Tarantino’s tantrum: Defying the PR rule book

Quentin Tarantino, the Hollywood director known for his violent – and popular – movies, launched into nothing short of a melt-down last week, when questioned by Channel Four News presenter, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, over whether there is any link between movie violence and real life violence. Tarantino flew off the handle, bounding, wide-eyed and clammy from one PR blunder to the next.

He said he wasn’t “biting“, refused the question, asserted that he wasn’t Guru-Murthy’s slave, wasn’t a monkey and was going to shut the interviewers “butt down.” He assured Guru-Murthy that the interview was simply “a commercial for the movie” and was unwilling to discuss ‘tough topics’. He was inconsistent, willing to discuss the ‘tough’ issue of slavery but not whether movie violence influences real-life violence.

Guru-Murthy’s question was predictable. The world premiere of ‘Django Unchained’, Tarantino’s latest release, was cancelled in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, which occurred just days before. The school shooting has since sparked global conversations about the role of guns and violence in our culture. The topic was always going to come up.

We saw in the case of Alex Jones, the radio host with a penchant for guns, that loosing your temper in an interview is rarely a recipe for PR success. Yet, Tarantino’s performance may well prove the exception. He broke every rule in the PR book but achieved his aim. He wanted the interview to be a commercial for his movie – the video went viral, #tantrumtino was trending  – he got his commercial.

Box office sales may get a boost thanks to the unanticipated publicity, but Tarantino has lost credibility in the eyes of those who believe that he, as major player in the entertainment industry, should use his influence responsibly. Next time, Quentin, take on the question. Return an answer – steering attention away from the influence of movie violence to the idea that gun control and mental health are the issues at stake. Or, point to the evidence – as suggested in our blog last week, no-one argues with the men in white coats. The largest relevant study was done in Berkeley in 2007. It showed that there is no correlation between movie violence and crime.

The entertainment industry that Tarantino is a part of – creative and somewhat prone to drama – means that he gets a second chance. In corporate or B2B PR, refusing to accept the responsibility that comes with your position and acting like a toddler would leave you and your organisation’s reputation in tatters.

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