Hollywood’s REAL Trigger Warning Problem

Trigger warning: There are actual triggers and warnings ahead.  Please proceed with extreme caution.

Driving around any major boulevard, ride any busy subway, walk through any mall and you will notice them.  Movie posters, billboards, bus and train decals promoting the latest Hollywood action movie.  Photographic collages filled up with recognizable beautiful celebrities in sharp outfits and perfect poses.  Here are some popular examples.  And pay attention, there will be a quiz afterwards.  See ya on the other side.

So other than the fact that it’s sad how boring most movie posters have become over the years (the motif of the early Bond films is a lost art form) what is the one thing all these film poster have in common?

Right.  Guns. Rifles, shotguns, some type of firearm being held by some time of femme fatal, hero, or villain.  But more than that, what is it about them that makes these posters more in common with each other than say the following from this film poster with Tom Cruise holding a rifle.


I’m certain any responsible gun-owner has figured it out already, so for those that haven’t, let me fill you in on proper gun safety from the NRA.  Right after Rule #1, always keep guns pointed in a safe direction is Rule #2 …

NRA rule 2

Let’s all say it together: “Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.”


Responsible gun owners, (translation, millions of responsible gun owners) like me see these movie posters all the time and the first thing we notice is – how reckless Hollywood is.  Not for using guns or “glorifying” firearms in films, but for hanging up posters all over the country with good-looking people holding firearms in the most dangerous manner possible – with their finger on trigger.

Hollywood studios spend millions, if not billions of dollars each year with movie posters like these all over the world that are depicting people holding firearms incorrectly.  No wonder there are accidents involving people, young and old, improperly handling a firearm!  If the NRA had the budget – and at the very least the allowances by federal regulators – to post to billboards, bus stops and subway walls promoting proper gun safety how many of these accidents could be avoided?  I don’t deny accidents involving guns happen, I live in the real world.  Which is precisely why we should be doing all we can to raise awareness on the proper use of firearms.  Our country’s bill of rights guarantees our basic human right to be able to defend our lives, liberty and property.  What good is any of that if we don’t educate people on the most basic of rules regarding guns.

Seriously, look at the poster up there for Homefront.  Jason Statham is holding the gun with his finger on the trigger next to his child’s ear.  “Don’t worry baby, Daddy’ll save you. You may be deaf in one ear afterwards though, but I gotcha.”  And as evidenced by every actor who has played James Bond over the years, this has been a problem in movie marketing for over 50 years.  Just let that sink in.

For over 50 years regular people who may not even go see the film whose posters are plastered all of the city, much less even go to the movies, are bombarded day after day, year after year, decade after decade with these images.  It’s shameful.

I ask anyone who shames responsible gun owners and 2nd amendment advocates to step back for a moment and think about that.  Take a moment and forget that those images are promoting a movie, television series, or video game. Take them at their very basic impact.  Giant images in the public square that depict the most dangerous ways to handle a firearm and they have been in every major city across the United States for over 50 years.

Giant images in the public square that depict the most dangerous ways to handle a firearm and they have been in every major city across the United States for over 50 years.

Remember the fight to get cigarettes out of the hands of actors in movies and television and their posters?  You hardly see that anymore.  Why?  Because it promoted a bad habit.  In fact, in TV and most studio films, you never see smoking anymore unless it’s to vilify it or as a sign of the times, ala Mad Men.  The point is, if they changed their ways about depicting smoking because they wanted to show they cared about people, then why the hell is the NRA – the biggest best and most respectable organization to promote proper gun safety – shunned by Hollywood?  Don’t worry, you don’t have to answer that one.

Sometimes Hollywood does get it right, like the Oblivion poster with Cruise above.  But in my research I found it must be either a happy mistake or perhaps an actor, like Cruise, has a lot of training with firearms to intuitively know the rules.

Here is an interesting progression in the Lethal Weapon film franchise and its posters.  Here is the first film’s poster.

Lethal Weapon 1

Lethal Weapon 2 – So much wrong here.


Lethal Weapon 3 – Looks like someone learned their lesson, but didn’t share the knowledge. Maybe Mel relied on Joe Pesci to tell Danny and that’s why he’s trying to squeeze in. “Hey Danny, never touch triggers. They f*** you if you touch ’em.”


Lethal Weapon 4 – Honestly, considering the heavily photoshopped composition, doesn’t anyone in Hollywood’s marketing departments care about the children?!


That’s a serious question by the way.  Does Hollywood really care about gun safety?  Do they have the intellectual fortitude to put aside their difference with the NRA and invite them into the room to discuss the best way to promote gun safety?  Or will we continue to let these giant corporations bombard us with these images?  Of course, I am never one to blame the ills of society entirely on movies and tv, but seeing as how so many do – how does one defend the contradiction of banning smoking in advertising, yet spreading imagery that is way more life threatening to an innocent bystander than secondhand smoke ever will be. 

By the way his goes for video games as well as seen in this poster for a version of Call of Duty. The gross negligence is astounding.  Oh my God, think of the children!

Black Ops

Matt Edwards

Matt Edwards is a filmmaker in his native Los Angeles. He is an alumnus of the 2011 Taliesin Nexus Filmmakers Workshop, a 2014 Liberty Lab Fellow and the current editor of SCC. Matt is also host of the The Rear View film podcast. Follow @TRVpodcast and @mattchrised on Twitter.