Show me a gun and I can reel off its specs without once squinting at the slide or housing. Hand it to me – and after I’ve ensured its safety is on and the chamber’s empty, its business end pointed at my foot the ground the whole time – and I’ll list any number of films and tv shows it’s been used in.
I like guns.
The Goddess – who Knows These Things – could very probably trace my fascination with weapons of destruction to my Y-chromosome, my television addiction (one of my earliest memories are SWAT and Starsky and Hutch), and my all-too-male predilection for all and every thing phallic and destructive.
She’s probably right.
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend as I get older though. No longer is it funny for a character to wave a pistol around in blithe ignorance. Nowadays, I actually appreciate a denouement where the villain’s life isn’t taken with a bullet. And most disturbing of all, I find myself flinching at set-pieces which only a decade – even a half-decade – ago I would have revelled in each round’s subsonic track through the air, each squib’s slo-mo explosion… a symphony of stylised, choreographed violence on flesh.
It wasn’t Peckinpah’s blood-sodden Wild Bunch or even Mann’s bullet-ridden Heat that was the turning point for this action junkie. It was a 1986 telemovie: In the Line of Duty: The FBI Murders. It was a typical procedural based on a true story: a couple of guys get a taste for armed robbery, the local law enforcement begin tracking them, and the inevitable showdown ensues.
It was the showdown that left me horrified – a real-time set-piece, faithful to the FBI reconstruction of the actual bloodbath. No whizz-bang cutting between the shooters. No slo-mo heroics with rousing music. Just people killing people. Very messily.
I’ve listened to gun-nuts and veterans espouse their philosophies. I’ve shot some pistols at some very obliging pistol clubs. The Goddess is ‘why have guns at all’ while I’m ‘guns don’t kill people – people kill people’.
I like guns. But only on screen and/or under strict supervision.