Editor’s Note: I wrote this the day after the Aurora shootings. It’s been over a week but I wanted to share my thoughts and remember the victims of this horrible incident.
We’ve heard this story before. A family’s night at the theater is destroyed by a stranger’s bullets. Until recently, this was only the tale of comic book character, Bruce Wayne. After Bruce sees his parents shot before him, he vows to fight crime and protect the innocent. He does so without guns, becoming Batman; the protector of Gotham City.
It’s both sad and strange that in Colorado, a gunman would attack a crowd of people in a movie theater, at the premiere of the latest Batman film.
It’s been barely 24 hours since I was sitting in a theater with some friends, giddy over a film, that it seems I’ve waited my whole life to see. And the people in that theater in Aurora, Colorado were all just like me.
They were movie fans. Comic books fans. They wanted to see something so bad; they made plans for a special showing, like many of us did. They were invested in a story, a fantasy, and a break from the real world. They, in a way, were family to the rest of us.
Just like Bruce, we all lost family in a night of a tragedy. Even though the horrors in Gotham are fictitious, this was very real.
Many people are searching for answers, as often happens in any tragic scenario. Since the shooter referred to himself as “The Joker,” some point fingers at the influence of the Batman films and character.
I personally think we may never know the motivation behind something so disturbing. Pop culture is an easy scapegoat but may not be the right one. This guy may have done something like this anyway.
When a similar incident happened in Colorado at Columbine, we quickly heard how video games, Eminem and Marilyn Manson were all to blame. We really have no way of knowing but I think that’s not the answer. I’ve personally seen a fare share of violence in all forms of media but never had an impulse to reproduce it. I can distinguish reality from fantasy, and use fantasy to escape the pains of the real world, but remain present in it.
The scariest thing to me is that this is our world. In any superhero story, the hero usually swoops in and saves everyone from harm. Even in the comic book world, you can’t predict someone’s actions. Batman, were he real, could never have stopped this crime. The Bat-signal would have been a response, not a warning.
We live in a time where superheroes are more popular than ever. With horrible things like this happening, it’s no surprise that we want to briefly escape to a place where someone can protect us. How do we respond when the real world crashes in on us while we’re trying to escape?
Like Bruce, we feel afraid, vulnerable and angered. I returned to the theater for another viewing with friends and there was a silent tension when a light came on in the projection booth for a few minutes. None of us said a word, but the tense backward glances said it all. Our trips to the movies, once a safe haven, had literally changed overnight.
I can’t pretend to understand why this guy shot anyone but I think deep down, he was scared. Like the rest of us, like young, orphaned Bruce, he was deeply afraid of something. He had to be because he chose a coward’s path to deal with his issues.
These are the types of events that create heroes in the comics. In the real world, they’re reminders of how short and precious life is. The most heroic thing we can do is enjoy life. Something that few people are brave enough to do.