Being consistent with my normality of geek experience, I attended a midnight showing of yet another blockbuster superhero movie last night. Such as been the case with me for nearly a decade since superhero movies became a worldwide trend. They have often been fun, enjoyable experiences, not only for the viewing of a movie that depicts a once merely-drawn hero as a larger-than-life savior, but also for sharing the experience with other fellow comic book fans. Comic book heroes and I have a history. While the hero, whether it be Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, etc., took punches in an effort to defend the innocent, I physically (and emotionally) took punches due to the mere fact that I resonated with this characters. The mocking I received as a growing child for finding meaning with these characters was at times quite difficult. Yet those years of difficulties pale in comparison to the events that occurred a mere thirty minutes away from where I peacefully watched The Dark Knight Rises last night at midnight. As I watched one of my favorite heroes complete a journey, twelve people lost their lives to a madman – an arguably mentally disturbed person who inflicted violence and death upon people just like me.
Much is still left to uncertainty regarding the shootings in Aurora last night. The underlying question that plagues the minds of millions is simply why? Why did this happen? Why did it happen when it did, to who it did? As a philosopher centered on logic and analytic reasoning, how can a man, no matter how evil, commit such violent acts? The only answer that I can conjure up is that what occurred is beyond reason and rests only in the mind of the delusional.
But as I reflect even more deeply upon this horrific event, I ponder the implications of why this film. Why a superhero movie, especially a darkened-themed Batman film? Today I have been haunted by the notion that the comic book or the films upon which they are based caused such a disturbed mind to commit these killings. Much speculation has surrounded the mental stability of the late actor, Heath Ledger. Ledger played the role of the infamous Joker – Batman’s arch nemesis – in the previous franchise installment, The Dark Knight. Ledger’s performance is legendary, one for the ages. But did he lose himself in the role? Is that, in part, what led him to the abuse of prescription drugs which played a pivotal role in his death? The Joker is one of the most iconic villains in history of comic books. I have long held the belief that the Joker defines Batman inasmuch as Batman defines himself. But was the role too dark? Did it lead to a tragedy not only in the life of Mr. Ledger, but in the events that occurred last night in Aurora?
These questions are warranted with the new discovery that the shooter called himself “the Joker” to police officers as he was arrested. Little is known of his motives. Based on this self-proclaimed assertion, perhaps the shooter really wanted to embody an “agent of chaos” – a term the Joker used for himself in The Dark Knight. “Some men simply want to watch the world burn” said Bruce Wayne’s faithful butler, Alfred. Maybe that was his point – his desperate, selfish, horrid point.
It disturbs me that a comic book character might influence someone in this capacity. I myself have been influenced by caped crusaders for almost twenty years, nearly the entirety of my existence. Never once have I been captivated by the villain. It was with my blanket tied to my neck playing the role of a cape that I bounced around my room with. I fought off imaginary bad guys and saved the invisible people. You do not want to be the bad guy. You want to stop the bad guy. For me, right now, the horror is thinking that someone else could do this – did do this. It seems insane. And it is insane. But that is what the villain is, the representation of insanity. And here we have chaos ensuing.
For a short while today, I thought that comic books and their associated movies may have crossed a line. Perhaps they did indeed play a role in this tragedy. We may never know. But one thing is certain, a point aptly addressed by my dear friend, the innocence of comic books will never be the same. The victims, those enthralled by the caped heroes, were just like me. They were doing the same thing as me. The randomness of time and location suggest it easily could have been me. Is the golden age, the innocence, completely gone? For a moment today, I thought that indeed it may be. But for that moment, I forgot all the lessons taught to me by Batman, by Spider-Man, by Captain America, and so forth. These heroes are not mere fantastical characters. They represent goodness. They are flawed individuals, just like us. But they never, ever have let goodness be obliterated. They have never let me down. And they won’t start now. It is this point in which we can extrapolate some goodness out of this horrible event. Never let evil win, no matter how strong. It may hurt us, it may kill us, but in whatever capacity we can, we must combat against it.
As we mourn, the heroes will rise. The villain will fall.