“And so shines a good deed in a weary world.”

When I first heard that the Weinstein Co were planning a premiere for Django Unchained I wondered who would be the first to pronounce that film the definitive cause for gun violence in this country. It would be too easy because, after all, Django is a bloodbath. Guns fire again and again, bullets are pumped into human bodies throughout. Blood squirts, flies, splatters in all directions. After all, Django is two things at once: Tarantino’s take on a spaghetti western, and a reminder of the blood shed by White America during slavery.

The news of the premiere being canceled agitated many on Twitter because most felt it unnecessary, “the people in Newtown don’t care about a Hollywood premiere.” And perhaps that’s true. But Newtown is a global event. Anyone not deeply indoctrenated in gun culture is looking at us and thinking, “what is wrong with America? Why are young, mostly privileged, educated males shooting people not even monthly, not even yearly, but weekly? Why are they shooting children with automatic weapons?  After every shooting the same dance plays out – people call for gun control. The NRA and its legions of fans start spouting the 2nd Amendment, as if our Constitution wasn’t meant to be changed.  You need only watch Spielberg’s Lincoln to see how to change a wrongly writ document.


But nothing is done. The gun lobby wants to blame other factors, Hollywood movies mostly. That puts Django square in the middle of the gun debate. Canceling the premieres for Jack Reacher and for Django is an acknowledgement by the studios that this is sensitive time for everyone, mostly the victims’ families in Newtown, but all of us who are watching with aching hearts.

Yet at some point, the movie will be reviewed and seen by the public. It is hella violent. But it’s Tarantino violence, which is like Scorsese violence, which makes it very very surreal, unreal even. Most of the time it is easy to compartmentalize – but this is going to be a defining moment, I figure, in many different ways and I suspect more than a few discussions will turn to Hollywood and that will bring them to Django Unchained.

So far there has been no provable connection to movies and violence.  They tried to pin The Dark Knight Rises on Jim Holmes’ motives but he was a guy who had an Anchorman poster on his wall and dyed his hair red, which proved he probably never saw The Dark Knight.  This latest shooter wasn’t a movie guy. He was a violent video games guy, perhaps, but there is no indication that he even watched movies at all. Violent films are viewed all over the world yet it’s only here in America, where we continually defer to the NRA and gun culture, that we have so many mass shootings.

Movies absorb the fantasy for us, that’s what they’re good for.  All the same, canceling the premiere was the right thing to do.

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  • knee_play

    i could not disagree more. cancelling the premiere serves absolutely no purpose.

    Roger Ebert:

    Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.

    The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”

    In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.

  • Filipe

    I understand that it was the “right thing” to do, but it just sucks that really great visions by such artists like Nolan and Tarantino have to suffer because of some idiot psychos with a gun.

  • Casey

    Wow. I know it’s late but bravo to roger ebert.

    But I don’t disagree with the Weinstein co

    Still I wish the movie luck of course

  • Noah R.

    “They tried to pin The Dark Knight Rises on Jim Holmes’ motives but he was a guy who had an Anchorman poster on his wall and dyed his hair red, which proved he probably never saw The Dark Knight.”

    Wait, what? Having an Anchorman poster and dying your hair red proves that you never saw a particular movie?

    Apart from that strange point, I agree. My roommate is currently doing an off-broadway comedy in which — in the original script — a bunch of children died in an elementary school. The humor is absurd and cartoonish, but nevertheless, they scrambled around on Friday to rewrite the scene entirely and it worked really well. Will anyone in Newtown care? No, but that’s not the point. It’s a matter of respect. Canceling the Django premiere is simply Tarantino and TWC saying, “You know what? Let’s put the movies aside for a moment. This is real life.” The worst thing that comes of this is that we don’t get to see any red carpet glamour courtesy of DiCaprio until Gatsby comes out.

    I have no problem with this whatsoever.

  • steve50

    It’s a thoughful gesture by TWC, but if they want to show true respect for victims what keeps happening, they’d get military weapons off the streets and out of the hands of hobbyists, thieves and crackpots.

    Pray all you want, group hug ’til the cows come home, but until you do something real and substantial and hamstring that domestic terrorist group know as the NRA, it’s all blah blah blah bullshit.

  • Nic V

    Newtown is a much more different event than we’ve seen before in this country. This morning on CNN there was a discussion about violence in the media but it was mainly directed at video games. Of course film followed rather quickly. There were also comments that stated the AMA, the American Psychological Society and various other medical groups believed that violence in media does indeed play a part or have an impact on how we as a society view violence. But now people are beginning to discuss violence in the media and that’s going to have an impact on a film like Django.

    I was also astounded to learn that of the Industrialized nations, according to what’s being reported; we are the only Industrial nation that has these types of random nonsensical tragedies. That is a very telling statistic if indeed it’s accurate.

    Django is scheduled to open in what six days? Think about it. This country has spent the last three days watching the events unfold in Newtown. We heard how 6 and 7 years old were shot at close range and multiple times. There seems to be little reason for why but clearly from some information surfacing an unbalanced mind. But then anyone who does this type of thing has to have an unbalanced mind. I just don’t see that the public is going to run out an embrace a film that is littered with bloodshed as a Christmas Gift from Weinstein right now.

    But let me say this. It’s interesting that so many will cite how minorities are portrayed in film has an impact on how society views their struggle to achieve equality. Yet how dare we entertain the thought that violence in the media could skew the minds of some people to create such tragedies. There are people who will defend their right to bear arms. My guess there are many who will defend their right to free speech.

    I don’t think you need to take either right away from anyone I think we need to realize that we can make a decision or a statement with maturity.

    I’ve heard that the “n” word is used 110 times in Django. We’ve all been made aware that this word uttered by those who are not Black Americans is distasteful. I get what Tarantino is doing but at the same time is there a need to do it 110 times? Or are you now desensitizing and contradicting what as a society we’ve all come accept is just something you don’t say. How many bullets do you have to put in a body on film to make the audience realize you just killed someone? How much blood does there have to be? And when do you accept that your propensity for such visualizations can be desensitizing to the audience as well?

    Cancelling the Premiere was exactly the right thing to do. Right now this should not be business as usual.

  • Nic V

    And I’ve been robbed at gunpoint. It’s a very unnerving experience. I don’t think the perpetrator had any intent to use the gun as anything more than a method of terror so that he could have his victims behave as he needed them to behave to accomplish his act.

    I don’t own a gun,have never touched one in my life. I’ve thought about buying one now but not because of breakins or fear of being terrorized in my home. A baseball bat works just as well as gun and you don’t have to go searching for it or load it. I think Americans should be able to bare arms but they certainly don’t need an assault rifle to do so. You don’t need to pull off thirty rounds to secure your house from an intruder.

  • mileshigh

    Django should opt for a limited/platform release. In light of the shooting, watching this on Christmas is cruel.

  • Kane

    In a way I understand but it’s tough when the way a movie plays will constantly be affected by what’s going on in the world. Django gets cancelled, Dark Knight Rises loses many more millions in sales and Gangster Squad has to reshoot a scene that involves a shoot out in a theater. I get the caution from the filmmakers, really. I just feel like the hard work of those in the film community can be diminished and altered for the sake of the public, many of whom would never have seen some of these films to begin with.

  • PaulH

    Can anyone confirm a report on a local Philly radio station that Tarantino wanted the premiere to go on and The Harv himself vetoed it?

  • Alboone

    As I’ve commented before on Hollywood Elsewhere let me put this debate to bed. Movies can be a powerful trigger to inducing bad behavior as well as good. Let’s start with the good. 2001: a space odyssey, people saw that and wanted to go work for NASA. All the Presidents Men — journalism majors sky rocket. Star Wars — special efx artists. Top Gun — air force enrollment goes through the roof. Now the bad. Clockwork Orange. Taxi Driver. Scarface. Silence of the Lambs. Friday the 13th. The Matrix. The list goes on and on and on and on. I am a QT fan. I’ve seen every single one of his movies in the theater. I play video games that would be construed as violent, excessively so. I pretty much get a kick when someone gets their head blown off on a movie screen when the given character deserves it. What happened on Friday forced me to examine my own relationship with various forms of media and the conclusion was succinct. This country has a serious case of romanticized blood lust perpetuated not only in these first person shooter games but in our movies and music as well. And although I am loathed to admit it, but Tarantino has to start looking at himself in the mirror. This fanboy zeal to shred people up is just not cool anymore. Just look at his filmography. They speak for themselves. All of his films relish in the bloodletting, it’s downright pornographic in their depictions, they have no point but to entertain and appeal to the inner macabre in all of us. And when you see enough of it you will grow desentized because its not real. Its just a thing. And thats what this crazy fuck thought. These lives werent real to him. They were avatars in a virtual universe. Look how he dressed. Military fatigues. Destroyed his hard drive in fear of being found out as an illusory wannabe Call of Duty commando. Sorry to be a party pooper but this is a turning point. The fanboys, and i include myself in this group, have no soap box to stand on in this issue. 5 and 7 year olds are dead in an elementary school for chrissakes. They weren’t just shot, they were shredded by multiple rounds of high powered ammunition. Think about that. Its not pretty and certaintly ain’t “cool”.
    We have to look at ourselves as a culture and ask some hard questions. If not now then when?

  • I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; I lived in Canada for over a decade (granted, it’s been several years since I’ve been back, but still). Despite Canadian content rules, Canada gets most of the culture – movies, TV, video games and so on – that we produce. They have a similar mix of rural and urban, and they have a culture that endorses hunting. Despite that, proportionally speaking, they have nowhere near the amount of gun deaths per year that we do. I think we need to take a very hard look at why, and especially bear in mind their health care system, their gun laws, and the fact their society doesn’t worship guns like ours does.

  • The German

    People need to understand: one person did this. Regardless of motive, nature v. nuture, increased gun control policies, ect. it doesn’t really matter. We live in a fallen world, where evil will always exist. Regulating 2nd Amendment rights is never going to stop psychopaths from commiting heinous acts of violence. Va. Tech…gun-free zone, Columbine…gun-free zone, Aurora movie theater…gun-free zone, Sandy Hook elementary…gun-free zone. See the pattern Sasha. We’ve done it your way, and it just disarms law-abiding gun owners and enables twisted individuals to go on killing sprees.

  • smoothcriminal

    Agreed. I don’t understand why people insist on blaming Media. Does it help, definitely not. But there are countless countries around the world with the same access to violent material who do not have the same rate of violence. I’m from Canada, we have just as many guns per person, the same gun restriction laws, the same movies and shows appear on our screens, our kids play the same games, yet we don’t experience a 10th of the violence seen just a few hours south.

    The problem is a country unwilling to accept it’s insanely massive. engendered faults, the problem is having the easiest access to weapons, and ZERO access to mental health care.

  • Seankgallagher is right. No other civilised country in the world has this problem, and we all see the same films as you Americans, play the same video games etc.

    It’s a good gesture by TWC, yes. I remembrr reading that Roger Ebert article and agreeing eith it most thoroughly, so I’m not of the opinion that these premiered needed to be cancelled, but I can’t criticise those responsible for their cancellations for doing so.

  • All those spelling errors! Typing on a touch screen with cold hands LOL

  • rufussondheim

    With regards to the alleged 110 uses of the word “nigger” in Django Unchained. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to use the word, it was the go to word for black people amongst whites at that time.

    I’m currently reading “12 Years a Slave” which was written by a black man in 1853 and it’s filled with the word. It’s used with hatred and it’s used matter-of-factly. I can’t recall an instance where there was a reference to a black person and the word wasn’t used. I should pay more attention if Northup uses it in instances other than quoting white people, though. (I’ll be honest, it’s kind of tough to do a rhetorical analyis while I’m reading this book, the events that take place are so riveting, so disturbing, so emotional and so mind-blowing all at once.)

    But either way, if it’s what was used and if Tarantino wants the movie to reflect the times, it’s what he needs to use.

  • Casiano Andres Salazar

    It was a smart decision to cancel.

    Perhaps this is a time for Tarantino to reflect on his own love for violence in his films.

    His pornographic violence is something I will be avoiding from now on. I am pretty against it.

  • Casiano Andres Salazar

    In fact I think it is time for all of us film lovers to stop and think about voilence in film. We keep insisting that violence in movies does not cause this stir, but I’m starting to wonder now.

    Gun control, or otherwise, something needs to change.

  • Ash Rivers

    Remember how there weren’t tons of rated R movies back in the days of Lincoln, and people were actually peaceful and there was no war or shooting going on in America. If we could just return to the glory days of the 1800s when those evil Hollywood people weren’t ruining our culture.

  • Alas, back in the days when slavery wasn’t just being examined via art and culture, but when it was actually real.

    Perhaps they cancelled the premiere in case any NRA members turned up. Django Unchained is probably like a catalogue of nostalgic hopes, dreams and memories for some of those guys.

  • rufussondheim

    If any movie is going to cause me to shoot a crowd of defenseless people it would be Silver Linings Playbook. And there is no gun violence in that movie whatsoever.

    Those who connect movie violence to actual violence have such simple minds I’m surprised they can remember to eat when they get hungry.

  • Uncle Jay

    “Django” will have its revenge at the Globes, and at BAFTA and the Oscars!!

  • Nic V

    I don’t object to the use of the word in context of the era and it’s authenticity. In fact as I recall it was also used in Lincoln. I object to the excessive use of it for shock value. You can make a point and underscore the era and let that impact settle on the minds of your audience. You don’t have to put a gun to their head and then pull the trigger 110 times.

  • rufussondheim

    Again, Nic, it was the word they used and while I can’t say for sure, every 110 uses might be appropriate. What’s shocking is how commonplace it was, how commonly and how regularly it was used and all the various contexts in which it was used.

    We’ll see.

  • Robert Butler

    In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. >From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated
    In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.
    China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated
    Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.
    You won’t see this data on the US evening news, or hear politicians disseminating this information.
    Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes, gun-control laws adversely affect only the law-abiding citizens.
    Take note my fellow Americans, before it’s too late!
    The next time someone talks in favor of gun control, please remind them of this history lesson.
    With guns, we are ‘citizens’. Without them, we are ‘subjects’.
    During WWII the Japanese decided not to invade America because they knew most Americans were ARMED!
    If you value your freedom, please spread this antigun-control message to all of your friends.

  • Dan Howard

    I can’t even enjoy visiting movie websites anymore because you guys cram liberal politics down my throat each time too much lately. I want movie news, not opinions on gun control or how great Obama is as a President. How do you guys feel about his drone strikes that have killed many innocent children? Where is the anger there? Oh that is only bad when a hillbilly from Texas is bad because he has an R next to his name. Too bad , I’m a SAG actor too and I used to love coming to this website, I’m tired of being lectured too in such simplistic and condescending matter.

  • JennyL

    You guys really think gun ban is going to solve problems? If someone broke into my house with a gun, do you think a knife or a bat would scare them? That person can shoot me before I can even take a first step. I don’t mind a stricter rule on WHO can obtain a gun but don’t take away ordinary people’s right to defend themselves. Last time I checked, those gunmen are not exactly sane. We need to be cautious on who can own a gun but don’t take away the rights of people who wants to own it for protection.

    As for the movie, I understand why TWC did it but it just shows future psychos that terror is the way to make things noticeable. I agree with Ebert on this and it is the infamy that is encouraging those future killers.

  • Kane

    People can blame the media, they can blame violent movies and violent video games. But where does that get you? A highscore of playing the blame game. When tragedy strikes the public has to know EVERYTHING and blame ANYONE they can. They’ll act like if all these measures are taken then something like this won’t happen again. Very wrong. Blame, mostly, should go to the gunman. Not the video game developers and filmmakers. What do we tell people who bash a show weekly? Don’t watch it. Don’t let your kids watch it. Violence will always happen in this world. Hundreds of years ago there were plenty of wars to fill many books and there weren’t video games or movies back then so that leads one to believe it could be :GASP: human nature? There are others who are mentally ill and will just snap one day and do something drastic. If video games are to blame for school shootings, then there would be literally thousands of school shootings everywhere because last I checked Call of Duty is a multi-billion dollar franchise. But in recent years the shooters have one or two things in common: They are either mentally unhinged/off their meds or just plain bullied. That’s mostly the case for people who do these types of things. Taking a stand towards bullying is the right thing to do, thankfully Bully came out to address that very issue. I’ll never forget when Northern Illinois University was shot up almost 5 years ago. My friend was in one of the classrooms and luckily escaped. Some of this stuff hits a bit home for me and I’m all for a bit better gun control (not ban). But when someone just grabs a gun and shoots people it’s unfair to blame video games and movies. What’re we going to do? Get a psychological background check whenever we buy a rated M game? Ban Taxi Driver, Elephant and every QT movie? Ban video games? We’ll go down the road of 1984 to the point where everything is regulated. I’ve played violent video games and was/is a film major and film afficianado of any type of genre, been to 2 el-ed schools, 1 middle school, 2 high schools and 3 colleges and I never once thought about bringing as little as a water gun to school. Even if we get rid of all violent films and games and get rid of guns…those people with a screw loose will always have a screw loose.

  • steve50


    Bet these aren’t assault rifles, though, and that is primarily the point that’s being made.

    Twisted interpretation based in fear mongering – as usual. Thanks god it’s your kids and not mine.

  • Dave

    The Constitution is a wrongly writ document, Sasha? Wow, if that does not speak of ignorance, then I do not know what does. If it weren’t for this living, breathing document, you would not be here today, Sasha. I wonder if you realize how many Web site visitors you could potentially alienate because of the far left viewpoints you frequently spout off. You’re a great writer, but the majority of Americans do not share in your extremism; so perhaps you should try to be a bit more fair and balanced on occasion. Believe it or not, there are many regular site visitors (such as myself) who are Independents that wish for a bit more parity.

    The Constitution is the greatest document in the history of free society. Try reading some Burke, von Hayek and Toqueville, and then come back to the center where you belong.

  • The Zach

    We get the same lectures and pontificating after every mass shooting and still nothing happens. It would be only the most naive person who believes last Friday’s event will change anything. I mean, until Friday, if you mentioned the theater shooting in July to most people they’d respond, “Oh, yeah, that did happen this year.” And try to find an average person who knows who Gabby Giffords is. We live in a 24 hour news cycle that forgets and doesn’t care after it has forgotten.

    Gun laws won’t change. And if they do, what good will come of it since the current laws are hardly enforced as it is? And any type of prohibition in America has proven useless since black markets strive when something is made illegal (alcohol, drugs, porn).

    No, as said as it is, America is what it is with guns. We’ll get our little speeches from our politicians for another week and then something new — such as the fiscal cliff — will happen and we’ll move whether or not it’s the right thing.

  • Donella

    Tarantino’s love for limb severing, death wails and screams, plus artistically-spattered blood is a form of torture pornography that played itself out to redundancy in the 2000s with Saw, Hostel, and Death Proof. It leaves me sad, the refusal of a grown man, to acknowledge the pain his privileged entitled “its my right!” attitude causes others. Neither is Tarantino fazed by his repeated targeting of Black culture for racial slurs and racial epithets on a sociopathic level that would cause Mel Gibson envy because he fits the psychological definition of a narcissist. The fact that Tarantino makes a clear choice not to target Jews, Asians, Native Americans, Latinos, Italians, or other racial and ethnic minorities with slurs and epithets in his scripts means he has some sort of mental disturbance that has caused something to bend backward in his brain. He has become an artistically-stunted one-trick violence racial epithet pony

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