Op-Ed: The Dark Knight, Aurora and Humanity By Lawrence Napoli
Humanity Rises and Falls
Shocked and dismayed over the Aurora Massacre
By: Lawrence Napoli
I must acknowledge the senseless tragedy that occurred today (7/20/12) in the US city of Aurora, Colorado. According to TheGuardian.co.uk as well as a plethora of coverage from CNN and various other media entities, a masked gunman [now identified as James Holmes] opened fire on a crowd of people attending the premier of The Dark Knight Rises at a local mall, killing 12 and injuring 38. Details of the investigation are developing, but I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the wounded and families of the victims of this horrible evil. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. This film represents a lot of what’s good in humanity. But when insanity like this shooting occurs, it makes me ashamed to admit that I am man. Real world tragedy is linked to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and when considering this incident in light of Heath Ledger’s death prior to the release of The Dark Knight, the rest of us are left stunned and simply wondering “why?”
This article began as a simple film review, but reading and hearing the news coverage of this incident has made it impossible for me to focus on the absolute, cinematic gold that The Dark Knight Rises is. The shear confusion I feel as a result of trying reconcile the inspiration of the film with the horror of the shooting has left me beside myself with only one thought in mind: What can an idea do? The themes that are passionately at work in Rises as well as its previous installments feature ideas that could easily inspire great evil as well as good. I WILL NOT speculate that ANY idea from Nolan’s trilogy directly inspired James Holmes, but it is impossible to ignore the proximity of the incident to the film considering no connection to organized terror or antisocial groups has been established. That being said, it must be noted that an individual empowering him or herself to affect social change is the key theme to the entire Batman mythos. Misinterpreted; an individual who departs from reality, consumed by despair or indoctrinated by extremism, may find any ends justifying any means. Batman himself confronted this issue specifically in The Dark Knight when he stated that he meant to inspire people for the better, not to glorify vigilantism. Dramatic, symbolic events are rarely (if ever) without negative effects and the evidence of this is the entirety of human history.
People are angry and saddened by this event and we instantly want to know how tragedies like this can be allowed to happen. News networks immediately got into the issue regarding access to guns, tactical gear and rudimentary explosives: a popular springboard for gun lobbyists to debate with control advocates. This country has witnessed more than enough of these public shootings to prove that if someone wants a gun (ANY type of gun) that individual is going to get it, background checks or not. This leads us to consider the question regarding security, specifically how much is enough. I am by no means an expert, nor do I have any statistics to back up a worthy opinion as to an appropriate officer to overall crowd ratio, but I can tell you what I observed when I attended the 3:30 AM premier at my local Regal Cinemas. There was one armed (and portly) officer on duty and there were hundreds of patrons in attendance.
I applaud Warner Bros. for making an immediate response to this incident and for cancelling tonight’s Paris premier in addition to press interviews out of respect to the victims. Yes, life goes on, but to draw ritzy attention to this film is inappropriate at this time. I am certain the world will be interested in what Christopher Nolan and his entire cast have to say about this, but hopefully the media will not push for this until at least next week.
As for the media, the sad truth is that coverage of this incident will dominate the entire weekend and most of the following weeks. This inflates the ego and following of the sociopath. Eventually, he will have his say either in court and/or in front of the cameras and the networks will milk that event for all it’s worth. As a society, we must get away from the constant news regurgitation of tragedies like this because doing so places evil people further up on the pedestal. How many times do we need to see the same cell phone video clips? Perhaps I am no better in fueling the issue further by writing this, but unlike my TV based brethren, this will be my one and only say. Also, I love the fact that it didn’t take long before CNN had its criminal profiler, Pat Brown, making reference to violent video games and movies for this teenage psychopath who accomplished (in her words) “the most important thing he will ever do with his life.” In my opinion, any expert that leads with this kind of information should have their “expert” status revoked. I don’t dismiss the relevance of violent video games and movies, but if the connection to violent behavior were incontrovertible, we’d have millions of mass murderers walking the streets.
While watching the news coverage, I noticed Sanjay Gupta’s commercial promoting his new show “The Human Factor,” featuring individuals who “beat the odds” and have done great things to inspire. Life and irony run hand in hand. Where’s “the human factor” in situations such as this? I find no humanity in slaughtering innocents, but that’s because I still hold on to hope for our species to one day discard the selfishness, the greed and the rage and if that makes me a resident of Fantasy Land, then so be it. The very word, “humanity” carries a positive connotation, almost altruistic, that simply cannot be justified in situations such as the Aurora massacre. However, when people have been singled out for doing the wrong thing, we have been described as being “only human.” So which is it? Are we enlightened or are we wild?
Heroes in entertainment began as incorruptible symbols, but as the times change, the need to produce stories that are edgy, dark and “real” have somewhat tarnished that appeal. The Dark Knight Rises has been criticized by some for being “too real” which should only be an issue for human beings that have difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality, i.e. psychopaths. This film is incredibly intense in terms of drama and suspense and very high minded when it comes to social and political commentary. These are the signatures of master filmmaker, Christopher Nolan and perhaps a person is intelligent and mature enough to digest the issues raised by TDKR, but people in general may not be ready to handle this. Make no mistake. This film does not incite violence or anarchy, but merely presents an extreme scenario that puts the individual’s character to the test if luxury, status quo and civilization go up in smoke. If pushed to the limit, would I die a hero or live long enough to see myself become the villain? Would you?