Blatant Insubordination: The Colorado Shootings, Fanboys and Batman
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Until earlier today, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to discuss the Colorado shooting tragedy. The kind of thoughts that swim through your mind when something like this happens aren’t necessarily ideal material for a site like PI. But since Friday morning, some of the images that have been popping up in my social media news feeds have had a recurring theme. They’re all more or less in the same ballpark as this…
Yeah, I’ve got something to say.
So unless you’ve been living under a rock with cotton in your ears for the past few days, you know that at a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, a 24-year-old neuroscience student named James Holmes burst into a theater through an emergency exit and began shooting at moviegoers whose only crime was wanting to see the new Batman movie at a late hour. Twelve people were killed. Many more were injured, some critically. Thankfully, police caught Holmes and took him into custody.
The way Americans react to stuff like this is…odd. Television and the internet have desensitized us so much to seemingly random acts of heinous violence that so much of it goes in one ear and out the other. I say this because I’m as guilty of it as anyone. Our culture’s attention span is so damn short that we usually only remember the tragedies that are somehow connected to our own lives, however menial those connections might be. What I’ve always remembered about the Columbine High School shootings is how everybody talked about them at school. Suddenly gun jokes were REALLY not cool, and everybody was wondering, “Could it happen here?” I suppose at the end of there are only two things that really matter: 1. What did we learn from this tragedy? 2. How this event and the victims are remembered. It’s the second point that I’m taking issue with here.
This tragedy happened during the screening of a Batman movie, and supposedly Holmes shouted “I’m the Joker!” before he opened fire. This sparked the creation of various online memoriams, many of which featured Batman, the Batman symbol, a ribbon, etc. A portion of the fanboy community also seemed to get a defensive about the whole thing, more or less saying things like: “Holmes does not represent us! That’s not what we’re about!”
Frankly, I find all of this to be rather tasteless. Yes, this happened during a Batman movie. But for the love of God, THIS IS NOT ABOUT BATMAN OR THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. This is about a sick man who went some place where he knew a lot of people would be and killed or injured many of them for no good reason. What we should be doing is keeping those families that have now been torn apart by this senseless act of violence in our hearts and minds, and pondering the simple question of “Why?” Why does someone do this? What pushes someone to that point, and what can we do to stop it from happening again?
I understand that the people who are lumping Batman and The Dark Knight Rises in with this tragedy don’t necessarily mean any harm. But it’s still not right. Associating the image of an American icon like Batman with a tragedy like this risks having that icon overshadow the things we should be thinking about, and instead directing the attention to the fact that it happened at a Batman movie. Imagine how the families of those we lost might feel about that. Think of it this way: What if this had happened at say, a big fantasy/sci fi film like Lord of the Rings or Star Wars? If you’d just lost a loved one needlessly and violently, how would you feel about seeing an image of a Hobbit holding flowers, or C-3PO with a ribbon or something like that? It’s not necessarily disrespectful, but it’s tacky. It’s the wrong thing to do.
As for fans being defensive, I don’t think that’s necessary at all. I’ve been to comic conventions, I’ve been to midnight screenings, I’ve been to autograph signings, and the most of people you see there aren’t violent, cruel or malicious. Some are a little socially awkward, I guess. But that’s the extent of it. I think most people understand this. And incase it needs to be said by one more person, it is still okay to love Batman and superheroes, it is still okay to see The Dark Knight Rises, it’s still okay to be passionate about all that stuff. As I said, this isn’t about Batman. It’s about James Holmes and whatever’s happening in his head.
I’m not the right guy to tell you why this happened, or what could have been done to prevent it, or even how to stop it from happening again. That’s not my area of expertise. But one thing I do know is that bigger assholes than James Holmes have tried to make some kind of bold statement through senseless violence, and nine times out of 10, that’s just doesn’t work. As a society, we’re pretty ridiculous sometimes. But we don’t do the whole being pushed around thing very well. In the end, we always bounce back. And at the end of the day, despite this terribly savage tragedy, so will all the people connected to it.
You failed Jimmy.
Front page image from littleleaguecomic.tumblr.com. Image 2 from facebook.com/comicbookman. Image 3 from piedtype.wordpress.com.