Are movies in some sense directly responsible for the increasing violence in our cities? The short, easy answer is no, but that's not the end of it. On the obvious level, movies reflect culture and politics, they don't cause it. Poverty, ignorance, drugs, terrible gun laws and failed conservative policies of racism and neglect are more than enough cause for the fire in the streets, without jumping on movies as a scapegoat. But filmmakers are guilty of what the rest of the country is guilty of--acquiescing in the profit-obsessed reign of Reagan-Bush-Quayle. Films didn't invent the lousy policies of our times, but they did virtually nothing to resist them, and there's the rub.
Roughly since "Star Wars," mainstream commercial filmmaking has accepted as one of its precepts the following: There's no way to make hugely successful entertainment that reflects directly or seriously on inner crises of life in America. The movies of Hollywood's "golden age" of Capra, Ford, Hawks, Sturges, Stevens and Wyler were organized around just the opposite beliefs. Those filmmakers insisted to themselves, their bosses and their audience that broad, popular entertainment and a complex response toward social and historical issues were reconcilable.
Reagan, Bush and Quayle have invited all of us to sell out community for profits and pit the values of the middle class and the well-off against the poor. Hollywood has basically just gone along. The direct result of this is not the violence in the streets--it is many, many bad movies. It's for this result that we should be guilty and ashamed.