It’s an incredibly tragic event, what just happened.
That’s an understatement, of course. I wasn’t there. I can only play the same picture everyone is playing in their heads of the horror, the fear, the screams, the young people, the dark room, the late night, the suffocating realization that yes, a movie theater is a place of vulnerability. Almost like a shower or an airplane. It’s a vision that will go into the stack of visions we have categorized in our minds of events in history we wish didn’t happen, we wished we could forget. I cannot believe I am only 25 years old and I have lived through multiple American tragedies, each bringing the same bitter acid up through my stomach and stuck permanently on the roof of my mouth.
There’s almost a theatricality to it all this time around. Though most shootings end up having their fair share of finesse and lore and repeated stories at the water cooler, it seems like each layer shed in this unfolding and sickening story resonates something just so damn worse than the layer before it. It goes from the simple text messages of “Hey, Ali, you’re from Colorado. You okay? OMG this is CRAZY.” To, “Colorado….can’t cut a break with the fires and now this…was it near Columbine?…small town…can happen anywhere…” To “He was dressed like the villain… violence in films… gun control…” and no doubt with time debate will be sparked on who is to blame and what was at fault and how could this have been avoided.
And I welcome the debate, in time. I’m anticipating the reactionary precautions set in motion from this event. Chances are costumes will be banned at midnight showings if midnight showings are even showed at all. Chances are areas in Colorado and across the country will bring in a police force to popular movie theaters, if only to make the public feel safer as the storm quiets. Chances are media bobble heads will argue that we have too much violence in films and too much slack in monitoring public places. I know my personal knee jerk response was a liberal one, which is “How did a crazy person” (and at this point there aren’t many details about the shooter, so it’s an assumption, albeit an educated one, that he is bat shit crazy, no pun intended,) anyway, “How did this crazy person have access to guns and weapons? It should be harder to get guns in this country. Much much harder.” And then the gun control parade will happen with much bantering between the NRA and Mothers Against Guns.
I think it’s important, before all that happens, and it will happen, like clockwork, (again, so sad that my generation has bared witness to this kind of thing many times before) that we remember the root of these heated debates comes from a unifying place. It comes from that stomach acid I was talking about earlier. It comes from a desire to do better, be better, correct the problem, and stay safe. And ALL THAT comes from, honestly, loving thy fellow neighbors.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I have seen the mug shot of this guy and I can’t help but feel like he views his vigilante antics as a massive success. It’s so meta, isn’t it? (Again, haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’m smartly assuming it’s meta.) It’s anarchic, so disrupting of the status quo and it toys with the public’s greatest fear, which is turning something joyful into something horrible.
And so to out meta him, I have to think: What would Batman do? If this one person can do so much harm in such little time, isn’t it our job to ban together in support of that beam of light in the Gotham sky?
At this point I want to remind those who may be reading (Mom, my one blog reader) that I am in no way trying to shape the shameless killing of innocent people into a plot twist in a superhero franchise. There were peoples’ daughters, sons, fathers, mothers, friends, GOOD PEOPLE in that giant sold-out theater who died or have been scarred in ways I am thankful to never know. I am aware and am only using the Batman symbol (literally and figuratively) to get at a deeper meaning.
The whole idea behind Batman, and why he is such a popular figure in our culture, is that he stands for good in the darkest of times. He fights for good when there is no hope, and he believes that there will always be good in the world to trump over evil. A bit romantic, I know, but that ideology resonates with people, young and old. In a world of cynics (myself included) sometimes it’s good to “cheese out” the hopeful outlook of The Batman.
That vigilante is just one person. And sure, I’m probably gonna google the heck out of him, gonna examine his face and wonder where the hell he came from and think about who his parents are, but at the end of it all, he was just one crazy guy. I could dive into a mental health soliloquy at this point, but I’m sure there’s going to be a huge debate in that realm as well. At the end of it all, he was just one guy. And there are more of us then there are him.
Dude got us where it hurts though. Dark Knight Rises was going to be the most epic movie of the summer, the most epic conclusion to the most epic trilogy of this generation. Workplaces and playgrounds were all a-buzz with excitement. A great summer moment for people wanting to escape their current economic strife and just… go to the movies. Don’t you see? This guy was trying to ruin America’s favorite past time, the only industry still running smoothly and also what was going to be the highlight in many young people’s life. I mean, come on! It was Dark Night Rises! It was going to be along the lines of “OH MY GOD DID YOU SEE IT IT WAS SO COOL I LOVE THIS MOVIE PURE AMAZING BEST TIME EVER!!!!” Seriously, it was! But no.
Now we will all hold our ticket stubs and say, remember when? We’ll eat our popcorn and ask where were you? When the lights dim, we’ll flinch where we used to get excited. No one will sit in the center, everyone will sit near the exits. Let’s All Go To The Movies will become a haunting idea. Will there be copycats? WILL THERE BE COPYCATS?
Nice blow, villain.
But, and forgive me for the youthful diligence, I refuse to let the villain win. I am going to see Dark Knight Rises tomorrow. I am going to my public space and I’m going to eat my popcorn and I am going to get excited and I am going to make sure Dark Knight Rises is number 1 at the box office this weekend. Sure, I may flinch, I may sit near a door or double check security, but that’s because fear is inherent, not chosen. We got to beat the villain by fighting through our fear.
Columbine did not stop people from successfully surviving public school. 9/11 did not stop people from flying. This tragedy is not going to stop us from going to the movies. It’s what Batman would want. It’s a way for us to win.
And the other way to beat the villain is by calling our loved ones, and helping our neighbors, and being kind to one another. And maybe this kindness will remind future vigilantes that we are people to cherish, not statements to make.
It shouldn’t be enough to just get back to normal, we should instead get back to better.
My thoughts go to the families affected by what has happened. My home state has had too much heartache this summer than it deserves. I know it will be in our consciences for the time being, and it will slowly fade like so many other times have before us.
So when the slew of debates come charging down the track and changes happen much to the jeers and cheers of all of us, and when the right and left make it a campaign strategy and the ratings system changes their policy and the families in Aurora, Colorado have to mourn while their town name holds new meaning, I hope some comic book kid somewhere remembers “What Would Batman Do?”
He’d stand up for what is good, and overcome evil.
I’ll see you at the movies.
– One L
“I do not regret midnight showings, except for the latest Indiana Jones film.”