Don’t Blame Batman: Do Violent Movies Really Cause People To Be Violent?

46 comments
July 20, 2012 ‐ By Alissa Henry
"James Holmes"

Source: CNN.com

This morning my friend tweeted, “The most I intriguing thing about the news is it’s never going to stop happening…like ever…”

She’s right. Every day there is something. And today there was something incomprehensible: a 24-year-old man wearing a gas mask and head-to-toe body armor while toting three weapons (including an AK-47) entered a movie theater during a midnight showing and opened fire at random. 12 people were killed and 59 were wounded including a three-month-old baby.

Unfortunately, tragedies happen in the world and when they do we can always count on our favorite news organizations to totally sensationalize the coverage.

Today, that sensationalism was at an all-time high. CNN used the “Breaking News” graphic after every commercial whether or not there was any new information. Headlines blared: “The Dark Knight Rises Massacre!”; “Batman Shooter!”

True, the shooting happened during the opening night of “The Dark Knight Rises” movie. True, this was definitely a “massacre”. But it is not necessarily true that the mass shooting had anything to do with Batman beyond it happened during the screening.

Emotions were running high surrounding this movie. Before it came out, RottenTomatoes.com movie critic Dan Hines saw the movie and had less-than-stellar things to say about it in his review. As a result, anonymous commenters began hurling insults and death threats at him to the point that Rotten Tomatoes had to shut down the comment section.

Anyone who writes for the internet knows that keyboard courage is astounding. The cloak of anonymity the internet provides resulting in little fear of reprisal makes comment sections an unmitigated cesspool of vitriol. These people are on every message board on nearly every website and are probably otherwise average citizens. I agree with Dan Hines who says that there is a big difference between a random Internet threat and what happened today in Colorado.

“We know nothing about [the shooter] and why he did what he did,” said Fine. “Maybe he was a crazed Superman fan who was upset that the Batman movie came out first – we don’t know. This is an act of violence and everybody knew that every theater in the country was showing this movie at midnight last night, so it was going to be packed with people. So, if you’re someone who’s decided that, ‘I’m going to make an impact by killing a bunch of people and becoming a celebrity,’ what better way to do it than to go to the place where you know the most people are going to be so that you can have the most victims.”

True, there are crazy Batman fans, but there are also crazy people who have never seen Batman. It’s not the movie. It’s the person.

It’s a fair assumption to say that the shooter, James Holmes, is a deranged lunatic. Some reports even said that his hair was painted red and, while he was getting arrested, he told the police he was The Joker. (If you watched The Dark Knight starring Heath Ledger then you know The Joker was wearing a red wig during the hospital scene). James may be building his “insanity” case because it’s doubtful that a former PhD candidate studying neuroscience truly believes he is The Joker, but then again, anyone who would commit this sort of crime definitely has some mental health issues.

Unfortunately for those who are sick of hearing the blame placed on the entertainment industry, this latest development will undoubtedly begin a conversation as to whether or not violent movies make people violent. People are already asking, “What is it about this movie that makes people lose their minds??” I don’t think it’s the movie that is making people lose their minds, I think people are already out of their minds whether or not they’re a fan of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

For their part, Warner Brothers decided to cancel the Paris screening and pull the trailer for the upcoming Sean Penn film “Gangster Squad,”. The trailer was shown before the Dark Knight Rises screening and ironically includes a clip of men with machine guns shooting into a movie audience from behind the screen. Movie theaters across the country are beefing up their security to discourage would-be copycats.

These kinds of precautions are necessary to restore a sense of safety and prevent a similar event from happening somewhere else. We certainly cannot be too careful in light of this tragedy. People lost their lives, some were wounded and still others are undoubtedly traumatized for life. It’s not fair though to blame the movie for this crime considering there are thousands, maybe millions, of Batman fans who saw this movie last night yet are not deranged killers trying to pretend to emulate The Joker. That’s why I think It’s entirely too simplistic to call James Holmes the “Batman Killer” and assume Batman made him crazy. Clearly there are way more things going on there then watching a movie and wanting to execute hundreds of people — despite reports that James was a “normal church going boy”. He may have attended a Presbyterian church, but he obviously isn’t “normal”.

So instead of sensationalizing this story and citing “The Dark Knight curse” or calling for the boycott of violent movies or dubbing this kid The Batman Killer, we need to be talking about the severity of mental health and how we can spot these people and essentially make them get help before its too late.

What do you think? Do you think the Batman movies are promoting violence?

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink

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  • demetri

    You have nor right to call someone evil. The state of a person’s soul is nothing you can judge. All you are is a person willing to judge others and throw out insults, not truly knowing anything. What information have you gathered giving you the right to diagnose a person you never met with a mental disorder, or lack thereof. My God, you must be psychic. Then I needn’t say more, you know how this ends.

  • Alina Labrador

    It’s true, we don’t know if the violent movies or video games are to blame , but my modest opinion, we should save the money that we spend on movies & wander off to know the world .
    We’ll probably end up realizing,what a waste of our precious time & money that we work hard for!!!!We are making flimmakers & actors millionaires, and what about us???

  • John

    Disagree in part…that Batman film has 2 scenes where innocent people are being attacked in a public venue…the stock exchange and the football stadium. It also had a trailer that was pulled that featured bad guys machine gunning down a movie audience. The Heath Ledger Joker (who shot his way through a hospital) from the first (newer) Batman film was a powerful performance and probably inspirational to many, including the Shooter. One could easily make the case that the villains in the recent Batman movies are far more interesting and charismatic than the hero. One thing the shooter and the victims clearly have in common is they enjoy fantasy violence. Only for the shooter, he had no inhibitions about making that fantasy come true. As we are bombarded with increasingly violent images from Hollywood and television (compare the recent Batman films to the cartoonish villains of the ’60s Batman) and enjoying those violent fantasies, we can’t be surprised that the uninhibited among us may find inspiration in those villains and act out those violent fantasies.

  • Ash

    His own mother said, “You have the right person”. Which means to me that she KNEW her son was capable of doing this! I want to know why she didn’t put him in a mental institution or get him help. If I know someone is capable of causing harm to himself or others, I would try to them help or try to put them in the looney bin…

  • Merriegirl

    So you have no issues with blaming reality shows like Basketball Wives & Love & Hip-Hop for corrupting are youth and painting people of color in a negative light. You’ll sign petitions to get shows like them off the air. But wont acknowledge the very real possibility that films wich depict mass murder and psychopaths taking their anguish out on innocent citizens may have an affect on our society.

    Even after a crazed man with red hair calling himself the Joker kills 12 people at a Batman movie. The real tragedy of the situation is that we refuse to acknowledge the affects of mainstream media’s and the entertainment industry’s sensationalization of murder & death.

    • Miss Anonymous

      As long as we can blame the comics and books that these movies were based off of too.

  • c4gray

    This runs deep. We need better healthcare so that it is easier for people with personal issues have the ability to get counseling or possible medication . We need mandatory and longer vacation days where tension can be lessened and released so that people can relax. We need longer vacation days without people feeling guilty about taking them. We need better gun laws with NO LOOPHOLES.

    It’s not about violent movies! However, our media, movies, and tv show more violence on average than nudity, for example. Why is that? TV shows that show violence towards women and blood and guts… this is readily shown without so many questions asked, except at times like these. I’m not sure, but we really need to step back and take a look at the bigger issues. Easier said than done, however. :/

  • A.J.

    I’m sure that this man showed signs of mentally imbalanced behavior way before this movie was released, and it seems like his folks are in denial. I don’t think that one can automatically blame a movie, book, video game, etc. for another’s violent behavior, because it rules out other equally important factors. Everyone reacts to things differently; some can watch a violent movie and be perfectly fine, while it may give another person nightmares. However, I do think that prolonged exposure to violent behavior, in any medium, can desensitize someone to the violence, which can lead to lack of empathy. In any case, I feel so sorry for the victims and their families.

    • Ash

      There hasn’t been a link to violent movies/video game and violent crimes except in the case where a criminal imitates a video game/movie scene. Mass shooting sprees like this are usually not done to harm those individuals, but because they are trying to get back at everyone that has caused them pain. It’s usually because of constant bullying (Think Virginia Tech kid that killed classmates…) or paranoia.

  • niceman

    I’m surprise madamenoire put an article about the massacre on the website since it go against their teaching of white male worship propaganda (cant do no wrong).I truly feel sorry for the people/family members who lost their live through senseless violence. This guy was a cold blooded killer and I hope he get the death penalty. I’m just hoping the media don’t spin this guy life into a pity story ( smart guy,family man,help out in community) We all know that not suppose to happen with them if this was a black man he would be dead right now…NUFF SAID

    • bluekissess

      I do agree that the media takes a story and runs with it. People have to remember lives were lost. I think the death penalty doesn’t break the cycle of things like this happening. My question would be why? What makes people plan a crime like this. The family of those who passed wouldn’t be able to ask those questions to a dead guy. I would like to know why? You make a good point

      • FromUR2UB

        The thing is, even if he offers an explanation, it won’t be a satisfactory one, or one that can offer the families some peace. In many cases like this, these people are so meanspirited that they smirk at the families while at trial. The death penalty may not be a deterrant, but if it wipes someone with no regard for other lives off the earth, then it has done a good thing. What ticks me off about this guy is the way he armored himself against gunshots while randomly shooting at others. What a selfish coward! He needs to die, just for being too crazy for the rest of society to be safe, with him living. My fear is that some day, Charles Manson could be released, if the board ever had a lapse in judgment.

        • bluekissess

          Killing a killer won’t make those people come back either. He doesnt need jail. He needs a mental institution. For approximately 24 hours his intent was to kill. I’m wondering how he spent his day and who did he talk to? Maybe I disagree with the death penalty because I’m not a fan of the judicial system. I would give him life. He’ll die eventually. The killers death won’t protect society because someone will pick up were he left off.

          • FromUR2UB

            Frankly, I don’t give a damn that it won’t bring those people back.
            A mental institution won’t heal his mind or spirit. They can’t do lobotomies anymore, so that’s probably the only thing that would ensure that he never hurts anybody again. But what would you say if he was institutionalized and then managed to kill a staff worker? This viper should be made into a vapor.

            • bluekissess

              We’ll have to agree to disagree. R. I. P to those victims. This killing spree was unfortunate.Nobody wins in this situation.

  • sabrina

    am i the only person that is shocked and is wondering about the parallels of the trailer where masked gunmen are shooting at a movie theatre audience and this guy goes and does the same thing that same day?? coincidence…??

    • bluekissess

      That does creep me out.

    • Trisha_B

      Really?! I never took notice to the trailer. but i guess that’s why the director put out yesterday that he is changing the trailer & removing all the gun violence so it doesn’t air during the commercial

  • bluekissess

    Any movie with a gun can have some sort of impact. What. I get frustrated about is when the signs are written on the wall. I’m sure he displayed odd like behavior. It doesn’t necessarily have to come from his adult life go to his childhood. Now every news station will desensitize this story. R.I.p to those innocent victims

    Who in there right mind can look at that picture and think he’s “normal?”

    • bluekissess

      Shut up already. Go research how being deranged is a mental illness. My grammar may not be good,but, I can put my vocabulary words in the right context. Didnt you just state that you don’t prefer arguing? You scroll all the way down to find my comment. HILARIOUS

  • Charla

    Saying he must have mental health issues is an insult to people who truly have mental health issues. That guy is evil and deranged.

    • bluekissess

      FYI being deranged is a mental health issue. It’s called mentally deranged. I just Googled it

      • Charla

        Good for you lol

        • bluekissess

          Thanks I like to gather FACTS before stating my analysis. Unlike most.

      • Charla

        My point still stands. He’s evil but calling him mentally ill is unfair to ppl who really have mental issues. Some ppl just like to argue or point out their google abilities…

        • bluekissess

          And all I’m saying is being deranged is considered a mental illness. I Googled deranged to make sure your comment made sense

          • Anon

            Just to clarify, being deranged is not a mental illness. The word may be use to describe a person who has symptoms of a mental illness and it is generally not used by people within the field of psychology. People are not diagnosed with being deranged as they would depression, schizophrenia, etc. There is no mentally deranged mental disorder.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JAI4SRENU2A5WKRTELXXYJPDSI Kayla

    movies have become more and more violent over the years while slapping on the Pg-13 label so more people can see it. It’s not just Batman violent movies in general have desensitized people.. So now a man getting his face cut off is seen as “cool”. That’s why you see more and more people trying to emulate what they see in movies and video games.

  • FromUR2UB

    Has anyone else ever noticed that vacant look in crazy people’s eyes? There’s no life in his eyes, like they’re made of glass. It looks like he has horns growing under those little tufts of hair sticking up on his head. Satan incarnate!

  • Ladybug94

    This was obviously planned; all the trouble he went through and attention to detail such as wearing body armor and canisters filled with toxic gas and booby trapping his own apartment. This man has some mental issues.

  • FromUR2UB

    Yes, I tend to agree that when something like this happens, the fruit looped looooong before anybody wrote a screenplay. Incidents like this just show that hatred knows no boundaries. When you target people you don’t know, who never even had a chance to do anything to you, then that hatred has probably been brewing since childhood. Why haven’t we heard anything about this guy’s parents yet, did he kill ‘em?

    • Trisha_B

      no, he didn’t kill his parents. His mom was not surprised. & reportedly said they have the right person before the authorities contacted her. Which probably means, the boy been showing signs of crazy for years

    • c4gray

      How are you so sure he did because of hate? The guy in Norway didn’t hate the people he had killed necessarily. His thought processes are totally different (and not fitting to what society wants. Killing people is wrong). Yes, hate may have a role, but we don’t know towards whom he was directing his hate. We just don’t know yet. Look at the larger issue at hand.. How did he acquire such an arsenal of guns like that legally!? How and why should that even be allowed? (I’m not against 2nd amendment).

      • FromUR2UB

        (exasperated sigh)
        Well, what do YOU think would motivate someone to plot to kill strangers? Love??? My goodness!! We’re not talking about someone who’s “just a little different”. We’re talking about someone who has proven to be psychotic. There’s no speculation about that. It doesn’t matter that he was able to buy guns legally because he also said he had booby-trapped some bombs, for which you don’t need a license to buy the components. Geesh. This kind of compassion is as dangerous as the killer.

  • FattyFatKimye

    I love horror movies since I was 7 and I have bipolar 2, don’t see me killing people. This guy was just crazy and lost touch of reality!

  • http://www.facebook.com/minkysmom82 Alexis Morris

    I cannot for the life of me understand why there were babies and children at an even like that. and who goes to a movie thinking they may get killed? OH MY GOD!!!! I had been quit going to the movies b/c they were getting too costly and the air conditioning is always sub-zero, but I never thought of it was being and unsafe place.

    • http://www.facebook.com/minkysmom82 Alexis Morris

      at an event like that is what I meant.

    • Ladybug94

      I think most folk take babies during this time cause they feel it won’t be crowded. Some theatres don’t allow you to bring babies during peak times where maybe a crying baby will disturb the movie. Just my thought.

      • Trisha_B

        A midnight viewing of an opening film? Movie theaters are PACKED! lol. You wanna see a movie, when you have a kid go during the day during the week when theirs no crowds. But imo, a movie theater is not the place for a 3 month old to be no matter the time of day. It’s loud in there lol

        • c4gray

          Okay, toddlers and older children no, but babies? What’s wrong with that if they are quiet? They can’t understand the movie. Only if they start crying is when I would start having a problem. Then they have to leave the theater immediately. It’s sad that we have to think twice about going to movies because of things like this. Maybe now is the time to start a serious discussion in congress about gun laws… :/

          • Trisha_B

            A movie like Batman probably have explosions. It’s very loud in the theaters. why would a person want to expose their baby to that? It’s a guarantee that baby is gonna cry in the 2+ hours the movie is going on. If it was a kiddie movie like Shrek or Ice Age, then i wouldn’t see a problem. But this is an adult movie, that gets very loud which isn’t good on a 3 month old ears. Especially at 12 in the morning lol

            • Angel

              “Especially at 12 in the morning”
              Im not a parent but if I was I would never bring my kid out that late. Babies should be in bed by atleast 8:00

    • FattyFatKimye

      4 years ago I went to the midnight showing of Dark Knight with my BFF who had her then 2 year old daughter with her because she can’t leave her home alone and she didn’t have a babysitter to watch her child. I used to work at the ticket booth at Loews back when I was in college and I seen parents take their kids to movies to see the first Harry Potter movie at midnight.

    • Guest

      Same thing i thought….why is a baby out at that time…..and other kids?

    • A.J.

      I agree. I understand that people want to go out and enjoy themselves, and that’s fine, but one shouldn’t drag small children to something like that.