The horrific shooting in Colorado this past Friday at a midnight showing of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises sure has brought up a lot of opinions on just about everything, whether related or unrelated to the actual crime itself.
I’ve been asked by a few people my thoughts on this tragedy and how I feel violent films have influenced this culture of guns and violence.
Well, here you go. We’re are all asking the wrong questions and pointing fingers in the wrong direction.
I understand that life is a lot easier when we can point to a single object and say ‘this is why! this is the reason for all the world’s ails!’, but unfortunately the human experience is far more complex than that and drastically non-linear.
When lone nutcase James Holmes entered that Colorado theatre and opened fire on the audience, it wasn’t the NRA’s fault. It wasn’t the fault of the audience members not being sufficiently armed themselves. It wasn’t the fault of the violent movie playing on the screen. It was Holmes. To lay blame elsewhere is reaching – reaching for any plausible explanation as to why and how something so mind-boggling can happen to innocent people enjoying a summer film.
Study after study comes out claiming violent games causes violent behavior, while another study says just the opposite. Anecdotally I imagine most of us can say that while we have all snuck in to watch horror movies as kids and managed to not come out of it mass-slashers and rapists of college co-eds. Anecdotally I imagine many of us love the thrilling action scenes in movies like Batman, and have loved them for decades before without violence consequence. And yet there are those who don’t fit into that box of ‘everyone I happen to know’ who do act out. Who do commit horrendous crimes against humanity. But why do we blame everything and everyone but the actual perpetrator of the crime?
There’s American Family Association Director Fred Jackson:
In the community there were community standards that reflected biblical principles, whether people knew it or not, the standard in the community was based on Scripture. In that short period of time, roughly forty years, we have seen such a transformation in values in our communities, whether it’s rural or whether it’s big city. I have to think that all of this, whether it’s the Hollywood movies, whether it’s what we see on the internets [sic], whether it’s liberal bias in the media, whether it’s our politicians changing public policy, I think all of those somehow have fit together—and I have to say also churches who are leaving the authority of Scripture and losing their fear of God—all of those things have seem to have come together to give us these kinds of incidents.
Aaaannnddd fuck that guy right in the ear. And in his internets. All of them.
There’s notable hack FBI crime profiler Clint Van Zandt who thinks the crime was caused by a ‘dark,Trekkie-Like person‘.
Holy shit. Holy shit, right?
Then you have talking heads on Sunday’s The Week saying the ‘pornographic violence’ in our culture and the internet has caused the moral fabric to disintegrate.
Didn’t you guys notice the world falling down around you because of action movies and the internets? These experts certainly have. Moving on.
It’s like we can’t fathom the possibility that the human experience and reaction to it is just fucking different for each individual. We can’t accept that sometimes people do things because they just want to. Crazy or not crazy, why don’t we just accept that people will often do things just for shits and giggles without an underlying major agenda other than ‘because I wanted to’?
Studying art and theory in college I was struck with how many professors would have these outrageously intricate stories about how a certain artist made a painting. This fleck of paint represents the societal pressures his third uncle experienced while being persecuted during the Armenian Holocaust. This stroke of the brush clearly demonstrates the artist’s passion for dried guava chips, as clearly shown by the reflective umber ombre streak.
And all I could think was yeah, but what if they just wanted to paint an orange line? You know. Cuz they liked the color? But no. The explanation could never be that simple or else it wouldn’t be worthwhile, I suppose. The general human experience isn’t sexy enough to talk about. It has to be blood and guts and glory to make headlines or get that gallery show.
And when it comes to violence in our schools, our neighborhoods, and now our movie theatres, there is always someone to blame. He thought he was the Joker! He played violent video games! He watched horror movies every weekend on Netflix! He liked a metal band on Facebook! Ignoring that most people do all these things as well and don’t manage to commit murder.
And it is all so obvious. Painfully. And yet when I discuss this tragedy with people I continue to hear the ‘if we had better gun control’ diatribe. The ‘of course it was at Batman – those movies are so violent’. Well the reality is, gun laws don’t really have any affect on crazy folks, y’all, and while I think there is definite room for adjustments to be made in policy, I’m not getting into it. The scary fact remains that you can make as many rules as you want, but they won’t stop lone-wolf type psychos from committing crimes. And would we be saying the same thing if this happened during a showing of Brave? Or Magic Mike? Would we be blaming the Scots for their bloody history causing this young man to commit murder via automatic bow and arrow?
The truth is just that we can not ever really prepare for this type of lone-wolf terrorism (and it is terrorism). And I guess it’s our fear of the uncontrollable that leads us to speculate all the live-long day about how this could have been prevented when the reality is, there just wasn’t anything anyone could do. Though this isn’t to say that Holmes didn’t have any motivation – I’m sure they were totally psychotic, but ‘reasons’ none the less why he did this.
We do know he purchased the guns legally. We do know he lived alone (which seems to be a terrifying detail according to some Sunday talking heads – watch out, singles, you might not even realize how crazy you are until you get a roommate!) And soon, thanks to wild speculation and armchair psychology we will know if he loved action movies or listened to Enya and meditated daily. We will know what his piss smells like, what his third cousin said one time when they were kids that caused a mental break or not, how his parents did or did not properly parent him, if he was breast or bottle fed – the media will froth for more speculation and breaking news they can shove down our throats to get page views, clicks and tv ratings.
And the end result remains the same: the blame shouldn’t go anywhere but squarely on Holmes’ shoulders.
And I’m done talking about him. Because giving this guy one more ounce of press just justifies, I’m sure in his mind, everything he has done and enflames his ego a bit more every day. Now we should focus on the victims, their families and helping them cope and recover from this endeavor as a united front. And we should go out and live our lives the way we did on Thursday and every day before – because if we don’t then the terrorists win.
Yes, I just said that.