Can we stop with the overreaction already?

I hate to start my first official blog post on a sour note, but I feel I must. Of course, I am talking about the actions of one James Holmes who late last Thursday evening shot up a Colorado movie theater, leaving 12 dead and 58 injured during the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” In turn, it has become one of the worst shootings in the history of the United States. While I was not there and I do not know any of the victims, my heart goes out to them as no one should have to fall victim to gunfire, let alone a place of escapism, i.e. a movie theater. Before you think this is another retelling of said tragedy from last week, it is not. Personally, I think much like every other tragedy in this country, the media seems to be rehashing the same information over and over. I do not want to do that, nor do I feel it is my place to talk in-depth about this tragedy.

What I do want to talk about is overreaction. More specifically, the overreaction of Hollywood. Obviously this James Holmes was seriously messed up in the head. Anyone who thinks he did this because of the Joker’s character in the previous “The Dark Knight” or any other Batman film or cartoon for that matter, needs their head examined. If it wasn’t The Joker he modeled his attack after, it would have been someone else, whether fictitious or a past serial killer. Bottom line, this man was going to do this regardless.

What pissed me off the other day when I read about it is that Hollywood has already begun censoring itself. The censoring in question is that of the trailer for the upcoming film “Gangster Squad” — shown prior to “The Dark Knight Rises” was pulled after the tragedy. In the trailer, there is a scene of violence where several men fire weapons from behind a movie screen at the audience. I haven’t seen the trailer, just as I haven’t seen “The Dark Knight Rises” yet; however, even I’ll admit that is an insane coincidence. Having said that, I can understand maybe omitting the trailer for a couple of weeks or so (especially during screenings of “The Dark Knight Rises”), but it gets worse.

This morning Warner Brothers announced that not only is the trailer for “Gangster Squad” being scrapped, but Warner Brothers has decided to yank the September release date, have scheduled a reshoot of the aforementioned scene and in turn, the film is now scheduled for a January 2013 release. I’ve got a number of pet peeves, but there aren’t many things that bother me more than censorship. I’m not heartless. This was a terrible tragedy. However, there is no need to overreact. First off, the film has nothing…nothing…to do with the Colorado tragedy. Secondly, “Gangster Squad” is a period piece based on the battle between mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) and the LA police. This means it is based upon a true story, done for historical effect and as such, the scene in question was decided on for historical and artistic impact. Now, God knows what they’re going to do in the reshoot. Most likely though, it won’t have the impact that the original scene had. Bottom line here is that no one was going to see that scene and think, huh, that reminds me of the Colorado massacre. It also was never going to make people shoot up theaters across North America. It just wasn’t going to happen. Sometimes I wonder if Hollywood thinks American audiences are too dumb and they don’t realize that such a scene is part of a movie, not reality.

What sucks from an artistic standpoint is this decision is going to seriously hurt the film. Not only was there a ton of money put into the film that now will be increased dramatically by the reshoot, but it also was a film to be in Oscar contention. January typically is a month of no man’s land for films. It is where all the films the studios have on their hands they know suck but have to release at some point, will release. This is done because December is such a heavy movie month that moviegoers tend to tone down their treks to movie theaters the next few months. So, not only is “Gangster Squad” going to lose money, it’s also going to have an uphill battle in terms of getting itself in Oscar contention the following year.

Now, I’m not saying the above paragraph is more important than the people losing their lives. It isn’t, but like I’ve beaten over the head, the average person wouldn’t have cared about this film coming out so close after this tragedy. People are smart. They know the film had nothing to do with the tragedy. They know it was done in a historical context based on the ‘40s and ‘50s, not 2012. Bottom line here is this move was completely unnecessary, and it’s a shame that in this day and age, we are this sensitive about artistic expression that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

What worries me the most from this is that this may just be the beginning of the overreaction. The same thing happened almost 11 years ago after 9/11. Once that tragedy struck, the film industry was hit hard and as a result, they overreacted. They pulled films with excessive violence from release. They pulled violent trailers for upcoming films. Some films that were set to start production, halted, some of which never to be completed. The most ridiculous thing they did though was re-edit films that displayed the World Trade Center. Some films mind you, that didn’t have a moment of violence in them, i.e. “Serendipity.”

I just hope we don’t have to go through a Hollywood censorship period again. We are a smart people and we deserve to be treated as such. Most importantly though, the artists who have created films within the last year or so scheduled for release, shouldn’t be punished because of this heinous act period.

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2 comments

  1. Well said, and something I wish more people would take seriously. We live in a time where political correctness has been trumped over common sense, and too may so called normal people would rather hide their heads in the sand and forget that certain things ever happened rather than be out in the world trying to change things. Apathy about current events, doesn’t change the fact that gruesome things happen. What will make a difference here is how we choose to react to a situation such as this, In some cases, overreaction is worse than apathy because it sends the wrong message to the rest of the world.

  2. Nice write-up. I’m mostly in agreement with you. I understand pulling the Gangster Squad trailer from theaters for a while, or at least editing the theater shoot-’em-up sequence out of the trailer. I also agree with delaying the release of the movie. It shows some sensitivity to the people directly affected by the Colorado tragedy. Granted, that’s a tiny percentage of the filmgoing public, but I still think it’s the right thing to do. The context of the event in Gangster Squad may be completely different, but bottom line, it’s still a scene in which a bunch of people sitting in a movie theater get shot. It’s going to touch some nerves, and there’s no need for that to happen in the relatively immediate aftermath of a horrible event like the one in Aurora.

    But editing the sequence out of the movie is a mistake, as is dumping it in January instead of just holding onto it until at least a few months into the year. It’s natural for people to be wary of a depiction of violence that so closely evokes what happened in Colorado, and so a certain amount of thoughtfulness is in order. But people tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to these kinds of events that causes them to go overboard.

    If Gangster Squad remained unaltered, I do think that some people would see that scene – even with the passage of time – and be reminded of what happened in Aurora; for many, a scene like that will always stir up that memory. (I’m sure lots of people will now think about it when they watch the climax of Inglorious Basterds as well.) But that doesn’t mean the scene should be cut from the movie. Somebody who loses a loved one in a car accident or a plane crash might find it hard to watch movie scenes in which similar actions occur, but does that mean filmmakers should stop putting car accidents and plane crashes into movies? Do we stop making movies in which characters die of cancer because too many people who’ve had personal experiences with the disease might be upset? Of course not. In recent years, communities around the world have suffered devastating bombings, earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes, but that doesn’t mean those events should never again be dramatized. Being sensitive to how these things are portrayed is important, and being sensitive to the timing is perhaps even more important. But permanently altering art and/or entertainment in an impossible effort to avoid too direct a reflection of the world we live in is a mistake.

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