[The following is the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the opinions of Comic Booked as a whole.]
July 20, 2012 was a day that many people looked forward to for a long time. As the release date for The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, people around the country were lined up before midnight, excited to be among the first to see the film. But movie fans in Aurora Colorado got more than they expected when 20 minutes into the film, a masked gunman burst into the theater, clouding the packed auditorium with tear gas and began to open fire on the crowd. Twelve people lost their lives in the attack, scores of others injured.
Unfortunately, our society is no stranger to incidents like this. The Columbine school shooting in 1999. The Washington DC sniper attacks by John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo. Even as recently as last month, a man opened fire in a Toronto mall. And the only thing that connects attacks like these, and countless others, is the senselessness of the violence. What causes people to act like this? What causes them to inflict harm on other people? There are people out there who feel they have the answer to this question. And can you guess where they place the blame?
Movies. Video games. Comic books.
A news snippet on Gawker.com quotes former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt as he questions the incident, asking if it’s a “terrible collision between some dark Trekkie-like person’s fantasy world and reality”. ABC News takes the finger-pointing even further, drawing parallels between the shooting and scenes from various Batman comic books. Even overlooking the complete misinformation of stating that Holmes’ hair was painted red, “the same hair color of Heath Ledger’s Joker…in 2008’s The Dark Knight”, the comparisons they make are tenuous at best.
In all fairness, Holmes did claim to be the Joker while in police custody after the attacks, so in this case, there may be a connection. But despite the claims, this act is not one of a rational human being. Rational human beings understand the difference between real and make-believe.
Let’s take a look at this: In February of this year, Batman appeared in 4 of the top ten best selling comics books (not counting the team book Justice League), selling more than 362,000 copies in total. If the media news’ claim held any credence, and even 1% of readers fell victim to the brain-washing effects of illustrated panels and word balloons, then there would be approximately 3,620 attacks in America similar to what happened in Aurora. You know what? I’ll even go so far as to say every person bought one of each Batman title and divide that number by four. That would make 905 attacks. Meanwhile, we have had one incident (one life-shattering incident for the families of the victims, yes; I’m not trying to belittle their losses) and it has been all the media is able to talk about.
And that’s just Batman titles. Let’s not even consider looking at X-Men and the possibility of someone taping butterknives to their hands before going to homeroom.
Now why is that? With that many young people being brain-washed continually month after month, shouldn’t it be impossible for the rational thinking, non-comic book reading, movie-hating citizen to leave their house without being senselessly gunned down by some lunatic with an Xbox Live account? I mean, there are 905 truly disturbed citizens just lurking out there, ready to snap…
Yet these news outlets will continue to bray the same old song because, essentially, that’s what they do. Society needs a scapegoat, somewhere they can place the blame. It’s easier to believe that a sensible person can be brainwashed into committing horrible attacks like this because of what they saw in a movie or a video game than to face the fact that humans have the inherent ability to commit acts like these. ANY one is capable of violence like this. All it takes is the right mixture of emotional problems, mental instabilities, and stress.
Media wants to blame entertainment, saying that the violence it portrays has a desensitizing effect on young people. Meanwhile, if one were to watch an hour long news program in its entirety, they would be witness to no less than 6 violent news stories. Drive-by shootings, child molestations, women beaten to death by their abusive husbands. The news is full of examples of humans acting out in the basest, purest forms of aggression. Reality. Not fiction like on the movie screen and pages of the comic book. Yet the media continues to lay the blame on entertainment.
There’s a saying that when you point the finger at someone, there are four fingers pointed back at you. The truth behind this statement is illustrated by the hypocrisy of media news. But, in all honesty, it’s not the least bit surprising.