Thoughts on the Aurora Massacre

No doubt by now you have all heard of the horrific events that took place at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. I do not want to dwell on the events too much. This is not a news site and it is not really my forte. But I have spent many hours over the past two days thinking about what occurred and I feel that I should share some thoughts.

The massacre is a devastating event on so many levels. Because of the societal ramifications, for the filmmakers to have had their work corrupted in some way; and the fact that such evil exists in this world. But the main reason is that people have died. People have died for absolutely no reason.

One of the reasons that this event has had such an effect on me is because, without knowing any of them, the victims were people just like me. They were cinema goers, movie fans. A day before I had sat shaking with excitement as The Dark Knight Rises began. The victims were people who would have been just as excited as me, if not more. The kind of people who venture out at midnight to see a movie because they simply can’t wait any longer. And I cannot begin to fathom the unimaginable terror of what took place as they sat and watched the film that they had anticipated so much.

Director Christopher Nolan participating in th...

Director of The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan.

Christopher Nolan has released a statement following what occurred in Aurora which reflects the manner in which the horror of what has occurred will not pass soon for many people, including film fans: “Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of The Dark Knight Rises, I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community. I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theater is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families.”

Inevitable at some stage, a light will be turned on the guilty party and why he did what he did. Already Nolan’s second Batman film The Dark Night and the iconic graphic novel, The Killing Joke, by Allan Moore have been referenced as possible inspiring factors for the killer’s rampage. Anyone who kills is in a sense mad. No matter what they read. It is not the fault of artists such as Nolan or Moore that this man did what he did. I have seen The Dark Knight and read The Killing Joke and I took inspiration from them as I do any great work of art I consume. But no sane person is motivated to kill by a work of art, no matter how dark or violent. A violent, murderous rampage in a cinema has nothing to do with any of these works. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And if someone you are with says something like that, pull them up on it. I agree with Jon Fisher from The Film Brief, who in a podcast with me following the events, said that if anything, the killer was just narcissistic and knew that The Dark Knight Rises would be the big news story and wanted a part of that fame.

As an Australian I do not have the intimate knowledge to really comment on American gun laws, which to me seem utterly ludicrous. I will draw one parallel though. In 1996, one horrific day changed gun control in Australia forever. In Port Arthur, Tasmania, Martin Bryant – armed with a semi-automatic rifle – massacred 35 people. In response, the Howard government made possibly the only decision of their time in power that I agree with (for those unfamiliar with Australian politics, the Howard government was a conservative government that had little time for human rights and led public debate in this country down some very dangerous paths). The Howard government immediately severely restricted the availability of all automatic and semi-automatic weapons and announced an amnesty for those weapons already in the community to be offered up to police so they could be destroyed. Yes, there have been gun deaths since. But the bold and swift actions of the conservative government resulted in no tragedy approaching that of the Port Arthur massacre occurring since. One horrific event can change the way a nation works, the way that people access weapons with murderous potential. I can only hope that the Aurora cinema massacre can be that one event for America. All it needs is someone brave enough to stand up and make the change happen.

I’ll finish up this little piece with the same quote that I use to close the discussion with Jon on The Film Brief podcast a couple of days ago. These words come from Jamie Kilstein, a stand up comedian, podcaster and massive superhero film fan on facebook: “I want to write about gun laws,racism, and idiots on the news, but after meeting so many great people at a midnight show last night in NYC, so many outcasts, so many nerds, so many people excited to watch a movie about a superhero, I’m just sad.” So am I.

The Dark Knight Rises is for me, a great film, even a 5 star one. Go and see it. Enjoy it, and be thankful for all that you have.

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