Thursday, December 20, 2012

An Open Letter to Christopher Dodd at the MPAA

An Open Letter to Christopher Dodd at the MPAA, Motion Pictures Association of America

Dear Sir,

I recently read a news story on The Wrap that said Hollywood is ready to participate in a meaningful dialogue about gun violence after the Sandy Hook Christmas 2012 Massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. You are from Connecticut. I am from Massachusetts, originally, although I am now living in Asia, far from the violent gun culture of America.

Mr. Dodd, I love movies. I grew up on movies. I went to colleg with people who are now film producers in Holllywood and overseas. I went to college with people who are now famous actors in Hollywood. I love Hollywood and I love movies, from "The Ten Commandments" which I saw when I was about eight years old to the recent release of that Jean Valjean flick. So I write this letter to you as a friend of Hollywood, and with the hope that maybe something can be done to take guns and gun firing bullets scenes out of future Hollywood movies -- on a voluntary studio basis, of coruse.

There, I said it. I am serious. I am not Jonathan Swift of yore with a "Modest Proposal" for eating babies to solve the hunger crisis in Ireland. No, I am a modern American man who loves movies and yet I feel that the time has come to rethink the way we make and show movies.

As you know, Mr Dodd, the Sandy Hook Massacre also sparked calls from your old Senate colleague Jay Rockefeller for stricter regulations to protect children from violent images on television, videogames and other media.

The Wrap quoted you this way: "Although the movie business has found itself the focus of some criticism for promoting violence in society, Dodd said he has reached out to the Obama administration on behalf of the industry he represents."

"Those of us in the motion picture and television industry want to do our part to help America heal," you said. "We stand ready to be part of the national conversation."

For you, sir, the killings had a personal impact. You represented Connecticut in the House and later in the Senate for over four decades and retired in 2010.

So from a Masschusetts boy to a Connecticut boy, can I ask you in this open letter, Mr. Dodd, to ask your colleagues in the MPAA and other people you know in the film business if it might be possible to work out a way to ban -- on a voluntary basis -- all guns scenes and guns firing bullets scenes out of all future Hollywood product. Because films are a product, and we the people, worldwide now, are the consumers of the product.

I do believe that it is possible to write, direct and produce films -- and act in them, too -- without scenes of guns or guns firing. Creative minds in Hollywood can work around it. It can be done. If there is a vision and if there is a will.

We took smoking scenes out of Hollywood movies in a big way already. Can we do the same with guns and guns firing scenes.

Mr, Dodd, I live in Asia now. Every night I watch movies on TV here and in my channel surfing from one movie channel to another, all showing Hollywood product, nine of ten movies from the USA involve scenes of guns and people firing guns. These movies show a very violent gun culture to the rest of the world. Can we find a way to stop this in movies and still make creative, crowd-pleasing flicks? I believe we can. You must lead the way.

I am calling my citizens lobby group on this issue SGIH, for Stop Guns in Hollywood. Can you help?

Just as Hollywood slowly took cigarettes and smoking scenes out of movies, due to lobbying from anti-smoking for good health reasons groups, I want to lobby Hollywood to take out all gun scenes and gun-firing scenes from all Hollywood movies in the future, so that future movies will never show guns or guns firing in any scene, even in police movies, even in car chase movies, even in any movie at all. It might take 30 years of lobbying, but it can be done.


Blogger, reporter, movie fan since a long time [and even after I die. I hope]


COMMENTS PRO AND CON .....from concerned people on the INTERNET: in reaction to my post here and on Facebook and soon as an Open Letter in a blog post at the Wrap.

Philippa Doran, 83 years old, in New Zealand, writes to me: ''Philippa wrote: "What about war films and historical films?"

Jon Hamilton: "It certainly is a noble cause, but I enjoy an action movie every once in a while. I wouldn't want to see guns taken out of movies, personally. Sorry, but good luck on your cause anyway. "

Jon Hamilton adds...."  Just my opinion, but I think a more reasonable argument to make would be to demand theaters to enforce the rating system to stop kids from getting in to see violent movies. Or, how about a campaign to put pressure on the MPAA to be tougher on films with gun violence? I think both of those are much better and more realistic ideas...

Jon Hamilton notes : ''One of the things I hate about the MPAA is how lax they are with killing and violence in movies, yet if there's any nudity or sex, they freak out. What kind of message is that sending our young people? Violence-good, Sex-bad.''

Wendy Weiss: ''Sorry, but I don't agree with this. There are many excellent movies that necessarily include scenes in which guns are fired. Moreover, I don't care for self-censorship. I think it leads to an unhealthy, repressive artistic climate. So you can count me out and on the other side on this issue.'' ''

Wendy Weiss, adds: "Personally, I think Hollywood wanting to help is always a bad sign. Censorship/self-censorship is not something i would pursue. ''

Cathy Gody Wolf says to me: "never happen. Americans like guns .''

Diane Juster tells me: ''Smoking is still in films where appropriate; where would Edward R. Morrow be without a cigarette in "Good Night and Good Luck".... and of course, Mad Men. I've never been a fan of gratuitous violence of any kind, whatever the weapon. ''


Anonymous said...

This is an excellent idea! This Newton incident topic has just exploded on Twitter, everyone's still talking about it.

You know this may be one of those "rare" times that you can use Taiwan Gun Control laws as an example, because citizens are "not allowed" to own guns in Taiwan. But Gun Violence in American movies, it will always be a topic of debate, because Hollywood glorifies Gun Violence, it had become an industry culture, the question is not how to eliminated Gun Violence, but how to blend it properly in movies.

Like the movies you like, remember Michael Mann's "Heat"? That finale when they rob the bank, the gun battle was realistic, that I don't think anyone would have a problem with it.

Same thing with "Black Hawk Down", the realism of guns, rockets, gave the audience an in depth look on the impact of guns.

But when Hollywood makes movies like Clive Owen's "Shoot 'Em Up", that was really meaningless and the movie should never have been made, that was all about glorifying Gun Violence.

Yes, I would definitely like to see your voice being heard. I like the letter - especially to Christopher Todd - you notice how he's been keeping his mouth shut throughout this incident? Because he's afraid if he says anything about Gun Violence, people in the industry would say "are you blaming us for Sandy Hook now?" I think he wants to keep his job at MPAA by keeping quiet, ha!

I'm glad you are writing the letter to Todd, it's like testing the water, I'm eager to see if he responds.

-- LH, film director, Taiwanese-American based in USA

Anonymous said...

Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw): (while holding the Smith & Wesson 76) Ladies and gentlemen, do you see this gun? It fires 750 rounds of 9 millimeter ammunition per minute. In other words, if all of you simultaneously were to rush me, not a single one of you would get any closer than you are right now. -- The Taking of Pelham One Two Three