Since the tragic events that took place Friday in Newtown, Conn., the national conversation has largely been dominated by talk about how to prevent future mass shootings. Liberals -- and an increasing number people in the middle -- have called for increased gun control, while conservatives have pointed their fingers at video games, pop culture and rap music.
This polarization was starkly evident on Tuesday night television. MSNBC's Lawrence O’Donnell went on an eight-minute tirade about the National Rifle Assn. and its chief executive, Wayne LaPierre. O’Donnell described LaPierre as a “blood-drenched” “professional liar” and said that “there are no words that can wash the blood from his hands.” Even to many of the NRA’s critics, it was extreme rhetoric.
Meanwhile, Bill O’Reilly devoted a segment on his show to Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” and the influence of violent movies on mass shooters like Adam Lanza, even though we know virtually nothing about the young man's motives, much less his feelings about Tarantino's oeuvre. Conservatives like O’Reilly have targeted the slavery revenge saga mostly, it seems, because Jamie Foxx joked during a recent “Saturday Night Live” monologue that he gets to “kill all the white people in the movie” -- white people who are cruel and racist, much like the Nazis whom Brad Pitt got to kill in "Inglorious Basterds."
A few hours later on "The Tonight Show," Tarantino provided what was probably the night’s most thoughtful take on the Newtown massacre and the broader history of violence in this country.
Tarantino rejected the argument that movies like his glamorize or encourage bloodshed. “I’ve been making these movies for 20 years now. This is what I do. You know what you’re getting when you see my films,” he said. “Dealing with entertainment like this in the midst of tragedy like this is actually disrespectful, to bring up these side issues, when actually the issue is mental health.”
He also defended “Django Unchained," saying it addresses the violent legacy of slavery because “this subject has been avoided a lot in cinema, and I think it’s about time that we deal with it. Most other countries have had to deal with their sinful past. It’s a painful subject for white people to deal with, and it’s a painful subject for black people to deal with.”