Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Initial reactions to MB Studio Productions' PSA.

I'll just let David introduce it:

“What do you need that many bullets for?” is the typical line the antis use to scoff at those who argue their right to possess such magazines and the firearms that use them.

Forgetting for a moment the Founders’ intent as articulated in the Second Amendment and Article. I. Section. 8. of the Constitution, which clearly shows anything less than arms of military utility to be incompatible with that intent, a film company from Westlake Village, Calif., has produced a must-see video that demonstrates the real world dangers in something most people can readily identify with -- protecting our families and homes from violent predatory sociopaths.

MB Studio Productions’ “High Capacity Magazine PSA” provides a chilling unfolding of events in just over two minutes that demonstrates the “need” in a powerful and compelling drama. Everything about it, from the production values, to the writing, to the performances, is top notch, and this is something that gun rights advocates need to help make go viral.

And here is the "High Capacity Magazine PSA" from MB Studio Productions.

Just because nobody asked, I thought I'd document my initial reactions to the piece.  (There's a part of me that is interested in returning to these thoughts down the road, to see if and how they may change.)

Here's the executive summary, and the real, actionable endpoint:  it's really encouraging to see this out there, and with more promised.  My full thoughts are very mixed, but in the end, it seems unequivocally better to have this voice out there, than not.  If this is the starting point, and if the studio is serious about incorporating grassroots feedback, then we may be entering a space that simply has not existed before, and which is badly needed.

The full set of thoughts is mixed, and with it in mind that I'm actually fully in support of the effort, here is a brief collection of observations, ideas for improvement, etc., offered in the best possible faith.  Please forgive the stream-of-consciousness style and any sense that I'm being picky or harsh;  I'm just trying to get these ideas down, and hopefully it will be obvious that I pick these sort of nits specifically because the effort seems worth improving in the first place.  :-)


Question:  who is this for?  Viscerally, I react positively to the video, but I am hardly the target market, either.  The question deserves a serious and objective answer;  I am not at all sure that someone who has not already been persuaded by available evidence, is somehow going to be persuaded here.  This isn't an indictment of the message, necessarily--it may be more an observation about possible audiences.  The way I see it, for someone to be persuaded by this video, (s)he already needs to have accepted the legitimacy of a firearm kept loaded in the home for defense, but still believe that in-gun magazine capacity is a negotiable item to use in political "compromise".  I'll not argue that for someone who is in this space, it may be a very powerful argument--but how big is that demographic, really?

Question:  is this homeowner a good messenger?  I really struggle on him.  He's not much of a projection of confidence, is he?  His mindset needs a lot of work--enough so that it seems incongruent with the decisiveness that he does display.  It's not that every messenger needs to be a steely-eyed Eastwood, but I'd expect at least some more resolve to go along with his decisive fetch of the pistol.  On one hand, I can completely see the desire to avoid Dad being a tacticool badass--above all, he needs to be Dad--but I think there's plenty of space there on the continuum to move around usefully, without him having to look quite so much like a deer in the headlights.  This is, after all, someone who has come far enough that he will actually press the trigger at the moment of truth.

Observation:  plausibility in the details should be tighter.  It sounds picky, and is, but remember that one of the primary things that any "armed citizen" campaign does is to expose the absurd, the implausible, and the oversensationalized in the wild theories of the gungrabbers.  Our standards must be high or we'll needlessly lose valuable moral authority.  So, consider:  in this story, the non-dominant thug enters via the window after shots have been fired.  Not that this couldn't happen, but it would seem much more likely that he would have turned tail at the first shot, when things went downhill.  The above observation about the armed homeowner who will actually drop the hammer, but who looks like the gun just might shake right out of his hands, may carry a similar conflict of authenticity.

Observation:  beware of sending the message that hardware trumps training.  After all, one of the points we're really trying to make is that hardware characteristics (semiauto v. auto, wood v. plastic, "shoulder thing that goes up", etc.) do not suddenly imbue an inanimate object with any sort of moral let's be very careful not to send the conflicting message that hardware characteristics do matter, after all.  It's a tricky thing to come up with a scenario that really does showcase an actual combat need for a whole bunch of shots at once, and this screenplay doesn't seem particularly compelling to me.  If that had been me, with my own usual piece of choice, and provided I did in fact perform as I train, the gun in my hand would have come off the belt with seven rounds in it as well:  two would have gone into Thug One at 1:27, then a single CNS shot for the failure to stop at 1:35 (Mozambique Drill), leaving four remaining in-gun for Thug Two and a similar response.  It's arguable whether there was enough time to do a proper tac-reload, given how quickly Thug Two showed up, but for sure if Thug One did really require six rounds from a seven-round gun to put down, that piece should have been emergency-reloaded at 1:36 with a fresh magazine, and there absolutely was time to do that, even before the glass broke at 1:40.

Would a 15-round magazine have been mighty comforting there?  Hell, even I'd agree that it would have been;  who's to say that Thug Two was the end of it, after all?  But I'd want something that nobody could pick apart, if there was some way to get it. 

What I'd love to see out of subsequent efforts in the series.  All in all, despite the pedantica above, I think this is a great start;  nonetheless, I'd love to see a few things pan out over the overall series:
  • Don't just limit this to stereotypical freelance thugs.  If this is a Second Amendment argument, then we're not even talking about defense from freelance thugs anyway.  And I think the case for magazine capacity is much easier to make when discussing the sort of thugs that come with badges, titles, and the far more dangerous impunity of "legitimacy".  We're talking now about full-capacity magazines for rifles, not pistols.  This will be tricky, of course, to find the right balance of winning people who can be won without pushing away those who aren't ready to confront the ultimate problem yet--but if we are ever to sort that problem out, we have to do it some time, and this studio may have what it takes to do it well.
  • Don't fail to provide some entries with happy endings.  People certainly need to confront the horror of being rendered defenseless by edict--no question there.  But we also need to provide an answer.  Even a side-by side "episode", in which identical and parallel scenarios happen in two different jurisdictions, with attendant results, might be an effective way to balance this out.  Or, perhaps, an interactive "episode", in which the viewer has to choose where he lives, and gets the appropriate "ending".
  • Don't be afraid to show the success of the moral, but not law-abiding, citizen.   Sheesh, we're already long past the time when the term "law-abiding" was any sort of proof of human decency;  with every one of us committing our three felonies a day, that's just not much to lean on any more.  We need to remember that Americans have long admired not just the underdog, but the rulebreaking underdog:  is the very history of our country not the story of smugglers, resisters, seditionists, and so on?  What if this first episode had featured Thug Two quipping something pithy like "you've had your seven", answered by several more unexpected shots from Dad, along with a comment like "words on parchment don't impress me any more than they do you" ?  (Or something more elegant along the same lines of "would you rather be caught with your gun, or without it?"--you get the idea.) 
  • Lean on available and natural protagonists.  Here I'm both thinking very specifically about recruiting the indispensable Kurt Hofmann, who is already a fabulous and authentic voice for the defensive rights of the disabled, and also leaning on "unlikely" groups such as the Pink Pistols or various campus-carry groups, for protagonist demographics that the control freaks would rather not acknowledge at all. 
Okay, that's enough for now.  More ideas may come;  one of the things I appreciate about what I saw today is that it may foment ideas.  And as above, I'll be curious to see if my own opinion winds up different downstream.

We'll see.  In the meantime, I hope this project does really well.  In that vein, I am finding it interesting to follow the hits counter on the YouTube page.  Check out this screencap from 9pm my time:

(Click to embiggen;  the dimensions of this capture are certainly not Blogger-friendly.)

Now check it out as of midnight:

Obviously this is a somewhat crude measure, but still--over seven thousand hits in three hours, beginning at 1am Eastern time...for a video posted over a week ago...  Somehow this seems encouraging, for a gun-rights effort.

May it only pick up steam from here.


Kevin Wilmeth said...

Of pedantic interest. As of 11am the next day, the YouTube hit counter says 63,590. So, eighteen thousand more hits in the subsequent half-day.

Joel said...

Kevin, you know I love you, man, but you're not as right as you usually are. I think this PSA is great.

The purpose seems to be to show, not that mag capacity limits are wrong or immoral or unconstitutional but that they are dangerous. With this in mind there is no talk of 2A or any philosophy at all. Most people don't care about 2A, a fact I often forget. But they do care about staying alive and protecting their families.

In that vein I think the way the father is depicted is absolutely spot-on. He's not Tacticool Dad, he's not Clint Eastwood, he's just a suburban guy. And guys with jobs and families find hardware a lot easier to acquire than training. The notion that he would have the gun and be willing to use it in an extreme situation is sort of realistic; the notion that he's even going to know what a Mozambique Drill is, is less so. As for his portrayal, I guarantee if I were in that situation, even if I were getting hits you'd see the whites all the hell around my eyes. I thought he was great.

Realistically would Thug #2 head for the hills? Probably. But as the saying goes, then you wouldn't have a movie. The whole point is that Dad's magazine was legal, and thus he ran out of ammo before he ran out of bad guys. Hence, for emotional impact, everybody dies. No happy ending, thanks to our loyal protectors in some state capitol. That's the whole point.

This probably doesn't cover all the points you made, but all things considered I thought this was a fantastic PSA. Don't know how the film company plans to get it distributed, though. I can see time slots becoming mysteriously very unavailable.

Kevin Wilmeth said...

I'm certainly not going to argue any of that, Joel. :-)

My watchword is definitely conflicted, and I suspect that the critical portion of the conflict is "educator/instructor me" talking. You get at that nicely with your comments about Movie Dad, and I suspect you're right. "Instructor me" does realize that even most "hardcore operators" don't know what a true Mozambique Drill looks like, and so wants, badly, for "regular guy" Movie Dad to understand--and do. But my desire does not make it so.

And I fully admit my tendency to try and turn everything into a "core" message. Again I think that's the "produce the best" part of me talking; I can hardly help it, but not everything can be a "core" message, and probably not everything should, either.

I'm sure you can appreciate how much I'd love to see the overall effort become wildly successful--so much so that all my "conflicted"-ness is reduced not only to simple nitpickery, but pointless nitpickery. Now there is a marginalization I could accept with a smile. :-)

In re distribution: good point. Certainly the bottleneck problem seems likely for a lot of the traditional channels; hopefully they are at least planning for some non-traditional channels as part of the core strategy, as well.