Kobe Bryant in 'The Call of Duty' Ad: What Is the Right Thing To Do?

Daniel YiContributor INovember 19, 2010

Seem familiar? It should. It’s the new Call of Duty: Black Ops by Activision and TreyArch.

After Infinity Ward got knocked off the development of the new C.O.D. franchise, TreyArch hauled ass to prove that they can still deliver an award-winning title.

It’s no surprise that they spent a pretty penny on marketing; by getting Kobe Bryant to appear in their new commercial, along with Jimmy Kimmel.

My initial reaction was…cool. I thought it was a clever commercial, considering I’m a film major myself. It shows everyday people, with their everyday work-hats on and wielding guns in an intense war-zone, to imply that people of all age, sex, race and status will be playing Call of Duty. No harm in that, right?

Well, for one, Bomani Jones and Skip Bayless from ESPN disagree. So do Matt Moore of CBSSports, Mark Medina of L.A. Times, and many more who will gladly jump on the bandwagon.

“It’s OK for [Bryant], though, because he’s never had to worry about going home to the ghetto. That ain’t his world.” – Walker

In an article by Tim Keown of ESPN, he interviews a youth football coach, Todd Walker, who also happens to be fighting the gun and violence culture. Todd is shocked by Bryant’s appearance in the new Call of Duty TV spot.

Part of it has to do with the fact that one of his players was shot in the head at a friend’s house. Tragic? Without a doubt. But are violent video games the cause for senseless violence? Well, I think we’re jumping the gun here.

Sure, it’s not exactly promoting world peace. With games like Grand Theft Auto programming hidden “missions” like Hot Coffee, where the player engages in sex with a prostitute, I can’t exactly defend the path that the video game industry has embarked on.

Recently, there was even a game released in Japan, where it encourages the player to rape high school girls in the subway station.

In light of that, it’s understandable if people want to draw parallels to this commercial and come to the conclusion that Kobe Bryant is telling kids that gun violence is cool.

But is it, really? The people who actually do play the game don’t perceive it in the same way as those who don’t. It’s always easier for people outside to judge those within, because it’s a culture you can’t understand.

If Bryant’s cameo incites us to go out and grab an AK-47, what of John Wayne and his Western flicks? Does watching Godfather make us want to imitate the Sicilian culture, and strangle people with wires?

Or is it an issue of Bryant’s influence? If so, I’m surprised that I haven’t heard anyone mention the name Kimmel, because he was in that commercial, right alongside Bryant, toting an even bigger RPG launcher.

If it’s neither of those, what is the real problem?

Well, I want to bring up a little history lesson. Alcohol was prohibited in the United States from 1920 to 1933, an act deemed as “The Noble Experiment.” It was implemented and enforced to reduce crime and corruption supposedly caused by the consumption of alcohol.

It failed miserably and was repealed because the consumption level increased drastically, as speakeasy clubs sprung up underground. The sale of alcohol was soon officiated by “organized” crime, and led many to turn to drugs like opium, cocaine and marijuana.

In essence, The Noble Experiment unveiled an important truth about man, and it is summed up in that famous saying: Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

Granted I don’t live in South L.A. and Pio-Pico anymore, still I’ve had my share of dodging bullets in shoot-outs, and watching a crowbar get stuck in someone’s head in the middle of a street.

Last time there was a drive-by on my block, we called the cops and went back to sleep. Am I desensitized to violence? Probably.

But do I blame violence on video games? No, because I’ve seen enough bitterness and hate to know that violence is an external manifestation of an inner evil.

If there is a gun-violence issue at stake here, it goes a lot deeper than a simple TV commercial. The pervasive problems of the lower socio-economic tiers dig deep into the issues of poverty, negligence, depression, and countless other things that many of us pretend don’t exist.

It’s easier for people to point the finger at something external and ultimately unimportant, rather than going down to where the real issues are and sacrificing the time, effort, and even our lives to heal the deeply rooted problems of society. And this is the bigger hypocrisy to me.

So, if you’re outraged by this commercial, you’d better be out there doing something to change society because talk is cheap. Change is not.


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