Media Put Movie Sheen on Real Violence

Article excerpt

2It's a disturbing headline that leads to an even more disturbing conclusion: There will never be a motive that can explain James Holmes' horrific actions -- at least not a motive that will mean anything to rational people.

Faced with the terror of a random mass killing, our human impulse is to give it some kind of explanation, some kind of story. In the case of the killing of 12 people and the wounding of 58 more at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, the first narratives were supplied by a form we all know -- the movies.

Through our omnipresent, interconnected, accelerated mass media, the stories started with fevered speculations about how the shooter's actions might relate to The Dark Knight trilogy.

Since the franchise was already recognized for bringing a new level of violence and darkness to mass entertainment, it was easy to make the initial connection between The Dark Knight series and the killings. But how exactly did the connection work? We grasped at the Joker references, at the flaming orange hair of Holmes's first court appearance. We seized on the mention of Batman masks found in Holmes's booby-trapped apartment.

One media outlet made a list of any and all connections between the 70-year Batman saga and the movies. Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered outside a movie theatre, the article pointed out, with the paranoid logic that brings two facts together and turns them into signs and portents. And "The Dark Knight Rises features at least two scenes where unsuspecting people are attacked in a public venue: the stock exchange and a football stadium," the article continued. Never mind that the massacre took months to plan and the film only opened the night of the killings, which means that Holmes could hardly be a copycat of DKR villain Bane. …