Another Tragedy and the Arts

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This past weekend’s big story was supposed to be the opening of the much-anticipated, critically-acclaimed finale in the Batman movie series.  And of course The Dark Knight Rises was in all the news stories this weekend, for all the wrong reasons.  Virtually every story about the shootings at the screening of the new film in Aurora, Colorado mentioned the film, and how the violence on screen not only was mirrored by the gunman’s actions but briefly confused some patrons into mistaking the attack for some kind of theatrical ploy. 

This will inevitably spark the usual debates about the easy access to guns in this country and about the content of contemporary art (films, songs, books, etc.) and its often graphic depictions of violence, sexual activities, drug use, etc.  My daughters were going to the movies yesterday and I asked if they were going to see the new Batman movie.  “No,” my older daughter said; “I don’t wanna see a movie that inspires people to shoot each other.” I pointed out that this was in direct opposition to her own love of gangsta rap and the very well-argued paper defending this much-maligned genre that she’d done for school this past semester.  But I also began wondering to myself if maybe she was a little nervous about copycat events – which certainly seems to have affected the film’s weekend numbers.  (In fact, the industry did not release this weekend’s earnings numbers – an unprecedented move, though the New York Times seems to have gotten hold of the figures and published them today anyway.) 

Well, I wasn’t going to insist they see The Dark Knight Rises.  So they went and saw Magic Mike, the male stripper film, instead. 

The Aurora shooting has also reminded many of us of the Columbine shootings of 1999, which took place not too far from Aurora.  Here too the arts were dragged into the morass, when it came out that the two shooters had listened to shock-rocker Marilyn Manson’s music beforehand.  Ironically, in all of the arguing and hand-wringing that followed, Manson appeared as almost the lone voice of reason, specifically when film maker Michael Moore asked him during the movie Bowling For Columbine what he would say to those kids if they were here now.  “I wouldn’t say a single word to them,” Manson replied. “I would listen to what they have to say, and that’s what no one did.”