AP Photo/Yakima Herald-Republic, TJ Mullinax, File
It’s no secret that the arts are the domain of the Left. Actors, directors, musicians, artists of all stripes tend to be predominantly left politically, often allowing their politics to infect their work to a profound degree. As a result, many on the Right have stopped paying much attention to mainstream culture. They’ve got better things to do than to spend their time and money being lectured about how they’re horrible human beings.
This is especially true when it comes to guns. While there are a number of liberal gun owners, few of those seem to be in Hollywood, for example.
However, a new play may appear on the surface to be a condemnation of guns but may represent a shift in progressive thinking on them.
Walker hopes it can also be the starting point to talk about gun violence and many issues confronting us in America today.
“There is a lot I was trying to do with the play.” the playwright [Stephanie Alison Walker] said. “One of the main things I wanted to look at was …our own inherent capacity for violence. When it goes unchecked. When we don’t own it And this rage that is so prevalent because we feel so powerless. That is what drove me to write the play. Everybody raging at each other and it not making any difference.”
But she realized something we all may have thought at some point, especially since the 2016 election. “I’ve been afraid to listen to the other side,” Walker said.
Big issues like immigration, income inequality, white supremacy and mass incarceration all need attention. But the issue of gun control feels–no pun intended–like the most explosive and the hardest to talk about. The line has been drawn between gun owners and gun haters. But Friends with Guns presents another way into the discussion. What if your liberal friends are the ones with the guns?
The play features a friendship between two liberal families, one that is threatened when it’s learned that one of the couples have guns. While there’s still bias–the “likable” characters have to be liberals, apparently–it’s also open to the discussion of firearms in interesting ways and seems to make some valid points that many of us have likely made in discussions.
Through her characters, Walker sets out the arguments both for and against gun ownership. We’ve heard them all before, but this time we are so comfortable with the characters that you find yourself swinging back and forth depending upon who is talking. Leah, the wife and gun owner is, in every other way, a veritable Earth Mother, totally understanding and empathic. She feels your problems. She speaks in a soothing voice. She is comfortable in her own skin. She reassures her new friend Shannon, an overstressed mom barely managing her insecurities, that it’s okay to lift the curtain and look behind it at the things that might scare you. She assures her that her life won’t change if she examines and faces her fears.
Leah’s husband Danny, also an avid gun owner, is equally charming and likable, and so reasonable. How is it that your not owning a gun doesn’t make me angry, but my owning one infuriates you, he asks Josh as they try to talk through their differences.
Now, I haven’t read the script or seen the play. Yet. However, I do find it interesting that gun owners are, for once, being portrayed in an extremely sympathetic way in the arts.
This makes me wonder if we’re on the cusp of a shift within the arts, one much needed? Are artists starting to recognize that audiences don’t automatically share their political affiliations and that it might be a good idea not to alienate them?
Honestly, I don’t know. I applaud Walker for apparently trying to understand us to some degree, to portray gun owners sympathetically, even if it can only be done by having the gun owners be liberals. I get that it was an attempt to make a deeper point and all that, even if it’s still annoying. At least she was trying, and I thank her for that.