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Friday, July 26, 2013

Jim Carrey, Guns, and Kick-Ass 2 (Late Thoughts)

I said I would throw in my two-cents on this Jim Carrey story.  I realize I'm late to the party on this one, but I feel compelled to talk about the entire issue.  Instead of trying to summarize the whole damn situation, I'll just block quote something from the Guardian:

Carrey, who has been an outspoken proponent of increased gun control in the wake of the shootings by gunman Adam Lanza in December, tweeted on Sunday that he could no longer support the film. He wrote: "I did Kick-Ass 2 a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence. My apologies to others involve[d] with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart." 
Scottish comic-book writer and Kick-Ass 2 executive producer Mark Millar, whose original work forms the basis of the sequel, today responded on his own blog, pointing out that Carrey, who plays a character named Colonel Stars and Stripes, knew exactly what he was letting himself in for. 
"Like Jim, I'm horrified by real-life violence (even though I'm Scottish), but Kick-Ass 2 isn't a documentary. No actors were harmed in the making of this production! This is fiction and like Tarantino and Peckinpah, Scorsese and Eastwood, John Boorman, Oliver Stone and Chan-wook Park, Kick-Ass avoids the usual bloodless bodycount of most big summer pictures and focuses instead of the CONSEQUENCES of violence … Our job as storytellers is to entertain and our toolbox can't be sabotaged by curtailing the use of guns in an action movie."
While I understand Millar's frustration with Carrey, I do think he misses the point here.  From Carrey's perspective, film violence leads, at least in part, to real world violence.  I don't know how recent of a development these thoughts are for him, but it is quite clear that recent events (Newtown, etc.) have "inspired" him to take a more aggressive approach to the gun rights issue (see his comedy music video, "Cold Dead Hand").  The position is guided by a particular set of principles, which suggests that supporting gun violence in media begets violence in the real world.  Within that perspective, life is viewed a sacred, and any action which might lead to the death of others (at the hand of a gun) must be opposed.  I understand this position and even agree with Carrey on many counts.  The notion that guns are, on their own, innocuous entities is specious at best and a downright lie at worst.  There are cultures attached to them, and some of those cultures support or foment violence, whether directly or indirectly.  Some of those cultures, of course, do nothing of the sort.

Millar, however, takes the position that the film is pure fiction, and that nobody was actually hurt.  That information is a given.  You can't intentionally kill people on film without violating the law, so the issue isn't whether people are actually hurt, but what impact the violence might have on the general public.  Carrey seems to believe that film violence -- at least, in some forms -- contributes to the problem of violence in our culture.  Considering how fervently he has supported the gun-restriction side of the debate in the last year, it shouldn't surprise us that he might have problems with anything perceived as connected to that very issue.  Carrey had a change of heart.  So sue him.
That doesn't make Carrey correct, of course.  There are two positions he has taken:
  1. Guns and gun culture contributes to violence in the country
  2. Violent media contributes to violence in the country (already mentioned)
These are relatively extreme positions, of course, and ones that are not necessarily supported by reality.  While there are some studies that suggest violent media increases aggression and violence, there is no scientific consensus about the issue.  Likewise, while gun culture, in my opinion, does little to curb gun-related violence, and may actually contribute to it (however unintentionally), the argument that guns themselves, or the people who use them, are directly responsible for violence is specious.  The gun rights issue is about as grey as you can get.  Any time someone tosses out European statistics to support their position, they tend to ignore the different cultural conditions and all of the examples in Europe that contradict the argument in question.  The U.S. has a different culture, geography, and history from everyone else.  Carrey doesn't acknowledge that as often as he should, which makes it easy for people to look at him as a left-leaning soundbite machine.

However, despite how much I understand Carrey's position -- let alone agree with it -- I do think he has shot himself in the foot here.  His career likely won't suffer much, but he will piss off a lot of fans -- and for good reason.  He chose to take a role in Kick-Ass 2.  While I won't say he must support the film no matter what, I do think he should take into account that everyone else involved in the production, whether actors, directors, gaffers, or what have you, may actually suffer based on his actions.  If people do refuse to see the movie, that could affect other people's careers.  I understand the importance of one's principles; I have principles too, and I try to stick by them as often as possible.  But you also have to think about those around you.*  Carrey may not have anticipated his change of heart -- how could he? -- but he can anticipate how his actions will affect others.  In fact, since his argument against guns is largely a causal one, he should understand causality quite well.

Personally, I think he should shut up and donate his Kick-Ass 2 salary to an organization that represents his interests.  He can take a step back from publicity for the time being, too (if you're heart isn't in it, then there's no point trying to promote something anyway -- that would be a lie).  And then he should write a book about how he came to this worldview.  But he shouldn't piss on all the other people who were behind him when he made that film.  That's not fair to them, and it doesn't make Carrey look like the hero here.

What do you think?

*This also explains why I was hesitant to boycott the film adaptation of Ender's Game.  I may not care for Card's politics, but there are a lot of people I love who are involved in the project (and many more besides who never appear on the screen).  Does boycotting the film mean I'm also screwing some of them over?  And if so, am I OK with that?  I still don't have an answer for that question.

P.S.:  I also take issue with Millar's claim that Kick-Ass is about the consequences of violence.  That might be true for the comics, which I haven't read, but the first film glorified pain and suffering.  It turned suffering into a comedy of blood.  I enjoyed the first film quite a bit, but at no point did I believe I was watching something about the consequences of violence.  The consequences are sort of there, but they are withdrawn or overshadowed by the glorification of violence in general.  Granted, I have not seen the new one (it's not out yet), so it's possible the sequel will fill in the gaps.  I doubt it, though...

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1 comment:

  1. Speaking as someone who works in la-la land, I can tell you that Carrey's statements and/or a boycott of Ender's Game will effect absolutely no one who relies on steady tradesman (paycheck) work and is not already obscenely wealthy with little on the line in regard's to any one particular film performing at the box office.

    The only good thing to come from giving directors, producers, A-listers, and studios ALL the credit for each film is that no one else suffers from a flop, even as they also don't skyrocket to better pay and terms due to a success.

    So the "those around you" effected by your actions are the very same people who actively decided to take on a particular project in a particular way. Those with no real command power are not included. And if you believe in a principle the people in command - the people who made the decisions and who will potentially make them again - are precisely the people who need to be effected in order for such stances to in fact be effective.

    That said, I think Carrey is misguided in his adopting the NRA's favorite "violence in the media is what's really to blame" red herring. If he believes in gun control he's doing the movement a significant disservice by standing behind this notion, which has less empirical backing than alternate arguments. We know our media is no more violent than other countries, especially since media is shared globally these days. While evidence of the effect of gun control laws is mixed, there is in fact SOME evidence that is difficult to dismiss. There is no such evidence for the violence-in-media argument.

    However, boycotting Ender's Game is exactly right. Decision makers green lit this to profit from it. Everyone else has been paid and will benefit from the resume line item. What's left is the profit margins for the money men and decision makers AND for Card himself who inked a backend deal for himself. This movie's profits funds Card's antics directly, and there is no more compelling argument to any entertainment entity than choosing not to spend money on their product en masse. There is no more pertinent or specifically fitting action than to boycott, to NOT BUY the CONSUMER PRODUCT which is hoping to profit by turning a blind eye to who some of their profiteering partners in the endeavor might be.

    While Carrey's stance is principled, it's arguably the wrong angle for the principle he's trying to keep. But Ender's Game...please...the only alternative that isn't more extreme (and therefore I'd argue beyond the scope of the actual principle at hand) is to do nothing. The objection to the Kick As 2 is content of the film itself. The objection to Ender's Game is WHO is profiting from the film's success. That's a vastly different game right there, and much more tangible and inarguable regarding causality.