The Guns Thing
I recently attended a lecture on law enforcement which partially explained why gun crime is so low in the UK (knife crime being the bigger problem). It turns out that police are less fussed about finding illegal firearms than controlling ammunition. If you can’t get the bullets, you can’t open fire. But there was another, more bizarre reason Â put forward, for which we have gangsta rap videos to thank. You can copy the gangsta pose, arms high and wide, hands pointed down, pistols turned on their sides, but you can’t actually fire a gun in that position; you’ll shoot yourself in the feet.
Guns are everywhere, though. Say you feel like seeing a film and surf through ads and trailers looking for something appealing. See how long it is before you spot your first gun. Actually don’t, because it will find you. Once the taboo image for use on a film poster, firearms became ubiquitous, but for a while the only way you could show a gun on a UK film ad was by featuring it from the side, and not pointing at you, as this would be considered aggressive and easy to imitate.
Occasionally there’s upset when a poster showing a gunman gets put up beside a nursery school, but I was more bothered by the poster for ‘London Has Fallen’, which showed a bomb blast in the city centre. That’s an image we really don’t need from Hollywood right now.
You would think, given America’s terrible problem with gun crime, that Hollywood might ease up on the gun-as-fetish-item tropes, but if anything they’re taking weapons to a new level. The poster for ‘Keanu’, featuring guns and a cute kitten, manages to combine this fetishism with the other main Hollywood marker; treacly sentiment. Yes, it’s meant to be funny, although as the film is marketed at black audiences I’m not sure how that mindset works.
But of course Hollywood needs young bucks. Trapped in a state of permanent adolescence, it is required to celebrate testosterone in the limited ways available, which may explain why TV entertainment has taken another path. New shows are more likely to be based around supernatural storylines than gun crime, stranding critical disasters like ‘Suicide Squad’ in cinemas with undelivered promises of nastiness. ‘Dead pool’ played it both ways, celebrating OTT violence with a wink, and came up with this not exactly subtle gun-as-phallic-object image.
Last week I went to see ‘Jason Bourne’, a film which consists of the same chase sequence repeated four times with variations in four different cities. About 75% of the film comprised jittery-cam footage of men with guns walking through crowds looking for someone, while about 10% was people staring urgently at computers that could miraculously perform things your Apple can’t – like disconnect someone’s laptop from an old analogue phone. That, too, had a poster with a gun on it, appropriate for a film about a man saving American citizens from death while wiping out about a third of Europe.
But without guns, how would Hollywood ever manage to tell a story?