In the comics, the animated series and now in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman has always had a no guns and no killing policy. His alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, was orphaned by gun crime – the murder of his parents, leading him to abhor the use of guns. Despite Batman‘s vigilante persona, the dangerous noir setting of Gotham, and the moody, dark, stylized art in each story, the Bat would toss each villain into the grim Arkham Asylum, instead of dispatching them.
The perpetrator of Thursday night’s senseless tragedy is now in custody and The Dark Knight Rises director Christopher Nolan has released a statement of condolence to the families of the victims, as did the film’s stars: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway and Gary Oldman.
Furthermore, President Obama visited the victims’ families yesterday, Columbine survivors have reached out to them, the Paris, Japan and Mexico premieres for The Dark Knight Rises have been cancelled and all TV ads were re-released without any footage showing guns. Finally, to top it off, Warner Bros, along with other major studios, did not release box-office figures over the weekend out of respect for those who were involved in the tragedy.
Reaction in the online community to the shootings has been that of sympathy and shock. Long-standing rivalries between DC and Marvel fans were put aside and in place of warring words over box-office opening figures, we saw outpourings of grief, compassion and ideas on how to help.
One popular suggestion making the rounds through social networks is the idea that Christian Bale visit the victims in hospital dressed as Batman, to “show the victims that heroes still exist.” Sadly, while this may be well-meaning, any survivor of PTSD will tell you that this is a bad idea, as it is likely that the victims may forever associate that horrific event with a character they loved enough to go see on the silver screen that very night.
Yesterday, I searched “Batman on guns” (no quotes) in Google. Most of the search results were about the shooting. Much like the media in general, the information and articles were geared towards profiling the killer – in a way, fulfilling his sick need for notoriety (an invitation to visit him in jail was posted on his adult dating profile), instead of focusing on the victims, their stories, and how to help them.
Technically, the shooter obtained his weapons legally, but in Colorado, there is no “cooling-off period.” He was even booted out of his gun club due to bizarre behavior. Yet, somehow, he walked into that movie theater with military-grade weaponry.
The Small Arms Survey 2007 has America topping the world’s list for gun ownership at an unnerving 88.8 guns per 100 residents. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime states the US as having 65% of its homicides caused by firearms – fifth-highest in the list, far above Costa Rica, Mexico and India. The knee-jerk reaction of “guns don’t kill people, people do” is technically true. But guns make it much easier and much faster to kill someone, and do far worse damage from a long, long distance. A gun’s sole purpose is to kill or destroy.
There are those who say that a positive of civilian gun ownership is that shooters can be taken down by honest, stable-minded gun owners. While I’ve no doubt that responsible firearm owners exist, when has this scenario ever happened? This is not “the fastest gun in the West.” Perhaps an implicit ban may be too radical, but surely it ought to be made much harder to get a gun than it is to get, say, a driver’s license or a green card?
Media whispers are starting to blame the source material, but that man, who killed 12 innocent people and injured over 50 more, including young children, was not a Batman fan. If I search “The Joker” on Google, the shooter’s name is one of the first things that come up. And for obvious reasons, it makes me sick. I refuse to associate this twisted individual with anything in a legendary 80 year-old comic universe. Noone should be allowing him to realize his warped fantasies. He is not The Joker.
Anyone who is a fan of The Joker may be a fan of his look, of his snappy dialogue, and, in the case of the movies, the stellar performances of the actors that portrayed him. They may even be fascinated by the psychology of the character, because, unlike, say, The Avengers’ Loki, The Joker is less charismatic and cunning, but more chaotic and unpredictable, especially in Nolan’s trilogy.
But no sane fan would actually want to emulate The Joker’s behavior in any way. Batman is the hero, the one whom everyone aspires to be, for a reason. With a strong moral code that is never forgotten, even in a life-or-death fight, he is the all-human, non-superpowered, ethical superhero that could very well have existed in reality. And, it is times like this when we wish that he did.
If you would like to help the families of the victims, you can contact the Denver chapter of the American Red Cross, the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance or the Denver Center for Crime Victims. Movie theater chains Pacific Theatres and Arc Light have also set up donation boxes in their theaters.