Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We Have Nothing to Fear ....

Last Friday morning, I woke up with a lot on my mind.  It was the final day of speech camp, an intense three-day workshop an alum and I had set up to prepare my team for the upcoming season.  It was opening night of the summer one acts my Drama kids and I had been working on all summer.  I had a field trip the next day to take my Drama kids to see The Pirates of Penzance.  One thing I knew for sure about my weekend was that I would be unable to see The Dark Knight Rises, and I was bummed.  I have recently come to terms with the fact that I love superhero movies, a fact I'd kind of shrugged off before but which gets harder and harder to dismiss with the increased Hollywood output of some pretty amazing comic book superhero films.  Out of all superheroes, I love Batman the best -- a love that goes back to my childhood and watching Adam West, to my late adolescence and Michael Keaton, and to adulthood and Christian Bale.  I've seen every Batman movie on opening weekend (except for the Adam West version from the 60's due to the whole not being born thing), so it was disappointing to miss out on this final installment of a trilogy that renewed my love for the Caped Crusader.  But I reminded myself of the whole "grown up responsibilities" thing and consoled myself with the fact that seeing it Tuesday afternoon would mean a less crowded auditorium and cheaper ticket price.

As I was getting ready to go to speech camp, I did the same thing I do every morning when I'm getting ready for work -- I turned on CNN.  Within seconds, the horror of what had happened early Friday morning in Aurora, Colorado.  I struggled to process what I was hearing.  Who would do such a thing? Who would walk into a theatre and just open fire on people who were there to just watch a movie?  I thought about how excited the people in the theatre must have been as the lights dimmed and that Warner Brothers logo appeared on the screen and how confused they must have been when the attack started and how scared they must have been as the events unfolded.  In my mind, I kept seeing my local theatre and imagining the scene unfolding in the auditorium where I've seen so many films. To say I was horrified would be an understatement.

Over the course of the weekend, more stories from the attack came to light and left my mind reeling.  I won't lie -- as much as I rolled my eyes when I saw people on Facebook expressing fear of going to the movies in light of what happened in Colorado, I was a little nervous myself this morning when I woke up.  It wasn't that I was afraid of an attack happening here in my little town.  It was more the idea that the peace and sanctity that I associate with movies was shattered.  The movies had always been a place of escape, where I could experience any range of things -- romance, adventure, terror, triumph, but it was a place where I could experience those things safely and vicariously.  When James Holmes walked through the emergency exit with his arsenal and opened fire on the innocent audience, he stripped away the vicarious and brought the horror of our world into the sanctuary.  He let us know that there was no place where we were truly safe anymore.  When the notice came on screen reminding us to check for our emergency exits and to exit safely should the need arise, I thought of those people in Colorado.  The film features several scenes of villains storming crowds and innocent people coming to face to face with horrific violence.  I imagined those scenes playing out behind Holmes's rampage (as reports indicate it took quite some time for the film to be turned off in that auditorium).

Instead of being scared, though, I grew angry.  I am angry the actions of one sad, sick little man are casting a pall over the art of storytelling.  I am angry that my stomach dropped a little when Bane blew up the football field rather than thrilling in the spectacle of an intense scene.  I am angry that future film releases are being sent back to bay for fear that their dediting epiction of violence may be deemed insensitive or "too soon", as is the case with the upcoming Gangster Squad, a film that features a pivotal movie theatre shootout that will likely be excised from the film even though Entertainment Weekly refers to it as a "key scene."  I am angry that DC Comics is pushing back the release of Batman Incorporated because, as artist Chris Burnham said on Twitter, "There's a specific scene that made DC and the whole Bat-team say, 'Yikes.'  Too close for comfort."  I am angry that a pretty spectacular film (and The Dark Knight Rises is a pretty spectacular film) will probably forever have this shadow of senseless violence over it.

What James Holmes wanted to do last Friday morning was strike fear into hearts.  What we need to do now is channel that fear into anger and defiance.  Don't let him and other lunatics like him take away our art -- whether it's film or music or literature.  Don't let ourselves cower to the tyranny of fear.  There is a scene in The Dark Knight Rises that rang powerfully with me today -- Bane has reduced Gotham to a sort of anarchistic police state (if that makes any sense).  The Gotham police force gathers together and begins marching toward Bane's headquarters, marching into a situation that is sure to be dangerous, that may likely resuilt in their death, and yet they do so courageously, defiantly, proudly.  Now is the time for moviegoers and concertgoers and readers to be courageous, defiant, and proud.  Don't cower in fear but reclaim what is ours and embrace our arts even when they force us to confront some scary things, whether it's real-world violence or yet another Tyler Perry movie.  That movie theatre is ours -- never forget that.

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