Trigger warning: blood, gun violence
Since misuses of guns in the United States continues to be a hot button issue, I thought now would be a good time to talk about how this isn’t a new phenomenon. Some twenty years ago, the issue of gun violence and gun safety was discussed very candidly in an episode of the hit show Gargoyles in the episode “Deadly Force”.
If you haven’t seen the show, you really should. It’s one of the best animated shows out there. If you need some context, I suggest you look up the many wikias for the show to catch up. What you need to know is that the show consists of a band of Gargoyles (the leader Goliath, the old mentor Hudson, the young ones Brooklyn, Broadway, Lexington, and their ‘dog’ Bronx) who awake from a 1000 year sleep in 1994 New York, befriend Elisa Maza (an example of a genuine good cop) and fight crime, often instigated by Xanatos (the man responsible for their resurrection) and Demona (Goliath’s old flame).
In the episode, Xanatos has a shipment of special high-tech weapons (lazers, but they could pass for guns) delivered, but they are stolen by Antony Dracon, a crime lord. Elisa Maza is determined to bring Dracon to justice, but has no proof of it. Meanwhile, Broadway is enamored with an old Western movie that glamorizes the use of guns. He goes to Elisa’s apartment to visit, and notices that she leaves her gun out in the open. Without knowing any better, he decides to play with it…and it has serious consequences.
(Imagine via AV Club)
Horrified, Broadway takes Elisa to the hospital, where she just barely makes it out alive. She is in a coma throughout the episode. When Goliath finds out, he is enraged, and vows to seek vengeance for her. Since the cops believe that Dracon is responsible, he sets out for him.
As this is going on, Dracon has been selling the deadly weapons on the street, much to Broadway’s anger. He makes it his mission to get rid of all the weapons and teach the owners a lesson. Eventually, both he and Goliath make it to Dracon’s hideout, where they are expecting a buyer for all their weapons. There’s a fight, which the gargoyles win. Goliath is ready to kill Dracon, but Broadway begs him not to when he confesses that he shot Elisa. It ends with Goliath restraining the criminals, destroying all the weapons (which Xanatos had sought to reclaim), and making sure that Dracon is tied in with it all.
Elisa wakes up, and Goliath and Broadway visits her. Broadway apologizes for what he did and promises to never touch a gun again, but Elisa also admits that she was in the wrong for not properly putting the gun away. (In later episodes, we see Elisa securing her gun in a locked container out of sight.) The episode ends on a bright note, with everyone having learned something important and knowing that everything will be okay.
As you can see, this is a really important episode. It carefully teaches the audience the consequence of glorifying guns and not using or storing them properly. So what happened?
The episode got banned from subsequent re-runs on Toon Disney (and I think it might not have been broadcasted at all). Because it was ‘too violent’ and ‘too heavy’.
You can see how I might have a problem with that.
In the United States, fatal or near-fatal shootings happen all to frequently, and for an episode that’s explicitly meant to teach audiences how to avoid them to get banned because it’s too violent (even though there are plenty of other shows and movies aimed at younger viewers where gun violence is depicted gleefully) is deeply problematic and missing the point entirely.
What makes this episode stand up for me is how relevant it is after two decades. Even now, we still need to remind people to not leave their guns out in the open, to make sure kids don’t have access to them, and how we need stricter rules and regulations on them. It’s a little sad how, after so long, we still have a lot to learn about using guns properly.
In the meantime, maybe if this show could be revitalized (either a reboot or streamed through Netflix) and this episode was left in tact, maybe we can slowly start to see change. Maybe if this episode could be seen by more people, we could start to learn how to be more careful with our guns. I would like to hope so at least.
The series is available on DVD so I recommend you start there. Show this episode to your kids and start talking about the way guns are depicted in media and pop culture and your part in it, and how we can all be a little safer with them.