Friday, July 20, 2012

Life imitates art - the Batman shootings

A major sub-plot in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns is the idea that costumed heroes inspire costumed villains. In the backstory to the series, the government put pressure on the superheroes to retire. The exception was Superman who took direction from the President and kept a low profile.

Then a violent gang took over Gotham City and Batman returned to straighten things out.

The prediction was accurate. Two-Face and the Joker returned and began killing people. The Joker in particular returned because Batman did.

At the end of the series Batman faked his own death and went underground, leading former members of the gang in the fight against crime. The war would go on but the day of the costumes was over.

At the premier of The Dark Knight Rises, a gunman dressed in black with body armor and a gas mask entered a theater through the emergency exit, threw a canister of tear gas, then began firing into the audience. A dozen were killed and dozens more were injured including small children.

It is possible, maybe even likely, that the gunman was inspired by the Joker's random acts of violence in The Dark Knight.

The Heath Ledger Joker was unique among superhero villains. Usually they are bigger than life. Lex Luthor keeps trying to conquer the world, or at least destroy several states. Tim Burton's Joker was already part of organized crime. Catwoman didn't kill anyone except a villain who was trying to kill her. Even Liam Neeson's character in Batman Begins was part of a secret organization and the Scarecrow was a psychiatrist with some unusual pharmaceuticals.

In contrast to most other comic book inspired movies, Heath Ledger's character worked alone and was mainly interested in death and destruction for its own sake, especially if it revealed the worst side of humanity.

Last night's shooter was not directly inspired by the Joker. He hid his identity and wore armor that was more reminiscent to Batman than the Joker. Still, the idea of shooting a bunch of people at random as they waited to see a Batman movie would appeal to the character.

So, did The Dark Knight go so deep into human nature that it inspired a mass shooting? Or was the shooter just someone who was mad at the world and chose a movie audience as a convenient target? Hopefully more information will be forthcoming.

1 comment:

Dan and Pauline said...

It is sad and terrifying tragedy that has befallen not only the film loving masses but us who love comics. I don't know what drives someone to do this. You can't blame the media, comics, film or video games. It is something else in the human psyche that drives these psychopaths to do this. I heard about it this morning and I shook my head and could be what happened. Hopefully justice will be served.

Dan