Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

'Dark Knight Rises' attack injects real violence into palace of the unreal

There's something exceedingly strange and also very familiar about the setting of America's most recent massacre. The movie theater, scene of a thousand crimes, that temple of fiction where the very act of participation — from the ticket counter to the popcorn stand to the silencing of cell phones — is a muscle-memory pattern toward the acceptance and enjoyment of the unreal.

It's a place where we unburden ourselves of reality, of the humdrum of everyday life, and accept the existence of aliens and monsters and superheroes and unlimited possibility. And we're enthralled by our Hollywood-made fiction, on the edge of our seats, even if we know that in the end everything will work out.

The sap will get the girl. The asteroid will miss Planet Earth. In the nick of time, Batman will foil the Joker's plan.

That's what's peculiar about the scene of Friday's crime: Reality barged in. Real-world violence, which is chastised and shamed and unacceptable in civilized society, intruded on fictionalized violence, which is celebrated and endorsed and consumed in great quantity by the same civilized society.

The result was mass confusion.

Hear a gunshot in a church or school or place of business and the sound is foreign. A gunshot is right at home in a movie theater.

Hayden Miller, a witness to the shooting, told a local TV news station that the scene was "something like you would see in a movie."

By early Friday, the pundits had already begun speculating about the link between the fiction and non. Was the shooter's gas mask and helmet chosen to mimic the Batman villain? Had the killer — identified as James Holmes, a 24-year-old former grad student — seen the movie? Can movies make us carry out evil?

Even those discussions are tinged with nostalgia, something the industry has been pumping lately. It brings to mind Columbine, and the parsing of the shooters' media habits. The mind drifts to John Wilkes Booth, who entered a theater to shoot Abraham Lincoln, whom Hollywood recently raised from the dead to fight vampires, as though a gunman was not scary enough.

It may be a while before we know what brought a heavily armed gunman through the emergency exit and into the darkness of The Dark Knight Rises. What we know is that the bullets were real, that it was not dyed corn syrup pouring from the wounds, that those who died were not extras.

We know that solo superheroes will not protect us in a real and dangerous world. In reality, the best we can hope for is that a line of unsexy, unrecognized heroes save the day — the parent who relays her concern to the authorities, the mentor who takes an interest, the mental health professional who correctly diagnoses, the police and security guards who stand alert.

The next villain is waiting in the wings.

Information from Times wires was used in this report. Ben Montgomery can be reached at bmontgomery@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8650.

'Dark Knight Rises' attack injects real violence into palace of the unreal 07/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, July 20, 2012 9:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Joe Henderson: Other good works can't balance theft from vulnerable victims

    Columns

    What price can you put on your good name?

    This renovated group home once was operated by HARC. The group's former CEO Richard Lilliston was credited with raising millions for the agency but has been sentenced to prison for stealing Social Security from clients with developmental disabilities. [Times file]
  2. Five reasons why Kentucky can beat Florida for the first time since 1986

    College

    By Matt Baker

    GAINESVILLE — Florida's 30-game winning streak over Kentucky is one of the most impressive feats in the country.

    Florida Gators offensive lineman Martez Ivey (73) celebrates Florida Gators running back Mark Thompson's  (24) touch down in the first quarter, putting Florida on the board 6-0 during the game between the University of Florida and the University of Kentucky in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Kentucky 45-7. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times

  3. Once targeted by the Bucs, Dalvin Cook thrills for the Vikings

    Bucs

    How good would the Bucs be with running back Dalvin Cook?

    Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) slips a tackle by Steelers strong safety Sean Davis (28) to score a touchdown Sunday in Pittsburgh. [AP photo]
  4. Review: More than 20 years later, 'RENT' still matters

    Stage

    TAMPA — Two decades after Rent shook up Broadway with a starkly joyous musical that demanded to be recognized, a nostalgic tour is taking audiences back.

    The 20th anniversary tour of RENT, shown in 2016, comes to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 19-24, 2017. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
  5. Dennis Miller, headed to Tampa with Bill O'Reilly: 'We don't know each other that well'

    Events

    Dennis Miller often gets cast as the odd comic out these days.

    Dennis Miller will perform with Bill O'Reilly at the Spin Stops Here Tour at Amalie Arena in Tampa. [Spuffy Productions]