It’s rare when a production house does the honorable thing when facing societal ills, probably because making a movie is “free speech” and “that other stuff” doesn’t really affect them.
But the world changed when people forgot how to talk to each other and issue grievances in a civilized manner, and decided getting a semi-automatic machine gun to kill innocent people is how you can stick it to the man and “let your voice be heard.”
Tragic. Insanity. Devastating.
It’s not like movies shy from depicting violence in the face of what’s going in real life. In fact, it’s such a cinematic journey into a faux storyline that many use the movies as a way to escape real life. Why, even TV shows or Saturday morning cartoons have “violence.” What’s going on in the world never stops Hanna-Barbera or Looney Tunes, so why should it stop a director of a big-budget action film?
It doesn’t. This last week hasn’t been like regular weeks. Following the tragic shootings in Fremont, California, Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, there have been 251 mass shootings in just 216 days in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
That’s 1.16 shootings per day. Several perish each time. Dozens more are injured. Families and people are scarred for life. And moviemaking goes on. They act as a respite so the rest of us can forget. It’s like theme parks, otherwise known as “amusement parks.”
Quick etymology lesson: “A” is the article in Latin meaning not. “Muse” is the Latin root word meaning thinking. When you search for “amusement,” you are looking for something to help you not think. That’s why we need it and don’t even realize why.
Life Imitates Art
In the case of Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Pictures, that’s precisely what happened.
Maybe you have seen the trailer impersonating lifestyles of the rich and famous, when suddenly a different type of warning sign appears. ICYMI, here’s what I mean:
No, The Hunt is not an original idea, but then again, these days, few things are. It’s a take on an old Jean-Claude Van Damme movie called Hard Target. And any other time, that would be the news. However, we have the aforementioned mass shootings happened within 10 days of each other. (Let that sink in for a moment.)
To wit, Blumhouse Pictures said, “Enough is enough.” So, they pulled their trailers and saved their marketing budget–not to mention, their conscience. Here’s the trailer that was only on TV and online for three days:
They put it on after Fremont and Dayton. They finally pulled it after El Paso. Enough was truly enough.
A day after The Hollywood Reporter reported that the studio was reevaluating its strategy for the film, and that ESPN had already pulled an ad, Universal took additional action. “Out of sensitivity to the attention on the country’s recent shooting tragedies, Universal Pictures and the filmmakers of The Hunt have temporarily paused its marketing campaign and are reviewing materials as we move forward,” a spokesperson said.
The public rationale for the marketing situation addressing real-life subject matter was noted in THR:
Given the fraught political climate — particularly in the wake of the attack in El Paso, which was motivated by anti-immigrant bigotry — studio sources say Universal is evaluating its plans in what one called “a fluid situation.”
A high-level insider says top executives want to stand by Blum, one of the studio’s most prolific and successful producers, as well as filmmaker Craig Zobel, and see the project as a satire addressing an issue of great social importance. But this person says plans could change “if people think we’re being exploitative rather than opinionated.”
To make things even more polarizing and realistic about the film, it’s about these egalitarians who find joy in hunting poverty-stricken rednecks. Yes, it’s the rich versus the poor (maybe even north versus south, blue states versus red states) in that age-old and all-too-real polarizing debate.
The movie stars Betty Gilpin (GLOW) and Hilary Swank, representing opposite sides of the political divide. It features guns blazing along with other ultra-violent killings as the elites pick off their prey.
In September 2016, the Democratic presidential candidate criticized some of her rival’s supporters for backing him. “You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” she said at a fundraiser in New York. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”
Hence, the tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek movie reference. Had The Hunt been scheduled to come out last month, people would have been “amused”, noted the political connotations, and moved on. Politico connections aside, Jason Blum and Universal put profit and marketing aside for the sake of the country’s own real-life turmoil.
Do you think they did the right thing by pulling the ads? Did they even do the right thing by showing these “deplorables” being hunted only to have one (played by Hilary Swank) turn the tables and fight back? Back to real life encounters, only the ticket sales will show proof for those answers.
The Hunt is due for release September 27.