My Upcoming Summer Vacation, The Dark Knight Rises and a Note on Violence

I’m going on vacation from this Saturday until Saturday, August 4. I’m going to a small town in upstate New York, far away from the hustle and bustle of New York City. In the midst of packing and cleaning my room before going away, I decided against the madness of buying advance tickets for an IMAX screening today.

Even if I hadn’t read reviews from a few newspapers and magazines, I wouldn’t have expected The Dark Knight Rises to top The Dark Knight. It’s a feat that simply is not possible. You can’t replicate the greatness of Heath Ledger and, in a different way, I can’t replicate the feeling of being fifteen-going-on-sixteen. I suppose even if Ledger hadn’t died, The Dark Knight still would have been every bit as amazing, but the fact is that he did pass away and thus added an extra layer of haunting depth to an already complex and frightening role. The whole experience captured a certain time and a certain feeling.

This morning I turned on the laptop quickly to check on the headlines before going out to a doctor’s appointment. I saw that the New York Times’ biggest story was that a man had shot and killed 12 people, besides injuring dozens more, at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. One report I read said that the gunman was dressed like the Joker, who is the “enemy of Batman.”

How do horrific things like that happen? Or, I should ask, why? Was The Dark Knight Rises truly to blame? Even if many movies do contain a gratuitous amount of violence, I’m sure the real issue was the mental condition of the gunman. Violent movies might have given him inspiration, but surely the blame cannot be placed solely on them. In order to commit such a heinous act of violence, the gunman must have had problems going beyond the mere influence of movies.

The oddest thing, I remember thinking upon first reading the story on the New York Times site, was that in the summer of 2009 I took a class at Barnard where we watched The Dark Knight (among other pursuits, like reading Poe and Hammett) and I chose to write an essay about the movie. In particular I singled out the interesting quality that the movie had for showing violence without much – if any – blood. The real impact came from the film editing, sound editing and sound mixing. So out of all the things to inspire a person to commit mass murder, I can’t see why it would be Batman.

While I’m on vacation, I’ll try to avoid spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises. I’m staying away from the internet, except to check my email once or twice a week. Barring coming across some random person who gives away the plot, I’ll probably be fine. Talk to you later, fair denizens of WordPress!

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2 thoughts on “My Upcoming Summer Vacation, The Dark Knight Rises and a Note on Violence

  1. What happened in Colorado is truly unspeakable 😦 Who knows if we’re getting more violent, but the randomness of such killings is truly scary. I don’t blame Batman or any other movie for that matter. I haven’t seen the Dark Knight, but I’m sure there are bloodier films on general release. Perhaps we should be focusing less on the content of violent movies & more on context. Plays like Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus are far bloodier and nastier than almost any movie I can think of, but there’s a difference between watching violence unfold on a public stage, and watching (and rewatching) it unfold on a private screen. Is it any coincidence this guy killed in a public space where people gathered to enjoy a film and a night out?

    • true – speaking of Shakespeare, when I was thinking about violence in movies earlier today, Coriolanus came to mind. I also thought of Drive, which most of my friends have seen but I still haven’t because I’m apprehensive of the “strong brutal bloody violence” (as the rating calls it). I guess I’m fine with superhero-type action and the sort in Prometheus and other sci-fi movies and shows. And then there are Die Hard and Die Hard: With a Vengeance, which are two of my favorite movies. Most of the violence I’m fine with is stylized. (Rarely do I watch modern-day bloody horror movies; no Saw series for me. I only saw the Fright Night remake because of some of the actors in it.)

      In any case, it really is horrifying to think that such an act could happen in a movie theater. I’m not dissuaded from going to movies, but I’m sure the memory of the story will stay with me for a while.

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