Postponing Django Unchained in the wake of Sandy Hook sends the wrong message

Although everyone is shocked at the tragedy, cancelling screenings isn't necessarily the right move

Share
Related Topics

Last week, Adam Lanza killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, in what sadly looked like yet-another school massacre in America.

America is in a state of shock, while many of us around the world sombrely shake our heads, unable to do away with the acrid feeling that we were about due for such an event, feeling it inevitable or, worse still, routine.

The president has acted fast on the tragedy, aiming to reform US gun law as early as January.

Yet there is a deeper-ingrained issue within American society that blights the country’s relationship with national trauma, and that’s the strange tendency of allowing it to permeate through to seemingly unrelated aspects of culture. This week, several major film and TV releases have been cancelled in light of the shooting. Among the cancelled events are the premiere of Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western Django Unchained; a screening of Tom Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher - which contains a potentially offensive scene involving a sniper killing civilians; and Fox have even pulled episodes of Family Guy and American Dad.

The reasoning behind all these cancellations is ‘respect’ for the Newtown victims, and a desire to avoid any ‘insensitivities’ towards all those affected by the shooting. In arguing against an action that’s blindly accepted as the ‘right thing to do’, I risk being mechanically branded as disrespectful by many a sanctimonious soul, who believe we should all remain silent in what is undeniably a period of mourning.

The more cynical among us, on the other hand, may see these cancellations as being innocuous and self-indulgent gestures, with the studios figuratively looking around in the hope that everyone’s noticed what bloody good upstanding people they are.

But such actions are more than just harmless or pointless gestures that answer to prim ideas of social correctness. In bending film and TV around such tragedies as Newtown, society orbits around them, entrenching these tragedies into our cultural make-up, and building antagonistic associations between the arts, entertainment, and real-world violence. Yes, we should reflect on the tragic loss of life, and use it to conceive of ways to prevent it from happening again.

Let celebrities speak out (because, for better or worse, we value their bland opinions), let tributes happen, but do not let the tragedy bring culture to a standstill, because its effect becomes tainting. Whenever Django Unchained finally premieres, it is now blemished with the memory of a tragedy, hovering over the fact that it’s a comically violent homage to classic spaghetti western films. The film’s escapism has been undermined.

We can’t entirely blame the studios, as they are subject to the hypersensitivity of certain parts of the American media. Releasing violent films at this moment would be the perfect fuel for influential conservative commentators to pounce and say, ‘with sick things like this being shown in the cinemas, it’s no wonder that our kids are turning into mass murderers.’

It’s a catch-22 for the studios who, by pulling their films, taint cinema with the memory of the Newtown massacre, while failing to pull them could lead to backlash from an over-zealous media. It’s the Fox Network who holds the high ground here. By pulling such a relatively non-violent show as Family Guy, their Huckabees and O’Reillys are in a position to condemn every film and show that brandishes a gun, rather than condemning the America’s Constitution which encourages its people to do so.

Commenting on the tragedy, Quentin Tarantino put it succinctly when he said:

‘This is going all the way back to Shakespeare’s days. When there’s violence in the street, the cry becomes ‘blame the playmakers,’ and that’s a very facile argument to pin on a real-life tragedy.’

In a single sentence, Tarantino switches his film’s association with real-world tragedy to an affinity with Shakespeare, and he’s entirely justified in doing so

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Thousands of Russian troops marched on Red Square in the annual Victory Day parade in a proud display of the nation's military might amid escalating tensions over Ukraine  

Once again, the West fails to understand Russia

Mary Dejevsky
Jamie Oliver joins children as they celebrate Food Revolution Day 2014 by cooking bread, making smoothies and creating salads at St Paul's Whitechapel CE Primary School in London  

Teaching children to cook at school is a recipe for self-respect

Grace Dent
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before