50 Cent billboards insult anti-gun activists

Paramount recently removed billboard advertisements promoting 50 Cent’s upcoming film, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, in select Los Angeles neighbourhoods amidst community protests. One advertisement shows the artist posing in a crucifixion-like pose with a gun in one hand and a microphone in the other. Another shows 50 Cent with a gun tucked into his pants, carrying a child. When the billboards appeared in neighbourhoods in South Central Los Angeles, activists faulted the studio for its insensitivity. The president of the National Association for Equal Justice in America, a civil rights group, told the L.A. Times the “sign is glorifying a dope dealer and the gang culture.”

While Paramount has the right to post its advertisements in the spaces it has paid for, these community groups have the right to oppose the presence of these billboards in their neighbourhoods. The studio should respect this request, as the community has clearly expressed concern that these billboards will propagate gun violence.

This incident, however, points to a greater issue. We live in a society that idolizes artists who have not only admitted to repeated drug use and dealing, but glamourize gun violence. 50 Cent’s popularity is primarily based on his image as a tough gangster who survived nine gunshot wounds. Children who are exposed to guns and violence are becoming increasingly younger and it isn’t solely because there are more billboards. Gun violence is everywhere: television, movies, magazines, video games. The sad reality is that guns and violence, in some capacity, have become integrated into our everyday lives.

Although the 50 Cent billboards are tasteless, we also realize that billboards are not the cause of the problem. This recent controversy highlights the societal problems indicated by the growing presence of gun violence in the media. It also stresses the importance of a more localized response and involvement in attempting to stop the prevalence of violence.

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