Joe Pisani (opinion): We need to have gun control in Hollywood

An illustraion about guns.

An illustraion about guns.

Jennifer Kohnke

I really hate those “when I was a kid” stories (although I use them often enough). You know what I mean: “When I was a kid, I walked a mile to school ... uphill both ways.” Or “When I was a kid, you respected your elders.” Or “When I was a kid, if I ever said that to my father ...”

How about these: “When I was a kid, people weren’t getting murdered every day.” Or “When I was a kid, we didn’t need metal detectors in schools.” Or “When I was a kid, you weren’t afraid of getting shot when you walked down the street.”

I know our legislators are proud of what they’ve done about gun control, but it’s time for them to ask a deeper question, and the question is this: Can a society whose entertainment is saturated with gratuitous violence, bloodshed, murder and mayhem be anything but violent? It’s time to seriously consider the correlation between violence in our entertainment and the violence on our streets.

(According to the national Gun Violence Archive, as of Aug. 30, this year there were a total of 29,408 gun violence deaths, which included 450 mass shootings.

Hundreds of studies have shown that violence in television and film leads to violent behavior. And some 90 percent of TV programs and films contain violence, especially critically acclaimed shows that have pervasive graphic violence. (You’ll find plenty of them on Netflix and Prime Video.)

If we have gun control in society, shouldn’t we have gun control in Hollywood, which is one of the most violent places in America? Just why is that so? Is it because Americans like violence so they satiate us with it? Or because of the ever-popular justification, freedom of artistic expression. Or because of historical accuracy. There’s a long list of excuses but not one good reason.

You’ll seldom, if ever, hear legislators talking about this. I suspect it’s a road they don’t want to go down because it entails confronting political allies in the entertainment industry.

Or perhaps they’re afraid of being ostracized like Tipper Gore. Remember her? While her husband Al was trying to save the planet from global warming, she was trying to protect our kids from excessive violence, sexually explicit lyrics and glorified drug use in music and videos. The entertainment industry was ruthless in ridiculing her.

Netflix is always sending me emails that say, “Here’s a show for you,” and one of them is the popular “Peaky Blinders,” which is about a street gang in England after World War I. The critics love it, and it’s won a lot of awards. There’s drama, there’s history, there’s bookoo violence.

One review said, “‘Peaky Blinders’ is a drama of uncommon quality ... Brutal violence is frequent and includes point-blank shootings, stabbings, impalements, torture, and threats of terrible injuries such as cut-out tongues.”

The late Helen McCrory, who played the matriarch of the gangster family, described some scenes as “disgusting, gratuitous violence” and said, “I can’t watch it.”

Now, please. I’m begging all you fans of “Peaky Blinders,” “Game of Thrones” and the Road Runner not to start emailing me. I don’t want to deny you your constitutionally guaranteed right to violent movies, cartoons, video games and NHL hockey.

And I don’t want to take away your freedom to use the TV remote control however you want in the privacy of your home, and I certainly don’t want to provoke yet another constitutional debate about the 14th Amendment. On the other hand, if Joe Biden is going to make me use my pension check to foot the bill for the nation’s college students, shouldn’t I have some say in what they watch?

Quite simply, there’s a clear relationship between violence in entertainment and violence on the streets — with ample research to support that hypothesis — so it’s an issue that deserves discussion, starting in Congress. Otherwise, there will be no future for our children and grandchildren, and they won’t have to worry about climate change or college tuition.

One of the most alarming studies was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, and their research supported the hypothesis that gun violence in popular media “likely contributes to the real-life use of guns for violent purposes.”

The study showed that “the proportion of gun violence relative to other forms of violence in TV dramas increased from 2000 to 2018, with statistical parallels to trends in actual gun homicides among U.S. youths.”

The authors said, “Our research found that gun use has substantially increased over the past 20 years on prime time TV dramas in the US, a trend that paralleled the use of firearms in homicides. Just as the entertainment media contributed to the uptake of cigarettes among youth, our findings suggest that it may be doing the same for guns.”

Violence in America is linked to violence in our entertainment, and it’s time to have a serious discussion about it. Our entertainment is too violent, and it is harming young people.

Former Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time Editor Joe Pisani can be reached at