The Ethical Boundaries of Jamie Lee Curtis and Gun Violence in 'Halloween'

When does the line between fiction and reality become blurred?

Jamie Lee Curtis
Universal Pictures

On early Wednesday morning, Fox News published an article about the use of firearms by Jamie Lee Curtis in David Gordon Green’s upcoming Halloween film. The article claimed that her character’s gun use, as is depicted in the trailer, stands in contrast to her vocalized personal stance against gun violence.

The article was quickly faced with much backlash via Twitter, with most responses essentially arguing that as an actress, she is taking on the role of another person. In other words, it means her characters’ actions might not always necessarily correspond with her beliefs in real life. Many responses included (very humorous) hypothetical headlines about other films if viewed the same way, including “Lady Gaga plays an unfamous person in her movie despite being very famous in real life” and “Sigourney Weaver attacks aliens in new film despite pro-immigration stance.” Even Dictionary.com responded to the tweet with the definition of the word “acting.” Where, then, does that line between fiction and reality fall, and how did it become so muddled in the first place?

The article drew from the stance that most actors who advocate for gun control don’t seem to have a problem with it when they are profiting from it. While this may be true to a certain extent, does playing a character who participates in gun violence necessarily mean that the actor is promoting it? Actors are often misinterpreted as being one and the same with their characters, and an important establishment to make is that they are not interchangeable — an actor is not their character, and vice versa.

It is also important to consider the context of the gun use itself. One of the reasons that the line between fiction and reality is often blurred is due to the influence and power that media has over audiences, hence the need for a national board in charge of rating films. Intaking an excess amount of gun violence in media can surely have an influential hand in normalizing it, but the context in which it is used is also significant to take into account.

Curtis’ character, Laurie Strode, is attempting to take down a serial killer, which is, in a sense, an attempt to lessen violence in the world of the story. While it still means resorting to the use of firearms for revenge, the intentions of the character cannot exactly be classified as completely senseless or amoral — the purpose they serve is one of protecting others. While it is a fictional story, even the film itself isn’t advocating for senseless violence in the way that some other films tend to.

Despite all of this, some would still make arguments suggesting this portrayal is hypocritical coming from Curtis. But one thing is clear that must be acknowledged: there is a line of separation between art and reality, but it is just a question of where that line falls.

Halloween is released nationwide on October 19th, but it has already screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and Fantastic Fest. The critical response determined nothing to be alarmed about — our own Rob Hunter calls Curtis an “expected powerhouse in the role.” The controversy will likely fade out as the film’s release date passes, but this is a debate that is bound to be sparked again by other upcoming films in the future.

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I write about film and occasionally other stuff. Xavier Dolan enthusiast. Trying to read books before seeing their film adaptations and sometimes succeeding.