Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cautious to Write about the Aurora Shooting: An Index of Conversations

Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, CO. Crime scene July 20, 2012
I'm cautious to write about the Aurora shooting during the midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises. Although, there is part of me that feels like this blog space is the place where something should be added to the conversation. You can see how previous post could easily interplay with topics related to this event.

Believe me, I don't feel short of angles to discuss, and I've heard and seen some of those angles already discussed. With minimal editorializing, particularly with limited details being released, I'd prefer to catalog the topics that could be discussed here.

Topics like:

The Connection Between Film Content & Events. Believe me, I think this conversation will continue to come up. If the shooting occurred in a midnight showing of The Great Gatsby or The Exotic Marigold Hotel, that would be a different matter, but regardless of what the suspected perpetrator James Holmes had in mind, there was some related film connection. I feel like it's way to early to speculate much further, even with news reports and eye witness reports regarding Holmes referencing himself as the Joker, or his potentially red-dyed hair for the massacre. The conversation will undoubtedly continue to be connected to the film itself, as well as it's content. One of the things I have praised Christopher Nolan for doing in Batman was making his mentally deranged criminals believable, and had previously compared the Joker character to anthrax killer Bruce Ivans. It is truly tragic that there is even any room for comparison to criminals in these films and real life.

The Violation of Entertainment Space. People go to movies to escape, relax, and hide out for a couple hours in dark room surrounded by intentionally invasive sound and moving image. Yet, the element of fear in the public space is one that surely is part of the past decade since school shootings such as Columbine (1999) and fears of terrorist attacks associated with major sporting events. It's one thing to worry that a punk kid behind you will throw their sour patch kids or popcorn at you in the theater, it's another thing to feel like you need to be more aware of your surroundings for your safety. I have blogged at least twice on movie theater deaths, one a health related death with theater negligence in Fort Collins, Colorado earlier this year, the other a suicide during Watchman in 2009. Both these deaths previously were unsettling, but not enough to impact the way I felt in a movie theater environment. This type of event is different in that way.

The Impact of Dark Knight Rises Box-office & Theaters. Warner Brothers in the name of sensitivity is not announcing their box office statistics throughout the weekend. And it's hard to say how the shooting will impact the final numbers, and speculation and news stories are sure to try to figure out how to get at these types of details, particularly when numbers are revealed at the end of the weekend. No doubt, this film will still be a huge box office behemoth, but trying to determine the impact of this tragedy will be impossible. Not only that, it will be hard to tell if this might be for some just another reason to stay away from the pricey theaters who's product has become less and less differentiated from the viewing experience people get at home.

General Conversations About Violence/Gun Control. It took less than 24 hours after the event for me to notice in my personal Facebook feed a number of people writing defensive posts about their right to guns. Plenty of post saying "Guns don't kill people, people do" and then going on to support that position, or present a disagreement with that position.

Males in their Twenties. Whether it's national news magazines or personal experience, I feel like I've heard a number of people talk about the extension of adolescence for males going well into their twenties. I got my haircut yesterday and believe me, a lady there was ranting about how males in their twenties don't know how to have interpersonal relationships, talk to people on the phone, or have a worldview wider than their online social network. Agree, disagree, or find yourself somewhere in the middle, the conversation is coming.

Children and Violent Media. Regardless of the target audience for films like The Dark Knight Rises or other violent files (more or less violent), these films are often watched by children. I noticed this when my wife and I watched The Avengers in the theater earlier this year, and were shocked that a father had brought his three kids to the film, including his youngest, a four year old. With a limited victim list reported, the media has anchored to an age range of those who have been hurt or injured revealing a range of 3 months to 45 years old. The 3 month year old listed was hospitalized, but released, but different families have different values related to their media discernment, but an event like this will certainly ignite a conversation.

Film Studios Reactionary Sensitivity. As soon as an event like this happens questions arise to how will film makers respond (both Warner Brothers and Christopher Nolan did respond, both with statements and action, in this case, canceling the film premier in Paris). But to me what is even more interesting is that the period film Gangster Squad staring Sean Penn due later this year was a film preview for this movie at some sites. This film preview showed a mass shooting with automatic weapons at a theater, but has now been removed as a film preview associated with The Dark Knight Rises. Part of my interest in this is because it reminded me of a similar event earlier this year with the film Neighborhood Watch (since renamed The Watch) which found similar surprise bad press when it's promotional materials were released just prior to Treyvon Martin's death earlier this yaer at the hands of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in Florida.   

Politics - The Presidential Election : For whatever reason, whether logical or illogical, the media has seemed to grasp onto how Barack Obama and presumed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have responded to the events, either with their typical "our hearts and prayers are with the people of Aurora" statements, as well as there withdrawal from heavy handed politics for the day of the event. There seems to be hardly anything interesting here to discuss with this topic, all the same, the topic is in the air. It seems to be more a media conversation, than something part of the broader public's conversation. Although, depending on how it is played, that doesn't mean it can't shape political discussions at a later date.

The Aurora Shooting & Columbine. The events are over a decade apart, but both major mass shooting media events just under 20 miles apart from one another. The conversation will undoubtedly in some circles be on the similarities between these two events, or how these two events have nothing in common.

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