Are Movies To Blame?

Friday July 20 was supposed to be the peak of the blockbuster movie season with the release of Christopher Nolan’s final chapter in The Dark Knight trilogy. Instead of being a momentous night for movie lovers, it became a black day for all the nation. Tragedy occurred when a gun man opened fire at a midnight showing in Aurora, Colorado. The man was dressed like and identified himself as The Joker. This sad turn of events immediately raised a long debated topic of whether or not the movies are to blame for this madman’s actions.

After such heinous events, it is natural in our human nature to want to place blame somewhere and the multi billion dollar a year movie industry makes for a fairly large target. But is it fair to blame them? The one question I immediately asked myself was, “if The Dark Knight had never been made, would this man still have committed such a vicious crime”? My immediate response was, “probably”. No one will ever know for sure.

I was also quickly reminded of a couple of quotes from various movies. The first was a line from the original Scream. Matthew Lillard’s character at the end of the film says, “movies don’t make psychos. Movies make psychos creative”. When looked at it is a sobering thought. Every film maker wants to be able to inspire. Inspire others to be film makers or better people or to get people to take notice and understand things. The trouble is sometimes they can have a negative inspiration as well. Does this place the blame at the foot of the film maker?

This leads me to the second quote I thought of. It comes from Christopher Nolan’s movie that inspired the gunman, The Dark Knight. When attempting to describe a mad criminal to Bruce Wayne, Michael Caine’s character Alfred, inevitably says that the only explication for some people’s horrible actions is, “Some people just wanna watch the world burn”. I take that to mean there’s no explanation and there’s nothing that can stop people from doing some of the things they do and there may be no one to blame.

Film makers do need to know that when making a film of such style that basically promotes the villain as the star, people will be inspired be it in a good way or bad way. Therefore be prepared for the negative to happen at some point and hope that it doesn’t.

Tracy Lett’s, the director of the upcoming,violent epic, Killer Joe starring Matthew McConaughey, was recently asked about violence in film and it’s relation to incidents like what happened Friday, had this to say, “Anybody who would point the finger at us, as opposed to the ability to buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition, is out of their goddamn mind”. Lett’s raises a bigger political issue that is for more qualified and political people to debate.

The wonder and joy movies bring, has been felt by all at some point. Almost everyone has had a movie strike a strong feeling in them. For those affected by the events of early Friday morning, the movies may never again be the same. The victims are all that need be remembered in this situation. Not the gunman or his inspiration. Movies affect all who love them, so let’s never stop dreaming or story telling and loving movies just because of the rare actions of some who are affected in a negative way.

Warner Bros. recently announced they will donate a “substantial” amount of opening weekends profits to assist the victims and their families. This is a bold move and a classy one. Warner undoubtedly recognizes the influence movies can have and the role they can play on tragic events.

Everyone loves a good story and that’s what a good movie is. We celebrate the joys and excitement they bring with glamourous awards and highly anticipated debuts. We need not forget the good they can do and need not reject the bad as well.

Let me leave you with this thought. The people of Aurora, Colorado went into that theater Friday morning full of excitement and anticipation. They were fully prepared to be entertained. That’s what movies and the movie going experience should be about. Let it never stop being about that.

12 thoughts on “Are Movies To Blame?

  1. A sobering and thought-provoking post. To me, if it isn’t movies that are pushing psychos over the edge, it’s gonna be something else. We can’t take out important things in our society just because we live in fear of a few psychotic individuals. People who commit these types of despicable acts are already messed up to begin with. Any number of things could push them over the edge. Ultimately, they, and not media, pop culture, etc., are to blame.

  2. If it was a Sleepless in Seattle that this happened in, would we blame the movie or the person? I think if you are nuts enough to do something like this then anything will trigger it. Movies and entertainment in general are always looked at and blamed in times like this. It’s human nature. I do question some things though – on TV they will show the most vicious stuff then bleep out the F bomb. It makes no sense. Why is violence allowed and taking God’s name in vain as well? While the F bomb is bleeped. I’m not saying media is the cause, but maybe we could start putting our priorities in order.

    Great post. Thought provoking.

  3. I agree and thank you for the thought-provoking post. A movie, like a well-written book or well-told story, can take us places. The joy, or pain, of that very human, emotional journey should always be celebrated. Thanks for writing.

  4. Movies don’t glorify villains… the media does! Marilyn Manson wrote an excellent Rolling Stone article about this a while back, and Oliver Stone tackled the issue in Natural Born Killers.

    • I must say that the film industry is a form of the media. Glorifying a villain means making them appealing and and the undoubted stars of the movie. the idea of the dark knight was that the joker be the star and most compelling character which will lead to it’s glorification. The idea was not to hate the character but to be drawn in by him. I don’t blame them for the character or it’s development just saying you have to be prepared for the consequences of it’s development.

  5. Your post is well-reasoned and thoughtful. I believe this quote you included best sums it up: “When attempting to describe a mad criminal to Bruce Wayne, Michael Caine’s character Alfred, inevitably says that the only explaination for some people’s horrible actions is, “Some people just wanna watch the world burn”.
    Movies can influence our emotions. I recall coming out of one of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky movies and being really pumped up – and I’m no gun-toting, brawling female. But compassion and common sense kick in for the majority of us.
    Do I blame “The Dark Night” for the terrorist’s actions in Aurora, Colorado? No. He had 6,000 rounds of ammo hoarded away long before the movie hit the theaters. But I do think movies, TV and video games should take violence down a notch. We are glorifyiing violence too much.

    • Thank you very much. I agree with your thoughts as well. It’s a topic that draws much debate but should be discussed and have awarness brought to it

  6. agree with your opinion that some who see violent films may be prone to act out the violence. but as for the victims in Auroa the nut case could have wound up sadly do the same thing with another film besides the dark knight rises. or another theatre for films are entertainment pure and simple.

  7. I can buy the argument made in “Scream” that movies make bad guys more creative–movies don’t cause someone to be violent, but it can give ideas to those who are unstable. Just look at all the teenagers who injured themselves trying to duplicate stupid stunts from “Jackass”. However, society is much more complex than to simply blame entertainment for what ails us. Movies, television, video games, and music are easy targets that ignore poverty, family strife, drugs, mental illness, abuse, and many other social issues that are difficult to compartmentalize. One reason that Chris Nolan’s Batman films work so well is that they present complex problems with no easy solutions. Evan Batman himself does not have the answers and sometimes screws up in the name of doing good.

    By the way, the Aurora shooter was NOT dressed as the Joker. He dyed his hair red and made a comment to the police about being the Joker, or something like that. The Joker has green hair and wears a flamboyant purple outfit. This nutcase was decked out in battle armor and a gas mask, decidedly un-Joker-like. The media got a hold of the Joker quote and ran with it due to its sensationalism without checking the facts. There was also mention made of a Batman mask and poster found in his apartment. I have a Batman poster or two in my home (though no mask, though I have friends who might own such a thing)–does that mean that I’m going to shoot up a movie theater? The media is in search of quick explanations and things they can continue to dissect 24 hours a day until the next crisis comes along. Quite possibly in this case, there will not be any easy answers, but plenty of sensationalism.

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