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The machine's gun culture

By Paul Mitchell - posted Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Dear Hollywood Publicity Machine,

I refer to the billboard advertising for one of your latest films, titled Two Guns. On that billboard poster, the two stars, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, stand holding, as we'd expect, a gun each. Yes, the two guns of the film, holding their guns. Sometimes your posters feature one gun holding a gun. Sometimes many more guns are gunning it.

I often drive around in my car with my four-year-old son in the backseat. He and I live in Yarraville, Australia. It's quite a long way from Hollywood. But you obviously know where it is. You have one of your thousands of posters for Two Guns on the wall of the newsagent not far from the intersection of Somerville Road and Geelong Road. Google Map it. You might even see us driving past.


My son doesn't yet know what a gun is. But due to your poster, and the many others of its ilk that will surely appear, he soon will. And he'll wonder what it's all about it. Why are those men holding those metal things and pointing them? At least I hope he'll ask that.

You see, Hollywood Machine (I can only assume you're a machine because a human would have more nuance in its behavior than you), we don't have a gun culture in Australia. And we don't want one. Like you so often have experienced, we had a leader a while ago who was popular then unpopular and we got rid of him. But before he left, he did something universally popular: he tightened gun control so much that we rarely hear now of gun-related crime.

This all happened in 1996. You might even remember why: a man went crazy with a gun in the Tasmanian tourist destination of Port Arthur, killing 35 people and injuring 19. Our then Prime Minister, John Howard, put on a flak jacket (literally) and told Australians they'd have to give up their guns or suffer the consequences. And they gave them up. And we're living with the consequences: we don't have a gun culture.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying you can't have your guns in the USA. Go ahead. Go crazy. You often do. And, to the casual observer, it seems you shoot each other (and even some of our people) more regularly than ever. I'm not even saying you can't have your guns and shoot outs in your movies. That's fine. Well, it's not really. Some context and some sense of the horror of death and injury that shootings cause make the best kinds of films. But if these pointless shoot outs have to happen, they can stay in the movies that people can choose to watch. That's where they belong. But, Hollywood machine, in Australia, those images don't belong in the public eye: on billboards, bus shelters, train stations, or even Australian websites and newspapers.

We don't have a cigarette advertising culture in those settings. Or an alcohol one (we're not so good with the gambling). So we definitely don't need your gun culture coming to us via your advertising. So my suggestion? Change your advertising. Because it doesn't fit here. We don't want it. We don't want gun- toting heroes or anti-heroes staring at us with their American menace, angst and hatred in our culture where we don't point the barrel at each other.

You neatly changed the poster for our film The Sapphires when it went into your culture. It seemed that dark-skinned people couldn't be glamorous or heroes if there was a white man available to do the job. So you changed it. My plan is that you get one of the graphic designers in your machine to choose another image when developing the Australian advertising for your gun shows in future. And I'll keep driving around then knowing that I'm not in the land of the drive-by shooting, no matter how much that poster on the newsagent's wall might be trying to change it.


Yours without a flak jacket, Paul Mitchell (for his son, Ryland)

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About the Author

Paul Mitchell is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist, poet and fiction writer.

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