Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Theatre Shooting

On Friday, July 20th, at 12:30am, a man by the name of James Holmes entered a theatre in Aurora, Colorado, shot and killed ten people, and injured 60 more, with two of the injured later passing away in the hospital. Following the attack, Holmes peacefully surrendered to police, and is currently awaiting his first court appearance. The film that James Holmes violently interupted was the highly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. At this point, if Holmes has offered an explanation for his actions, law enforcement has not released it to media. We do know, however, that Holmes was prepared for a shoot-out, and wasn't expecting to return to his home, which was set-up with explosive traps. Anybody with access to the internet or a television is now likely fully aware of this tragic story, so I won't go into any more specific details about the massacre. However, I feel the need to spend a bit of time discussing this event.

I first heard about the shootings on Friday morning, when I opened my laptop to work on some freelance editing. I always briefly check my internet homepage to get caught up with the news of the world and on this particular morning, there was only one story being reported. I was immediately saddened and enraged by what I read, and at that point, very few details were released. All I knew is that some random stranger decided to enter a theatre and fire away on innocent movie-goers. This tragedy upsets and affects me on a number of levels. I understand that terrible things happen every single day, all over the world, to innocent people. Depending on our own personal history, we find ways to understand and relate to these kinds of events, and some resonate more than others. First, just as a human being living in a society, I am saddened by the senseless loss of lives and my sympathies go out to all the victims of this attack.

More specifically, as a film lover, I am enraged by the violation of one of my favourite forms of entertainment. The main reason that our society gets excited about films and rushes to the theatres every weekend is because we crave that escape from the real world, we look forward to losing ourselves in characters and story and music. We try to find ways to relate films to our real lives, but at the heart of it, movies are about forgetting our own bullshit and being entertained for a short while. The shootings in Aurora, Colorado is an absolutely terrible reminder that no matter how excited we get, no matter how we try to avoid reality, some evil bastard is waiting around the corner to show us just how shitty things can get. And it's usually for no good reason.

I'm sure, in his twisted brain, James Holmes had a perfectly logical reason for doing what he did. There's the obvious ones, like general disgust for the human race, or the hunger for fame at any cost, or maybe he wanted to send a message of some kind. No matter what his own rationalization is, it isn't good enough. Sure, there's the chance that he had a mental breakdown and wasn't in control of his actions, but most people wouldn't be satisfied with that excuse, myself included. For most sane members of our society, we constantly make the choice to be good and to do the right thing, every day. We have laws keeping us in order, but I like to think, for the most part, that people choose to be kind and peaceful on their own. Regardless of what he thinks his reason was, James Holmes could have just stayed home and gone to bed, and those twelve people would still be alive, and we'd all live on. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, and that fact is just so difficult to accept. For every group of people wanting to have a good time, we get one psycho who wants to ruin it, and all we can do is mourn, deal with the aftermath, and try to learn from tragedies like these.

On another level, specifically as a fan of the Batman universe, I am disgusted that one man's actions will forever overshadow what should have been an exciting and satisfying movie premiere. I've been looking forward to The Dark Knight Rises for several months now, and tomorrow night, I will finally get the chance to see it. But no matter how enjoyable the film itself may be, I'll very likely be thinking about the pain and suffering of the victims of the Colorado shootings throughout the course of the movie. I've even considered holding off on seeing the film, because I'll honestly feel weird and guilty about trying to enjoy this movie, knowing that others weren't so lucky. And now, of course, the production companies have pulled advertising, premieres were cancelled, and everyone involved with the creation of Dark Knight Rises is stricken with guilt for being a part of something that lead to such a horrible event. The choices of one asshole affected the lives of many good people, and we're expected to accept it, and watch as this guy goes to court and is forever infamous for being a murderer.

Of course, everyone has an opinion or theory about why Holmes did what he did. And inevitable, the violent nature of TDKR is going to be called into question. Personally, I look at it as more of a 'the chicken or the egg' situation. Are people like James Holmes motivated by violence in films like this one, or, are we fascinated and entertained by figures like Batman because we already have individuals like Holmes in our society? It chills me to the core to think that people who were going out to be entertained by a movie with fictional villains and staged violence were forced into real violence by an actual villain. We watch crime-drama television and movies because we seek justice in other worlds, since we rarely see it in our own. We love a figure like Batman because he doesn't exist in our world, because we all wish that regular citizens would take more responsibility, because we need to feel protected by a Hero.

Unfortunately, we can only find a hero like Batman in fiction, but the villains he hunts down exist in the real world. I only hope that James Holmes is convicted to the full extent of the law and that the media goes on to forget about it. In cases like these, our focus should always be on the victims, not on sensationalizing the criminal. Once again, my sympathy and condolences go out to all victims of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, and I can only hope that this is an isolated event and future movie-goers are once again safe to escape from the daily grind and be entertained by fantasy.

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