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

July 20, 2012  |  

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, 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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