An unsolicited observation about guns movie actor Matthew McConaughey felt compelled to share in an interview for the November issue of GQ has not escaped the notice of activist gun owners.
“It’s like my feeling about gun control,” he volunteered when asked about politically-correct pressure to change the name of the Washington Redskins. “I get it. You have the right to have guns. But look, let’s forget that right. Let’s forget the pleasure you get safely on your range, because it’s in the wrong hands in other places.”
The comment was immediately caught and reacted to, with NewsBusters accusing McConaughey of “wuss[ing] out,” and with Breitbart focusing on the “forget that right” component of his response. Publications normally not friendly to gun rights, Time and The Christian Science Monitor, reacted more with confusion.
It is a confusing statement. The analogy from a seemingly unrelated topic doesn’t automatically click without further explanation. And interview situations often result in top-of-the-head responses that depend on follow-ups to glean further meaning, which did not happen in this case. It’s not clear if McConaughey was endorsing that viewpoint or merely paraphrasing what the arguments are.
That’s why it’s important not to overreact and make assumptions. But it’s also important for movie-goers on both sides of the “gun control” issue to know where he stands, for two reasons.
First, because McConaughey brought it up. It’s a topic he introduced into the discussion because he holds views on it, and as such, there should be no confusion on what those views are.
Second, he has a movie coming out soon. By all accounts, “Interstellar,” which opens in early November, promises to be one of the spectacular must-see blockbusters of the year. Activists on both sides of the gun issue deserve to know if they will be patronizing someone who stands with them or against them, and with a production budget of $165 million, there’s a lot at stake for the backers. While they would no doubt prefer the controversy to die out, committed advocates may prefer to insist on clarification before deciding where to spend their money.
Stars embroiling themselves — and their projects — in political issues outside of their art is a fact of life, and repercussions from audiences that may disapprove of sentiments expressed on hot button topics is a fact of life. As seen recently in this column, Liam Neeson spilling his guts to endorse UK-style gun bans for the U.S., a country he chose to switch his citizenship to, did not help his recent “A Walk Among the Tombstones” flop, which didn’t even recoup production costs with its domestic box office.
The effects of Neeson’s proclamations no doubt played a role on the willingness of his action films’ target audience to patronize movies that prominently feature his pretend derring-do with a gun. With “Interstellar,” which has a production budget almost six times that of “Tombstones,” and unknown marketing costs on top of that, the risks for studios counting on the autumn box office after a “disappointing summer” are even higher.
It’s impractical to presume gun owners will boycott all popular entertainment, although some no doubt have been doing so for years, and besides, it would be practically impossible to find any not produced by and starring prominent anti-gunners. That said, all that needs happen is to pick one. Will they, will it be this one, and will they expect an unequivocal clarification before opening their wallets?
McConaughey owes it to his potential patrons and to his studio bosses to explain himself. And the studios owe it to their investors to size up which side of a contentious question their star unexpectedly introduced is likely to result in greater revenues.
After all, it’s easier for some of us to forget a movie, overpriced popcorn and disruptive strangers than it is to forget cherished fundamental natural and civil rights.