If Hollywood Could Do It With Cigarettes, Can They Do It With Guns?

Hollywood Behind the Scenes

By Stanley Isaacs

TV spots that have advertised the films listed below, and others like them, have given you an up close and personal look at weapons being brandished and blasting away almost every week, both on Network and Cable TV.

Atomic Blond

Baby Driver

The Dark Tower

Going in Style

Hot Pursuit


John Wick 

Ride Along 2

War For The Planet Of The Apes

Wind River

These are just a small sampling of the films that featured guns in their TV spots, theatrical trailers or in their print advertising… Oh, and get this, 3 of the titles listed are comedies.

But this isn’t a new phenomenon, as some would have you believe, it has been that way since the dawn of the film industry – Hollywood has used guns to sell such classic motion pictures as –

The Maltese Falcon

 High Noon

Bonnie and Clyde

Dirty Harry

Terminator 2

Die Hard

….to name only a hand full.

According to sources, of the one sheets (posters) from the top 100 domestic grossing movies in 2015, 18 featured actors holding guns, that’s almost 20% of all of the posters and that’s not counting all of the science-fiction weapons and blasters in films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ghost In The Shell.

Much the way guns are glamorized in films, so too were cigarettes and smoking but, a little over a decade ago, the major film studios adopted policies meant to limit the depiction of tobacco use in films and particularly in films that are marketed to youths. In 2008 the Classification and Rating Administration began including descriptors that flagged smoking use in some movies that had youth-friendly ratings like PG-13 or PG.

According to a 2017 CDC (Center For Disease Control and Prevention) report, a significant downward trend occurred in the number of scenes depicting tobacco usage in youth-rated films between 2005 and 2010, but from 2010 through 2016 the number of incidents were essentially flat. Had the average rate of decline in tobacco incidents per year scene between 2005 and 2010 been maintained, tobacco incidents, it is believed, would have been eliminated from all youth-rated films by early 2015. When you factor in that federal health officials reported that cigarette smoking among U.S. high school students dropped to the lowest level in 22 years in 2014, it gives you cause to believe that the message was received by the kids.

All of which makes one consider what might happen if films and television productions adopted a similar practice and deglamorized the use of guns in their ads and marketing.



About the author

Stanley Isaacs

Stanley Isaacs is an award-winning filmmaker, preservationist and educator. He has written, produced and directed a wide range of film and television projects in a career that spans nearly four decades. He is the founder and CEO of 100% Entertainment, Inc. (www.100percentent.com), an independent production company and The Film History Preservation Project, (www.thefilmhistorypreservationproject.org), a multi-award-winning documentary series, whose Mission Statement is to preserve cinema history by enshrining a legacy of priceless stories and insights from legendary producers that can be studied and appreciated for generations, by film buffs, fans, students, preservationists and historians around the world.

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