Hollywood struggles with gun violence after Newtown shooting

Tom Cruise in "Jack Reacher." Paramount Pictures

Guns and shootings are as much a part of Hollywood plots as special effects and makeup. But after last week's shootings in Newtown, Conn., entertainment executives have been scrambling to make changes to avoid looking insensitive to the tragedy.

But one of the changes that many think was related to the shooting was merely a coincidence, network representatives say.

"American Guns," a Discovery Channel reality show about the Wyatt family, gunmakers in Colorado, was not renewed after its second season ended in September. The network said in a statement that it "chose not to renew the series and has no plans to air repeats of the show."

Fox News calls the cancellation a "surprise given (the show's) growing popularity," reporting that the show "had a 50 percent ratings increase for its second season premiere." Fox also quoted a representative of gun-rights group The Firearms Coalition saying, "It does not surprise me that Discovery may be lowering the profile of its gun coverage. That's their prerogative. Nonetheless this tragedy has as much to do about lawful use of guns as the lawful use of cars has to do with a car bombing."

But one change made by cable channel TLC did have to do with the shootings. The pilot for a new reality show, "Best Funeral Ever," was supposed to air Dec. 20. That show, which focuses on elaborate funerals given by the Golden Gate Funeral Home in Dallas, will air Jan. 6 instead.

Violence in movies is also an issue. After the shootings at a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in July, a trailer for the film "Gangster Squad" was pulled from theater use due to a scene in which gunmen walk through a theater screen shooting into the audience. "Gangster Squad" was set to open in September, but after the shootings, was moved to January. The theater scene was reportedly edited out, but a gunfire-heavy ad for the film aired Sunday during NFL football, two days after the shootings.

Gun violence is also a theme in Tom Cruise's new movie, "Jack Reacher," which opens Dec. 21. The movie, based on a book by Lee Child, opens with a scene in which a sniper shoots five seemingly random people on Pittsburgh's riverfront.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount has made some changes to the marketing of "Jack Reacher" since the Newtown shootings, including cutting a scene from promotional spots that shows Cruise firing a semi-automatic weapon. The studio also postponed the Pittsburgh premiere of the film.

Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," which will open on Dec. 25, is also filled with bloody scenes and gun violence. The Weinstein Co. canceled the film's planned public premiere and party Tuesday as a reaction to the shooting.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the tragedy in Newtown, CT and in this time of national mourning we have decided to forgo our scheduled event," The Weinstein Co. said in a statement. "However, we will be holding a private screening for the cast and crew and their friends and families." 

At a press event Saturday, director Quentin Tarantino spoke about the film's violence, saying, "I just think, you know, there's violence in the world, tragedies happen, blame the playmakers. It's a Western. Give me a break."

In the film, Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington play slaves who are whipped and brutalized in the pre-Civil War South. Washington pointed out that much of the violence in "Django Unchained" takes place as characters fight back against slavery.

"I do think that it's important when we have the opportunity to talk about violence and not just kind of have it as entertainment, but connect it to the wrongs, the injustices, the social ills," Washington said.

Movie studio 20th Century Fox also canceled red carpet events for its film "Parental Guidance," which is not a violent film.

Fox also replaced Sunday's episodes of "Family Guy" and "American Dad" with less-violent reruns, and SyFy yanked an episode of "Haven" which included violence in a high school.

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