The newly released movie, Parker, depicts an interesting dichotomy – an ideological and moral “disconnect” in American culture which fuels the ongoing dissension surrounding the national debate about gun control. The film’s mixed messages generate disturbing questions about a society riddled with moral relativism and what role Hollywood and the media may have in the increasing rate of gun violence, violent crime, and decay of cultural values in America.
Director Taylor Hackford’s comments during a recent interview further the discord. Does the gun control controversy surrounding this movie illustrate a conflict or a parallel between the right to free speech and the right to bear arms debates?
In his interview with The Cycle, Parker’s director, Taylor Hackford, who is also president of the Director’s Guild of America, is quoted as saying:
“I don’t think there’s any studies that show a connection between entertainment–things that are on the screen – and what happens in situations out in society. I mean there’s lots of things that people can theorize about, but let’s face it: if we have guns in society, people are going to use them. And to say that, ‘oh, they were driven to it by entertainment’ I just don’t happen to agree with. I’d like to see the scientific evidence to prove it.” (2:15)
Conversely, perhaps we could see the scientific evidence to disprove it.
However, Hackford does not differentiate between criminals with guns and law-abiding citizens exercising their constitutionally protected right to bear arms to defend themselves. Do they resent being labeled as violent kooks, suspects, and aggressors in the public debate about gun control?
Hackford seems to say that we should not have guns.
Yet the film is about criminals, and the director chose to vividly depict graphic gun violence. What is his personal responsibility to society? No one is suggesting we limit his First Amendment rights to free speech as some are proposing to do with Second Amendment rights.
“My film is about criminals…it’s truth in advertising. It’s about a career criminal. When you see the film, is there violence in it? Yes. Is there violence among criminals? Yes. But in reality, I think that, ya know, the gun lobby would like to point towards Hollywood and say ‘hey let’s bring as many people into this equation as possible,’ and I think that they’re trying to deflect the real issue.”
Taylor Hackford contends that gun violence in England is less prevalent because they don’t have guns in “that society”. (3:25)
“The real issue is, in England, there are a lot of films, all the films that you see here, all of the television shows – do they have a level of violence with guns that we do? Of course not. (“Right”, agrees interviewer) Because guns aren’t in that society. And, I think in this instance, I resent being drawn into this. My film is what it is. It’s a literary character…people are fascinated by the other side of society, the criminal side of society….I make no apologies…Don’t go to see it if you don’t like those kind of films.”
Parker is based on Donald Westlake’s crime thriller novels, starring Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, and Michael Chiklis. (Source: IMDB) Parker is a man strangely without a past – a ruthless, resourceful, methodically professional career criminal who has a strange “code of ethics”. He’s supposedly a charmer of sorts. He doesn’t steal from (lost count of the number of cars) or hurt people who don’t “deserve” it – unless they wittingly or unwittingly get in his way or thwart his plan for revenge.
Parker shows no compunction about gratuitous violence – and the director had no problem with showing the graphic bloody aftermath on film.
When the “bad guy” is the “good guy”. Parker is portrayed as the likeable “hero.” A bad boy with redeeming qualities. ‘Whatever’ must be ok then – because no laws of God or man apply to Parker. There are no sins – only mistakes. And the ends justify the means.
After a heist, Parker’s accomplices betray him, steal his share of the “earnings”, shoot him and leave him for dead. Parker is determined to get even with those who “wronged” him. Parker seeks his brand of “vigilante justice” which involves following his former crew to Palm Beach disguised as a wealthy Texan, and partnering with JLo, a local real estate agent, to devise a scheme to steal the bounty, even the “score”, and get away without being discovered.
(Note to self – full disclosure) Movie was not what was expected. It might be a good idea to research future movies personally and more thoroughly. Relying on others for information can be risky. Know what you’re getting before plunking down money for a ticket. Relearning life lessons usually costs money. Past results are not an indicator of future performance. While action-packed full of fights and shooting, it was definitely not worth the price of admission – wait for Red Box or Netflix if you want to see it.
The film raises many questions. Is there “honor” among thieves and assassins? Do the ends justify the means? Parker glamorizes violence, crime, and theft thereby conditioning the viewer to new cultural norms and acceptance.
On the surface, Parker is a typical action-packed, violent adventure movie – a “guy” movie. But the underlying messaging lurks, perhaps masking an agenda which coarsens our humanity, changes societal norms, conditions and desensitizes us to violence, and redefines deviancy, bad behavior, and illegal activity.
(Spoiler alert)… In one of many examples of moral relativism, the definition of “happy ending” or satisfactory outcome is predictably redefined in criminal terms, with a thief, his accomplice, the spoils, and a trail littered with dead bodies along the way.
The old hippie adage from the 1960’s, “if it feels good, do it” comes to mind. It’s ok to break the law, get the stuff, and get the girl, right?
But these are questions that point more to personal responsibility – exercised in liberty, defined by personal character, and guaranteed by Constitutional rights.
The hard truth: Taylor Hackford’s comments and this movie are a glaring example of rank hypocrisy so frequently displayed by many Hollywood elites. They don’t appear to live by the same standards they wish to impose on others. Many in the public eye have armed protection. And rightly so. But many want to deny that same right to law-abiding citizens
Hackford’s free speech rights are protected under the First Amendment. Conversely, law-abiding gun owners have the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. No conundrum here.
What financial impact if law-abiding citizens and gun owners ceased to buy movie tickets for violent movies until the storm surrounding the gun control debate in Hollywood subsides?
Mr. Hackford is correct. If you don’t like this kind of movie, don’t buy a ticket. That’s called “vote with your dollars.” Blatant hypocrisy – that’s why this movie should fail.
Rated R for strong violence throughout (Movie Insider)