For years now, representatives from the Michael Bloomberg-founded, and funded, Everytown for Gun Safety have been slipping into Hollywood studios, writers’ rooms and elbow-rubbing parties, intent on influencing storylines and, thereby, shaping public opinion.
Nevertheless, gun use—from action blockbusters to cop shows to superheroes to military movies—are still the mainstay of the entertainment money machine, indicating that Everytown’s efforts have mostly amounted to a flop.
“Guns have always been a part of American life. They’re just going to naturally show up and be a part of the fabric of these stories,” said Hollywood film producer Mark Joseph. “I don’t see that changing anytime soon unless we want to tell these stories inauthentically.”
Gun use on popular prime-time dramas doubled from 2000 to 2018, according to research by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania, published March 2021. “Our research found that gun use substantially increased from 2000 to 2018 on prime-time TV dramas in the U.S., a trend that paralleled the use of firearms in homicides. Just as the entertainment media contributed to the uptake of cigarettes among vulnerable youth, our findings suggest that it may be doing the same for guns,” said the study’s author.
TV dramas might be more focused on criminals with guns today than they were in 2000, but this trend clearly doesn’t parallel the use of firearms in murders. Crime and murder in the real world did not double over this period. Variables ranging from policing strategies to poverty can influence crime, and can help explain the rise and fall of murder and crime rates throughout this time. In fact, the overall trend has been downward. (And, as this was being written, reported rises in murder rates and other crimes in American cities in 2020 were clearly linked to riots, pushes to defund the police and other factors.)
It feels like a stretch to blame Hollywood dramas and films for an increase in violence that occurred after riots and defund-the-police movements. Nevertheless, APPC research director Daniel Romer specifically pointed the finger at the “entertainment media” for contributing to the recent uptake in the violent use of firearms some cities are now experiencing.
Several people who work in the entertainment industry, but who for obvious reasons wish to remain off the record, said this is just another example of Hollywood hypocrisy—the studios use depictions of guns to increase their own bottom lines, but then demonize law-compliant Americans who want to use a constitutional right to protect themselves.
While it might be difficult to sort through all the hypocrisies, it is apparent that the gun-control crowd is very interested in using Hollywood to push their anti-Second Amendment views.
In 2015, Everytown established a “Creative Council” chaired by actress Julianne Moore that is stuffed with “actors, directors, musicians, artists, designers, producers and writers, along with other partners and allies in the entertainment industry” who are focused on using their “communications skills and the power of culture to galvanize Americans” to support additional gun-control laws. The anti-gun group employed several individuals to further the endeavor, with titles such as “Director of Cultural Engagement” and a “Senior Director of Cultural Engagement.”
This was an effort to spread anti-gun hashtags, orchestrated by Hollywood heavy-hitters with lots of followers. They wanted to encourage the public to reach out to elected representatives to reject pro-Second Amendment bills by repeating a spoon-fed script.
In March of last year, the actresses Laura Dern, Chelsea Handler and Rashida Jones joined forces in Beverly Hills for a private showing of the 12-minute film “If Anything Happens I Love You,” co-presented by Everytown and the prominent United Talent Agency (UTA). The animated short centered on the anguish experienced by parents who lost their daughter to a murderer in a school. The event additionally featured speeches from survivors and family members of massacre victims who are now fighting for more gun-control laws.
With a big push from internal powers, the Michael Govier and Will McCormack-directed film went on to mark Netflix’s first Oscar in the animated short category in April 2021.
This has been going on for a while. By 2016, there were also some evident script incorporations. In the Netflix series “House of Cards,” first lady Claire Underwood endorsed a new roster of gun laws with the backing of a fictionalized group called “Families for Gun Reform.” The website for the fictitious anti-gun lobby, which, as this was being written, was still active, directs users to a very real Everytown site.
That same year, a “Welcome to the Gun Show” sketch comprised an episode of “Inside Amy Schumer,” with Everytown executives boasting that they had done a 90-minute briefing session with the comedienne in the writers’ room and “keyed [her] in on how there are some facets of gun policy in America that are stranger than fiction.” After four seasons, the show ended just a few weeks later.
A week after the 2016 Orlando nightclub terrorist attack, Everytown reportedly provided the talking points to the writing crew for John Oliver’s HBO show “Last Week Tonight” pertaining to the 1996 Dickey Amendment, a law aimed at restricting federal funding for gun-control advocacy by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oliver concluded the segment by urging his viewership to petition their representatives to repeal the Dickey Amendment.
Furthermore, the show “The Good Wife” featured an episode in which a gun-store owner’s liability was questioned after the death of a young girl.
And in 2015, a slate of stars, including Kate Walsh, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore and Mark Hamill, got involved in promoting a viral #WearOrange campaign as part of Everytown’s larger Wear Orange Weekend to mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day each June. According to the “Wear Orange” website, the occasion started in commemoration of the tragic death of teen Hadiya Pendleton in 2013.
“Orange is the color that Hadiya Pendleton’s friends wore in her honor when she was shot and killed in Chicago at the age of 15—just one week after performing at President Obama’s 2nd inaugural parade in 2013,” the opening page states. “After her death, they asked us to stand up, speak out, and Wear Orange to raise awareness about gun violence. Since then, orange has been the defining color of the gun violence prevention movement.”
The organization seeks to send a “powerful message” and “get closer to realizing a future free of gun violence,” but what is muddled in the movement is that Hadiya was killed in the collateral damage of rival gang violence ripping through the streets of Chicago by known criminals.
And in late 2015, it was announced that award-winning film director Spike Lee, who is also a member of Everytown’s Creative Council, had partnered with the National Basketball Association (NBA)—sponsored by Everytown—to launch a series of television advertisements starring the sport’s biggest names calling for more gun control. But the fact that law-abiding Americans are simply seeking to defend themselves and their loved ones from those very same violent criminals—and who don’t have access to the security squads that NBA and Hollywood stars do—is an issue that, not surprisingly, is never addressed.
And in the years before being hauled off to prison for rape, the then-powerhouse producer Harvey Weinstein went on to champion his part in the anti-gun crusade by appearing on Piers Morgan’s CNN show in 2014 and declaring, “You have to look in the mirror, too. I have to choose films that aren’t violent or aren’t as violent as they used to be.”
It didn’t stop him from producing the western “Jane Got a Gun,” or the violence-swathed Quentin Tarantino movie “The Hateful Eight” the following year.
Moreover, weeks after the “Times Up” pins went viral at the 2018 Golden Globes, in response to the Weinstein showdown and to show solidarity against sexual harassment in the industry, Everytown went on to create orange anti-gun pins for the 2018 Oscars. These were reportedly sent to the top talent agencies to distribute on the carpet “to help spread the word.”
While the prospect garnered a ton of pre-event attention, with dozens of articles espousing how and why stars would be donning the small flag pins on the red carpet, little was said or photographed about it during or after the star-studded event.
Hollywood Isn’t Giving Up Its Guns
While left-leaning Hollywood stars and their studio bosses typically don’t hesitate to espouse gun control on their personal platforms, when it comes to making money from their day job, most of them have no trouble pulling triggers.
Universal Studios didn’t shy away from heavy marketing of its $120 million “Jason Bourne” franchise with Matt Damon donning a gun across billboards and posters and trailers and subway slides, propelling the star into the awkward position of having to condemn his firearm-toting image in lead-up interviews. Yet the messaging was still swell for the movie’s bottomline. As the first movie in the series, it amassed almost half a billion dollars.
“Everytown has been a hilarious failure for changing Hollywood and a huge success getting actors and actresses to fight against gun ownership. Look at the much-celebrated movie ‘Black Panther,’” said Dan Gainor, vice president of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center, referring to the 2018 hit. “It was filled with violence and 163 separate shootings. Where was the media criticism? Oh, that’s right, there wasn’t any. Because the movie was ‘woke.’”
He said, simply, that the top movies are mostly escapist and violent.
“If Hollywood changes that, someone will make those movies and viewers will find a way to watch them,” Gainor said. “The top two all-time grossing movies—‘Avatar’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame’—are filled with violence. They grossed a combined $5.5 billion. That’s not going away anytime soon. Hollywood simply doesn’t make many powerful dramas anymore.”
Gainor also acknowledged that the industry could “always do a better job” when it comes to responsible portrayals of gun use and that the question around Hollywood hypocrisy, essentially whether one should take an anti-gun stance while starring in shoot-em’-up content, is a question each person has to ask themselves.
“Actors are often not the decision-makers on these types of matters, but they can say ‘no’ if they don’t want to portray a particular character,” he said. “It’s up to producers, directors, writers and ultimately studios to decide how and if guns are portrayed on screen.”
Celebrities have fawned over President Joe Biden’s (D) moves to enact further gun control, yet the ever-popular action/adventure genre rarely depicts plot lines with individuals sensibly undergoing tactical training or undertaking lawful self-defense measures. Instead, the Left subculture that is Hollywood seems happy to boost bottom lines with illustrations of gun-wielding criminals even as they embrace gun-control doctrine that skewers average Americans who want to exercise their gun rights.
But for those stars who are continuing their anti-gun advocacy with backing from Everytown, it still remains murky as to precisely what they are fighting for. Moore, for example, often says it isn’t a Second Amendment issue but “about safety.” She also often draws nonsensical comparisons to “the drive to improve automobile safety in the 1970s.”
The only concrete thing these celebrities say they want is “universal background checks,” even though checks already exist for the law-abiding.
Cue the head scratch.
Occasionally, some stars pay a price for espousing one thing but profiting from it at the same time.
For one, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” lead actress Daisy Ridley in 2016 penned an Instagram post in solidarity with young relatives of victims of murderers who appeared at the Teen Choice Awards. Yet commenters quickly called Ridley out, accusing her of hypocrisy because of the violence depicted in the hit film. She quit the social-media platform under the guise of “harassment.”
Yet there remains a slither of brave screen stars who are willing to show support for the Second Amendment; for example, the star of the recent Netflix reality sensation “Bling Empire,” billionaire Chinese-American businesswoman and fashionista Christine Chiu, garnered attention with a fleet of Instagram videos and posts showcasing her shooting skills at a local gun range. She was decked out in designer attire and made on-screen comments about wanting to protect herself and her family.
And in terms of the real world, far removed from the bubble of the reel world, the anti-gun spiel seeping from the Everytown-influenced Tinseltown appears to have had little effect. A difficult 2020 brought about an unprecedented number of background checks for likely gun purchases across the country and saw a swell of women and minorities joining the ranks of new gun owners.
Women encompassed 40% of all gun purchases over the pandemic and riot-riddled year, while purchases from Black men and women escalated by 58% between 2019 and 2020, amid concerns over personal safety while calls to “defund the police” soared across large swaths of the country.
According to Carey Warren, owner of the media and entertainment public relations firm Coterie Media, if Everytown’s six-year endeavor had been successful, gun sales would have been reduced.
“Instead, gun sales have increased, for the most part, year over year. In 1999, total gun sales were a little over 9 million. In 2016, they were 25 million. So, obviously, something’s not working in relation to their messaging,” he said. “Hollywood is all about filling the seats and selling the popcorn.”
Warren also pointed to the recent number-one box-office success of “Nobody,” a story about a retired mob “auditor.”
“The theme of that movie is far from anti-gun,” he said. “Hollywood knows they have to make money and will use any device possible to make it.”
So, what are the results?
“The [lead actor] doesn’t want to learn to use a gun properly, so it has been a battle for [responsible] use since the start, and now there are more ‘advisors’ entering the writers’ room to spin anti-gun storylines,” lamented one technical advisor and writer on a hit, long-running television series focused on first responders and, thus, gun use. “And now there is a push to have it canceled for next season, in favor of a show more politically correct for the times.”
It seems that while Everytown’s protracted campaign has garnered only a few small-scale propaganda wins, its efforts are far from over.