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Aftermath of Colorado tragedy: Don't blame Batman

Published July 20, 2012 2:51 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In the coming days and weeks, we will witness the media around us — from pundits on cable TV to people tweeting their opinions in 140-character nibbles — give their two cents' about why someone went into an Aurora, Colo., movie theater early this morning and shot up the place, killing 12 and wounding 59 (at last count).

Heck, some of that has started already. Some have blamed the easy access to guns. One reporter this morning tried to ascribe a political motive, which he later retracted. One idiot congressman argued that the shooting happened because of "the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs" in the country.

As a movie critic, The Cricket will stay away from those arguments. But there is another argument that should be stopped before it gets too far along.

Batman did not kill these people.

More specifically, a movie did not kill these people.

Anyone who would be inspired to commit such a heinous act, to fire weapons into a group of strangers in a public setting, has something sick and twisted inside of them. The movies didn't put it there, nor did the movies draw it out.

As The New Yorker's Anthony Lane pointed out this morning, we've been down this road before. Travis Bickle didn't shoot President Reagan; John Hinckley did. Videogames did not shoot the students at Columbine High School; Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did.

"What holds true then remains the case today: no film makes you kill," Lane wrote. "Having a mind to kill, at least in any systematic fashion, means that your mind is ready-warped; that the warping may well have started long before, perhaps in childhood; and that you may perhaps seek out, or be drawn to, areas of sensation — notably those entailing sex or violence — which can encourage, inflame, or accelerate the warping."

Dana Stevens, writing in Slate earlier today, isn't so sure there isn't a connection between the crime and the venue.

"I can't get away from the fact that this act of violence took place — with, from the look of it, considerable advance planning — at an opening-night midnight showing of 'The Dark Knight Rises,' a movie that (like the rest of the trilogy it concludes) envisions modernity as a lawless dystopia where just such a thing might happen," Stevens said, noting that one of the film's centerpiece scenes (seen in the first trailers, so there's no spoiler here) involves the villain blowing a packed football stadium to kingdom come.

Sorry, that won't fly. The suspect accused of killing these people wasn't reading the reviews of "The Dark Knight Rises," but the projected audience size. He was looking for the biggest arena possible for his horrible and attention-getting crime — so why not the most-anticipated movie of the summer?

In reaction to this morning's shooting, theaters everywhere — including in Utah, as the Tribune's Vince Horiuchi reports — will enhance their security measures this weekend. That move is meant to allay fears of moviegoers, that the place they go for escape will remain a refuge from the cares of the outside world.