Hollywood Dramas, Wesleyan Film Studies, Newtown, and Guns

Your cover story in the last issue, “Direct Action,” fortuitously coincided with much of the post-Newtown tragedy and drama. Even more coincidental is the article’s subject, Jan Eliasberg ’74 and her laudable rise through the historically male-dominated Hollywood glass ceiling, whose success has to some degree been based on the genre of fast-paced Hollywood dramas—a specialty—unfortunately rife with violence, murder, gore, and the like.

This places Ms. Eliasberg in a unique position relative to post-Newtown dynamics and debate regarding public safety.

While most of the liberal progressive world will ignore any effect violent video games and movies have on impressionable young minds, in the wake of Newtown—much less Boulder, Portland, and anywhere such violence, murder, and mayhem occurs in real life—Wesleyan should call on its illustrious alums in the movie industry to consider the negative societal effects their entertainment products might induce. While much may yet be accomplished in the (occasionally useful, but somewhat hysterical) drive for “gun control” that won’t prevent much crime, the fields of mental illness and entertainment need serious reflection and re-engineering in American society.

Since free speech and the right to bear arms (first and second amendments) are no doubt here to stay, it behooves professionals in these industries to take voluntary action. Ms. Eliasberg and her peers should lead in this regard. So should the Wesleyan Film Department and, in particular, our beloved and successful Professor Jeanine Basinger. Your article states she “has plenty of authority, responsibility, and vision,” and I’d add that she has expertly helped form decades of creative cinematic minds at Wes U. Professor Basinger could therefore easily be instrumental in a movement to curb the violence and gore that are portrayed just because we have free speech and because it sells.

We won’t get rid of the inventory of guns in U.S. society—or legal, law-abiding gun owners—and criminals will always be able to obtain firearms illegally. However, we can harden targets, address the mentally ill and their access to firearms, enhance gun licensing, capacities, etc., but also MUST address our decades old but incredibly realistic and damaging action genre in movies and video games.