Still planning to see ‘Dark Knight’
I have not seen “The Dark Knight Rises” yet, but I will because I am a moviegoer and I go to movies like that.
Like everyone, I was pretty horrified by the murders at a screening of the film in Aurora, Colo., and I quickly emailed my friends Dave and Melissa, who now live in Denver but used to live in Aurora, to check in and make sure everything was OK. I then emailed another friend, a neuroscientist at the University at Colorado, to ask whether she knew the alleged shooter, who was studying neuroscience at the school. My friend replied that he worked down the hall and that although she didn’t know him “everybody else did.”
By my estimation, this put me about two degrees away from an alleged mass murderer, which is way too close to comfort. But I have little to complain about — my friends are fine, and my family is fine and I’m fine. The same cannot be said for the victims and their friends and families, and my heart goes out to them, just as it always does when something like this happens.
But I am still going to see “The Dark Knight Rises.”
I’m looking forward to it.
I read a lot of commentary about film, much of it online, and there’s been a fair amount of discussion about the Aurora shootings.
At Slate, film critic Dana Stevens ponders why the shooter chose a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” as his stage, writing that the shooter “didn’t burst into a screening of ‘Happy Feet Two.’ To discuss the meaning and motives of his crime, of course we have to at least talk about why he might choose ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ as a backdrop (and possibly a template) for whatever private fantasy he was enacting.
“And maybe there should also be conversations about what it means that the economics of the film industry are driven almost entirely by the fantasies and desires of young men, and what effect that kind of over-representation in pop culture might have on . . . the fantasies and desires of young men. All I know is that, when I heard the news about the Aurora shootings, my first thought was very clear and very scary: ‘Of course this was going to happen sooner or later.’ ”
I thought Stevens’ essay was fairly interesting but I didn’t really agree with it, mainly because I don’t think movies inspire people to kill (although I do think it’s worth considering why people are drawn to violent movies, and how such imagery reflects (or doesn’t reflect) our society and culture at large.)
What Stevens and I do share is a complete lack of surprise over the shooting. There have been mass shootings in schools, bars, cafes, office buildings, supermarkets, churches, military bases and malls, as well as acts of terror committed on airplanes and buses. Why would anyone expect movie theaters to be off limits to lunatics and psychopaths?
I went to the movies last Monday night to see “Magic Mike,” and I had a pretty nice time. Did I think about the shooting in Aurora? Sure, but only because I’d been thinking about it all day. Did I fear for my own safety? No, I did not. Did I become so immersed in the movie that I briefly forgot my worries and concerns? Yes, I did.
Tragedies inevitably result in a discussion about their impact, about the various ways in which the horrible event has altered our world, which is how you end up with essays such as “Alone in the Dark: We long for togetherness at the movies. After the Aurora shootings, the theater experience will never be the same,” to cite a piece that appeared on Salon.
But as I get older, I’m struck by how quickly most people move past tragedy, by how little such events change us. Sure, there are exceptions — we’re still dealing with the impact of 9/11, and individuals who witness or survive something horrible might struggle with trauma for years. But I think we all know people who have lost friends and relatives to suicide, disease, accidents and murder, and have managed to pick themselves up and move on.
When my sister was in a coma and it was unclear whether she would survive, I wondered about this process. “I know people get through things like this,” I told a friend. “But I don’t really understand how.” Fortunately, my sister lived, and I didn’t have to solve this mystery. I moved on from the whole thing fairly quickly, in fact, and, though I sometimes think about it, I seldom dwell on it.
I read Dave Cullen’s book “Columbine,” an in-depth look at the school shootings that occurred in the Denver suburb in 1999, and I was struck by the determination and strength of those wounded in the attack, many of whom returned to the school and eventually graduated. How did they find it within themselves to do this? I have no idea. But they did it, because they’re human beings and human beings are resilient.
Just as we continue to go to school, or work, or church, or the store, I suspect that we’ll continue going to the movies. Something terrible could always happen, but I refuse to let the potential for tragedy change my life. Based on “The Dark Knight Rises” opening weekend box office estimates, I know I’m not the only one.
Foss Forward makes a weekly appearance in print, in The Gazette’s Saturday Lifestyles section. You can email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.