“Your obsession with pop culture is really sad” the obnoxious drunk woman said to me. ”You must live a sad life because pop culture sucks.” This woman, a total stranger, teetered and tottered as she stood there needling me, and suffice to say, she made herself an easy target. I can defend myself and the importance of pop culture on our society over and over again, and I do from time to time when somebody wants to try to trivialize my obsession and look superior to me. Silly, but it sometimes happens. In this case I’ll never quite know what the woman’s agenda was. She had approached me without invite, but quickly became antagonistic. But I was still at the point of being polite, and kept in mind that she was drunk. I decided not to go hard on her because her punishment would be her hangover the next morning. Instead, I decided to engage on her quick judgment of my life and loves.
“How can you justify that statement?” I simply asked her. Little did I realize that her answer would be not only timely, but would open a can of worms.
“Because it killed twelve people in Colorado today” she said with a smug smile on her face, referring to the tragic killing spree at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado that left twelve dead and fifty nine wounded. My head began to hurt. I was dealing with another lemming who was being driven off a cliff by media fear mongering. The small mindedness of the masses never fails to astonish me.
My response to her was this: Pop culture never killed anyone. A man named James Egan Holmes did. It was not Batman’s fault.
Unfortunately, in our modern world, gun violence is a reality. There is little that we can probably ever do about it, and we don’t know when a gun man will strike. However, every time a homicidal maniac goes off the deep end and shoots up a place, the media is always quick to begin pointing fingers and laying blame on anything in their reach. From heavy metal music to video games, to American politics to violence on television, to the crumbling of family values to the rise of gangs, to drugs and pornography to simply wearing a black trench coat, the media is always looking for something to vilify instead of blaming the obvious villain – the individual who pulled the trigger. In the unfortunate case of the Colorado Batman tragedy, pop culture fandom has taken a blow with everything from superhero movies to comic books to cosplayers taking a ridiculous backlash from a stunned public. Batman is, quite frankly, under the gun with ads being pulled, screenings being cancelled and Warner Brothers stating they will not release the box office profits from this weekend. I even read on facebook where one woman stated she wouldn’t be going to see The Dark Knight Rises after what happened in Colorado. I don’t understand this sort of thinking. It was not Batman’s fault.
Now I am neither an expert nor a psychologist. Instead I am a person with simple common sense. I am an optimist that tries to look at the good in this world, and I have a belief that the world is just as messed up and violent as it has always been. I don’t know what causes gun violence, and I have no solutions to stopping it….if it could ever be stopped at all. Instead I believe this: Gun violence is random and it is rare, it is not something to prevent you from enjoying life, and a killer can’t be determined by the pop culture that they consume. You don’t know who is going to commit a massacre, you don’t know when they’ll shoot and you don’t know where. Furthermore, gun violence is not only a product of America. For whatever reason America gets some sort of bad rap for their obsession with guns, but research will show that gun violence happens in all countries, all around the world, and similar massacres to what happen in Colorado are just as liable to happen throughout North America as in the USA. Furthermore, movies, music, television and comic books do not kill people. It is people who kill people. Sick, deranged, terrible people with their own reasons and motives which, in most cases, will never be understood by the public. Pop culture does not kill people. It’s not Batman’s fault.
Possibly one of the most ridiculous fall outs from the Colorado shooting is AMC theaters new policy of banning cosplayers from attending the films. The reason for this proposed ban was that one of the police officers at the scene stated that the shooter, Holmes, said that he was “The Joker” and had his hair dyed bright orange. Okay. I’m trying to search my memory and remember all of those Batman comics where the Joker had orange hair. Know why I can’t think of one? Because none exist. Every pop culture savvy individual knows that The Joker has green hair. Holmes was not dressed up as the Joker. He was just an asshole who dyed his hair orange. Now, as a result, cosplay has come under attack due to one police officer, who has probably never opened up a comic book in his life, inaccurate comments to the press about one single deranged individual. A knee jerk reaction by the media and the theater chain that will further alienate and restrict the freedom of the public. Meanwhile, movie theaters are increasing their security at Batman screenings. Why? What happened in Colorado has no real reflection on Batman or the Batman franchise. In fact this tragedy could have happened at any movie anywhere. It could just have easily happened at The Avengers, or The Amazing Spiderman or That’s My Boy or Magic Mike. It just happened that Holmes chose The Dark Knight Rises for his attack. This was an individual’s choice of movie, and it doesn’t mean that hordes of other insane gunmen are going to enter Batman screenings and start killing movie goers. There is no danger in going to a Batman movie. This will go down as a black mark on the Batman legacy, but it has nothing to do with Batman. It was not Batman’s fault.
But as I pointed out to the obnoxious drunk woman, massacres of this sort can happen anywhere, in any country, at any time. Gun violence takes place at schools, in malls, in bars, in restaurants and at concerts. For instance:
July 18 1984 James Huberty enters a San Diego McDonalds and opens fire, leaving twenty two dead and nineteen injured.
August 20 1986 part time postal worker Patrick Sherill enters an Edmond Oklahoma post office and kills fourteen co-workers and injures another six.
December 6 1989 Marc Lepine walks into an engineering class at the University of Montreal and opens fire, leaving fifteen women dead and fourteen injured.
April 20 1999 high school students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold lead an assault at Columbine High School, leaving fifteen dead and twenty one injured.
December 5 2007 Robert Hallows opens fire at the Westroads Mall in Omaha Nebraska killing nine people and injuring four.
July 27 2008 Jim Addison shoots up Knoxville Unitarian University in Tennessee, killing two classmates and injuring seven.
February 13, 2011 an unnamed assailant launches a grenade into a Guadalajara, Mexico nightclub, killing six people and injuring another thirty seven.
These are only a small portion of dozens of massacres recorded throughout North American in the last thirty years, and further research will show dozens more going back to the turn of the last century. In our imperfect world, violence happens. However, to put the attack on pop culture, movie audiences, comic book fans, or Batman itself is moronic. Pop culture had no influence on any of the cases above. The media could have blamed everyone and everything for the violence of any of these massacres, but the fact will always remain that gun violence is caused by people. Single, sick, twisted, terrible people with their own mental and emotional illness and twisted motives.
And let us not forget the role that gun violence plays in the Batman mythos. Young Bruce Wayne himself was the victim of gun violence when he watched his mother and father get gunned down in the street after going to a screening of Zorro. This senseless crime would inspire Batman to become a hero, and try to stop crimes like what happened in Colorado. Batman doesn’t even use a gun. Batman is the good guy in a series where good always triumphs over evil. Unfortunately for us, Batman isn’t real and there is nobody that can stop the violence. There is little that we can do to stop this but to mourn the dead, support the families, and move on. We can not shut down our lives and joys and live in fear because of random shootings. But why shut down Batman screenings, or deny the joy of going to an anticipated film, or even lift television spots due to the hateful act of one individual?
But perhaps, in this case, we should give Batman himself the final word on the subject.
It was not Batman’s fault. ‘Nuff said.