“Be Sure You’re Right

“Be Sure You’re Right, Then Go Ahead”: The Davy Crockett Gun Craze” was written by Sarah Nilsen. The purpose of this article is to look at the way Walt Disney Corporation, the creator of wholesome children’s entertainment in the 1950’s, produced television shows that became the NRA’s reimagined vision of the historical past that centered around a rifle. The article discusses how Davy Crockett went from fabled stories to legendary and how Walt Disney helped to solidify Crockett’s mythical legendary status. From World War II, to concerns of the family unit and stability, to television, and toy manufactures, Davy Crockett became a wildly profitable product.
One key point the article made is that the NRA heavily relies on mass media sources to support historical claims they make. This is shown through the NRA’s recreation exhibit of the 1950’s where a child’s bedroom is heavily decorated in western-stylings. From wallpaper, furniture, toys, games and numerous toy pistols and toy rifles, a nostalgic recreation of the past based on numerous television shows. These frontier shows laid the way for the NRA to make the gun a pivotal instrument that helped in the founding of the United States starting from a tool for survival, then a symbol of liberty and freedom.
Another key point the article made was how widely accepted the violence in the Crockett series was. Winning the Peabody Award as well as two Emmys, the fears around the Disneyland series calmed even though the realism of death and violence in the children’s show was unprecedented for the time. The first episode linked Crockett’s gun to basic frontier survival as Crockett defends himself against hostile native Americans. Followed by the second episode where the gun is used to establish law and order and finally in the last episode, the gun becomes a symbol of national sovereignty and liberty. Each episode ends with Crockett sharing a moral lesson with the viewers such as “thou shall not kill” even after he has killed so many natives to make “peaceful containment” of them.
Throughout the article, the author listed numerous resources showing how the television series and subsequent Crockett mania had normalized gunplay in America’s youth. If anyone questioned if his or her child should participate in gunplay during the 1950s they were inundated with how acceptable it was. From newspapers to family rearing specialists, even Dr. Spock, all believed that gunplay reduced children’s stress, helped them make friends, and help them learn their culture. Keeping children away from gunplay “would negatively affect them” and “parents who did so were the problem,” not the imagery itself.
The author also shows that there were reservations about children’s interpretations of the gunplay. She tells about a six-year-old son of a Brooklyn police officer who asked for real bullets because his sister did not “die for real when I shoot her like they do when Hopalong Cassidy kills ’em”. This statement is what caught my attention, as it was directly from a child’s perspective after viewing such television shows. The statement reflects the disconnect from reality there is in a child’s mind from what is real to what is on television.
This article is as true then as it is today, except there is much less support for gun violence in children’s television, gun violence is woven through mainstream television daily. The disconnect from the reality of shooting people, whether pretend or real and the justification that it is okay to shoot some people for real is still an issue we struggle with today. The article also shows how easily the government, large corporations, and media can manipulate controversial topics to normalize them, weave them into our daily lives, and make them socially acceptable to large numbers of people.