Image:Hollywood Health and Society
The Norman Lear Center at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism has issued new guidelines for the use of guns in Hollywood. “Trigger Warning: Gun Guidelines for the Media is a new resource guide created to better understand the presence of gun use in the entertainment industry.”
The report shows how Hollywood encourages writers and directors to manipulate public opinion on topics they hold dear, including gun-control. The guide shares, “But film and television have the power to shape public perception, normalize habits, and even effect policy, which is why the way we talk about and depict guns and gun violence matters so much.”
Image: Hollywood Health and Society
The Norman Lear Center “is a nonpartisan research and public policy center that studies the social, political, economic and cultural impact of entertainment. On campus, from its base in the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the Lear Center builds bridges between schools and disciplines whose faculty study aspects of entertainment, media and culture. Beyond campus, it helps bridge the gap between the entertainment industry and academia, and between them and the public. Through its scholarship, research and partnerships; its events, publications and outreach to the creative community; and its role in formulating the field of entertainment studies, the Norman Lear Center works to be at the forefront of discussion and practice — and to illuminate and repair the world.”
The report is heavy with statistics that support an anti-gun stance and “debunks myths” surrounding the Second Amendment. The report shares recommendations including:
Avoid portraying law enforcement use-of-force as heroic. Consider showing law enforcement characters facing consequences, or at least scrutiny for such actions, which are rarely depicted.
Humanize and diversify depictions of those affected by gun violence. Nuanced depictions of shooting victims can make audiences care about gun violence as a public issue.
Appeal to common values. Heavy-handed stories can be alienating to gun owners who feel their freedoms are being threatened, or their beliefs mocked. Instead of making gun owners the antagonist, appeal to the common values shared by parents and others who care about keeping children safe.
According to research by the USC Norman Lear Center Media Impact Project (MIP), gun storylines are most effective on viewers who do not own guns. Even though gun owners are tougher on the whole to persuade, gun storylines do still have an effect on their opinion. In other words, your stories matter.
Image: Hollywood Health and Society
The report also suggests opportunities to influence public opinion:
THE SOLUTION ON SCREEN = THE SOLUTION AT HOME
Lock it up at home. Lock it up on screen.
When a character comes home with a gun, show them locking it away separate from its ammunition. No more laying the gun on the counter, bedside table, or under the pillow. The action should be as natural as putting on a seatbelt when driving.
Representation of safe storage is imperative to the normalization of safe storage for your audiences.
Use this guide from the Bullet Points Project for the myriad forms of safe storage.
Show how quickly guns can be accessed from safe storage in an emergency.
Don’t make retrieval of a gun from safe storage an opportunity for consequences.
Audiences shouldn’t be made to feel less safe in locking a gun away securely, since the truth is empirically the opposite.
On the other hand, consider consequences for the characters not interested in safety.
Gun safety represents a largely untapped story opportunity. When told, these stories can change hearts and minds.
If they choose to depict or discuss a school shooting, content creators might consider explicitly drawing a connection to unsafe storage or gun laws in the show’s geographic setting.
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