The famous and the dead.

What was Alec Baldwin thinking? I mean, he only went and fired a gun because someone told him he could, the silly sod. There is surely some form of irony tinkling away when a massive celebrity story hits the news and it turns out to be about someone in America being shot by accident. I don’t know exactly what the figure is for gun related deaths in America every day but I’m going to err on the side of caution and suggest it’s more than one. And I’m also going to guess when I suggest that most of those deaths very much happen ‘on purpose’. In America killing people with guns almost qualifies as a pastime; a frivolous hobby and a big bundle of fun for all the family. If not killing people, then certainly guns. You can buy guns when you go to pick up some raw milk first thing in the morning (aka fresh milk, but let’s not get started on the unusual twists in vocabulary that separate us from our special friends), and you can pick up bullets as an afterthought when you go to buy a twin set of brushed cotton pillow cases (one of which may possibly be found covering the pillow that later covers the face of your partner, and now has a hole made in it by one of those very same bullets, right through the middle of it). I might be wrong when I say this, but I imagine that in some parts of America you could probably send your nine year old daughter to pick up ammunition for you, if you were otherwise indisposed, or maybe that’s just if you’ve got store credit. I guess it also helps if you have a nine year old daughter. Which reminds me: there are few things more chilling than the sight of a child showing off a gun and a smile.

Anyway, Alec Baldwin must be feeling pretty low at the moment. For the last few days the press have done what they always do, which is to endlessly repeat themselves until a tiny new scrap of information gets leaked and then fixate on that for a bit before going back to the repetition stage until they finally admit they’ve made a totally unnecessary media shit storm out of something more serious than mere celebrity, only they won’t admit that because why would the press ever have to admit when they’re wrong? Essentially this whole ‘Alec Baldwin has shot someone by mistake’ story isn’t a story at all. If you took Alec Baldwin out of it the whole thing would pretty much vanish immediately, because the media don’t really care about the victim – cinematographer Halyna Hutchins – even if they say they do. And if it was the other way round and it was Alec Baldwin that had been shot and then you again took Alec Baldwin out of the equation then it would still be of only mild local interest at best. Stir into the mix the fact that now it has become a HUGE story, almost anyone following it isn’t really that bothered either about who has been shot or that Alec Baldwin is raw with grief (like fresh milk) but are actually most interested in what it does to Baldwin’s career and, even more crucially – if the film is still going to get finished and if it is then when can we see it, because it will neatly remind us that the once famous actor Alec Baldwin has seen his life spiral out of control and that he was last spotted shuffling to rehab in a ripped tartan dressing gown and mumbling something about ‘30 Rock’.

It is of course a shame, because it was an unfortunate death and, less importantly, because I quite like Alec Baldwin. He is unquestionably funny, and he is also a good actor. There are a few question marks relating to his temper, and he doesn’t seem to like media intrusion (oops) but otherwise he is welcome on my TV screen whenever he likes, though I admit that I don’t often make a point to seek him out. Even if he is completely cleared of all responsibility relating to this event he will still find it hard to cope with, how could he: one minute you’re having a laugh and making a film and the next minute the person you were pointing a gun at has got a hole in her chest and isn’t looking as perky as she was the minute before. But hold on a minute. That doesn’t quite make sense. I get that they’re making a western and there has to be a reasonable amount of gun related frolics. I get that sometimes a gun can play silly buggers, even when loaded with blanks (just ask Brandon Lee – though you may want to approach him via your preferred psychic or otherwise you might have to wait a while for an answer) but what I don’t get is why there had to be a gun with any kind of ammunition in it, let alone the wrong type. I now read that the gun was supposed to be unloaded rather than loaded with blanks, which is taking disrespect for the dead to a new level.

Thanks to technology we can build houses using 3D printers, we can fly twats with too much money into space and we can create robots that could potentially masturbate an old man to sleep in a care home. So why can’t we just pretend (because all of Hollywood and all of celebrity is essentially pretend) and have a gunshot go off in make believe (you could even just have someone off camera shout ‘BANG’ I suppose, but that might be stretching it a bit). The chain of guilt involved in all this is mildly extraordinary: that gun could well have been checked by the assistant director to the gun safety manager and the bullets could have been analysed by the secondary assistant sound director to the assistant’s assistant to the ammunition volatility assessment manager, and they could have all given it the go ahead, but the fact remains that in all this toing and froing an assistant director handed a gun to the famous actor Alec Baldwin which had live rounds in it, and then the famous actor Alec Baldwin took that gun, pointed it more or less at a cinematographer that wasn’t anywhere near as famous, called Halyna Hutchins (movie fact – there weren’t many cinematographers involved in gunfights in the second half of the 19th century), pulled the trigger and, rather more promptly that anyone had anticipated, shot her dead. The loss of life is a tragedy but the media moves on too fast for the deceased to keep up with, and besides, Baldwin maybe be famous but he’s hardly DiCaprio – even now the story is slipping away from us, back to what it really is: another sad death from another smoking gun, in a country that can’t stop playing with them. Why do we even bother looking up to take notice anymore? For the famous or the dead?

G B Hewitt. 25.10.2021

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