When it comes to this week’s column, I am really struggling to figure out the best way to broach this past weekend. How does one take a tragic event like the “The Dark Knight” shootings? This is nothing but a silly movie blog that I do for fun in my spare time. Never in my wildest nightmares did I ever think that I would feel compelled to write about a situation like last Friday. It completely boggles my mind that anyone could ever do something as heinous as what that coward perpetrated. I feel for the families and victims who will suffer years of torment because some idiot wanted to make a name for himself.
Inevitably, somebody or some organization will try and put the blame on outside factors instead of with whom it belongs. Before too long, I’ll be expecting the news pundits to try and rationalize this tragedy as a product of the subculture our generation has grown up in. They will point to the violent movies where the villains are celebrated, or to the bevy of video games that instill the notion that killing nameless sprites is an accomplishment to be revered. I would love to get on my high horse and scream at the naysayers that their basic premise is flawed. Unfortunately, I can’t.
I look at the forms of entertainment that I love (things like the James Bond films and horror franchises). These types of films glorify killing, usually in the most visceral of ways. I usually crack a smile when Jason Voorhees picks up the sleeping bag and slams it into a tree. There are moments in the Best Picture nominee District 9 that have made me stare with my mouth open at the extreme decimation of nameless cannon fodder who would threaten the safety of an alien race. When I’m watching moments such as these, it strikes a primal nerve in my body and gives me a slight thrill. Does that make me a sociopath?
The short answer is no. The images I see on screen I know are fake. The splatter from the girl who has her head smashed in by Michael Myers may look frighteningly real, but I know it is nothing but a special effect. The actress is still alive and will continue to try and earn a living thrilling the masses. The random henchman Bond kills is just an extra who has gotten a day’s wage to fall down spectacularly. It may seem real but it is far from it. That is the magic of the movies. It allows us to visualize fantasy worlds and follow characters whose lives are different than ours.
I proudly call myself one of the 99 percentile that can make this distinction. There are some in our society who cannot. They become desensitized to everything and may actually believe we all are nameless goons. They may see the actions of Mickey and Mallory from Natural Born Killers and take away the wrong message. Instead of a condemnation of the media that makes heroes out of monsters, they may perceive the senseless slaughter of innocents as cool and righteous.
Or they may see themselves as the Joker, a being who exists to create chaos in the world. They can’t recognize that the Batman villain is the antithesis of any normal society and should be something to fear, not revere. Heath Ledger was praised for his masterful performance of a man that just wants to watch the world burn. The role may have also hastened the end of his life. Some of the rumors swirling around are that he delved deep into the psyche of the character and became so disturbed by its horrors that he tried to disassociate himself from the Joker by any means. One of those methods resulted in the unintended consequence of ending his life.
I am not of the opinion that these forms of entertainment should be banned. We cannot curtail everything we do to appease the very small portion of society that cannot discern from what’s real and what’s fiction. What we can do is contemplate the portrayals of such entertainment. Maybe the powers that be can better institute a means to how we perceive events. The decisions that the filmmakers make are beyond my pay grade and I won’t conjecture into how these things can be implemented. There must be a discussion at some point in the approach to better differentiate between the realms of fantasy and reality, something that brings forth the notion that for every action, there is an equal reaction.
The sociopath in this past Friday’s shootings may be learning this lesson the extreme hard way. His court appearance on Monday was that of a shell shocked man in my opinion, someone who plotted a horrific massacre and is finally realizing the carnage and destruction of his actions. I feel no sorrow for him. He is learning that every action has consequences. He will not be celebrated. He will not be mourned if the state decides to take his life. Instead he will be viewed the same way the people of Gotham view the Joker, as a monster.
That will be all for this week. Out in theaters this week is The Watch and Step Up Revolution. The regularly scheduled previews will hopefully return next week.