Hamish McRae wrote in The Independent yesterday about a study by Ohio State University and the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania showing that there is more gun violence in films accessible to younger audiences than in those categorised as R-rated. This reminded me of a nagging thought I often have when commuting by Tube: the large number of guns depicted on posters advertising films. On some days I've counted as many as 12 guns in the short journey through one Underground station.
The images normally fall into one of three categories: violent; glamorous or solving a problem. The gun is fetishised as either a sleek fashion accessory in the hand of a beautiful actor; the ultimate arbiter of justice used by the righteous; or the ultimate conveyor of violence and chaos. Whichever it is, it struck me as inappropriate that children should be confronted by these images. Whilst we hear much debate about whether gun violence in films or computer games can propel young men or boys (for they are almost always male) to commit mass murder or violence, we rarely hear about the effect of images on film posters.
It would be interesting for research to be done into this. The UK Advertising Standards Authority has acted in the past, having banned the posters for the Angelina Jolie filmWanted in 2008 because "they could be seen to glamorise the use of guns and violence". Yet the mere presence of guns on posters does not receive much attention from the ASA, the public or the media. Perhaps this is the point - the more that guns are depicted in these posters, and elsewhere in society, so we are further anaesthetised to their true nature. The gun does not even have to be depicted in a glamorous or overtly violent fashion for it to be a corrosive influence on society, for it remains a mechanism for killing and maiming and should be abhorred not romanticised.
Over the years, I haven't had much luck with my twitter hashtags. "#HeadlinesToriesHate" and "#SoftOnCrimeTories" get the occasional retweet but don't go viral, perhaps as they're overtly political (I am after all a Labour Party activist in my spare time). I'm hoping that #TubePosterGunCount #GunsAreNotGlamorous, might have more success, because the issue is non-partisan and far more important than the scoring of political points.
Today I tweeted the following:
"Wld be good if ppl could tweet the number of guns they see on film posters, using #TubePosterGunCount #GunsAreNotGlamorous &mention the film".
If enough people take up the challenge, we might collectively achieve some "crowd-research" which might be useful to those who research the influence of depictions of guns and gun violence. Either way, it might stimulate much-needed debate about the casual normalisation of violence in our society.