like that more often.

And inter-religious relationships? Oh my. You’re simply brutal toward anyone of faith. No, not all priests are pedophiles. No, not all Muslims are terrorists. No, not all pastors are ego-maniacs. You’re in the imagination business, so tell us stories that show this “coexist” thing that actors like to talk about.

The word “propriety” has to do with behavior that is appropriate within the context of a community. In our culture, we have all kinds of freedoms, including freedoms which are dangerous to the communities we live in. The freedom to own guns is one of them. But so too is the freedom to make movies.

When those who have freedom use that freedom in ways that harm the community, we have to make laws to regulate and restrain that freedom. This is why gun laws may very well be necessary. But if those who have freedom voluntarily restrain that freedom themselves out of a sense of propriety, then legislation is not necessary.

Dear Hollywood, you would cry bloody murder if there was an attempt to restrain through legislation your freedom to tell gun stories. So, why don’t you use a little propriety and self-restrain out of love for the communities around America that have been devastated by gun violence? You realize that you have contributed to their devastation by your lack of propriety, don’t you?

Tell better stories. Show us a better way. Shape a better imagination. Imagination is your business after all.