“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.