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Robert Benton Shoots Down Blaming Movies for Gun Violence

During last week’s TCM Classic Film Festival (and I will be kicking myself for missing it for a year or so), THR sat down with Robert Benton for an interview. Among other things, Benton wrote and directed Kramer vs. Kramer and Places in the Heart, winning three Oscars combined for the films (two for writing, one for directing). He also wrote Superman, What’s Up, Doc?, and Bonnie and Clyde.

The last one is what’s most pertinent here. Bonnie and Clyde was hugely controversial upon it’s release in 1967. The brutal violence on the screen was unlike anything that audiences had seen up to that point. It was one of the pillars of the New Hollywood, and would help spell the doom of the Motion Picture Production Code.

In the wake of our disturbingly high spate of mass shootings, a conversation has again began in which media depictions of violence are being blamed for actual violence in society. It’s all utterly ridiculous, and in just this brief, three-minute excerpt of THR‘s interview, Benton tears that argument apart.

You can see the video here, but these are the salient points:

“Do you really, after seeing this movie, want to go out and be a gangster? Do you really think they had a great life? Is that something you’d choose for your child to do? I don’t think so.

“The Senate is responsible. The House is responsible. The fact that the Congress is in the hands of — being paid by — gun lobbyists. No. They want to blame it on us. But let’s look at the NRA or the weapons manufacturers. Ordinary people should not be able to buy a gun that the police can’t have; and I don’t believe the police should have them.

“Maybe I have a vested interest, but no, I really don’t believe that violence [is caused by the movies]. I think what these movies talked about is the fact that America is a violent country. It just is. Violence runs like a bloodline through this country, from its inception until now. I wish it weren’t so, but it seems to me to be a part of us. I don’t know anything to correct it, and I don’t think violent movies glorify violence at all.”

That’s really all that needs to be said.

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