Nine Inch Nails “Big Man With A Gun” portrays a negative character in order to question the media-saturation and gangsta-rap glamorization of gun violence and straight, white violent masculinity, highlighting the use and abuse of firearms in America. In spite of this, the song and Nine Inch Nails’ music in general, would stand accused of directly inspiring and causing gun violence in the form of the Columbine High School shooting of April 20, 1999.
On Big Man With A Gun Nine Inch Nails presented the negative side of guns in America — gross and grotesque, violent and vulgar — another painful reality which some of its citizens prefer not to see. As the narrative voice behind The Downward Spiral album Trent Reznor is forever torn between running away and confronting the issue head-on.
Reznor had his doubts about Hurt, conscious that even though it is not explicitly about suicide, perhaps a death revisited, it might still allow people to wallow in its mood long enough to fantasise about their own passing. Even though Hurt perhaps offers a glimpse of hope, it remains mired in realisation perhaps too late, and this distanced perspective can become appealing if it is allowed to be romanticised into the idea of being ‘in a better place’.