Sunday, May 25, 2014


I have nothing new to offer in response to the 23 May Santa Barbara killing spree. Instead, I’ll post a short essay from my book It Happened at the Movies here.

No guns, no killing.
- Batman (Christopher Nolan's The dark Knight Rises)

You can't get around the fact that people who carry guns tend to get shot more than people who don't.
- Abernathy (Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof)

Movies don’t create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative.
- Billy (Wes Craven’s Scream)

Many household items can be used a weapons, but firearms serve no other purpose than to inflict harm upon others.
- My pappy

On July 20, 2012, James Holmes Some Gun-toting Asshole who shouldn’t be made a celebrity, 24, entered the Century Aurora Theater in Aurora, Colorado, and opened fire on those attending a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Some Gun-toting Asshole killed 12 people and injured 58.

In the wake of this tragedy, two tired debates have flared up again: “Should we rethink the second amendment?” and “Do cultural texts have a negative effect on their audiences?”
I’ll be brief about the gun issue. Americans pride themselves on having a limited government; they would not take kindly to it if their constitutional right to keep and bear arms were to be restricted. Besides, banning firearms would have the same impact as making heroin illegal: none whatsoever. If a determined American wants to own a pistelero, they will find a way.
Personally, I find the argument that lives could have been saved had moviegoers carried guns both ludicrous and maddening. In such naïve scenarios, our hypothetical heroes are in a constant state of heightened alertness and clarity, standing by to respond in a swift and infallible manner. Nevertheless, tempting as it may be to point an accusing finger at the second amendment, it would be unwise to forget that the USA is by no means the only country that allows private citizens to own firearms. Just look at Switzerland’s unique and successful gun politics. What’s going on in the United States appears to be a sociocultural problem. A more interesting debate question would thus be: Why do these kinds of shooting rampages usually occur on American soil?
Some saw fit to put the blame on the The Dark Knight franchise. Some Gun-toting Asshole's attire vaguely resembled that of main villain Bane; his hair was dyed a ghastly orange; he allegedly told his arresting officers that he was The Joker.
I don't believe in “art imitating life.” It’s always the other way around. Even an extravagant film like Star Wars, which features far away galaxies and alien species, takes its cues from life as we know it by dealing with all too familiar emotions such as love, fear, jealousy, hatred, and hope.
I also don't believe in a hypothetical situation where a Joe Doakes comes home from work, kisses the missus, plays with the 2.5 kids, enjoys supper, turns on the boob tube for some R&R, and then morphs into a trigger-happy mass-murderer when he happens upon The Expendables while channel-surfing.
I do believe, however, that if Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and the second amendment didn’t exist, Some Gun-toting Asshole still would have come to the decision to harm people.
And he would have found a way to do it.

A Smith & Wesson M&P15. One of the guns used in the Aurora shootings.

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