Tragedy, Media and Why We Need Batman

Courtesy of Flickr User woicik via the Creative Commons License.

Courtesy of Flickr User woicik via the Creative Commons License.

On Thursday, July 20, America was shocked as a 24-year-old madman opened fire in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, killing 12 people as they anxiously anticipated the finale of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

In the wake of this undeniable tragedy, our country reacted in the best and worst ways possible. The vigils, charity and respect our country has poured into the small Colorado town cannot be overlooked.

Our hearts were wrenched with sadness upon hearing the news. My friend texted me after hearing of the shooting and was overcome with sadness in a time that was meant to be a celebration to what has been one of the best film series of all time.

This reaction is seemingly not uncommon, as our country immediately set off the course of action needed to find any semblance of remedy in a chaotic situation.

However, the shock of pure devastation in front of our eyes has always been a springboard for other – less noble – things.

The media spiraled out of control with the coverage of this shooting.

We’ve been through this before: a tragedy occurs, our nation weeps – and instead of using this as a learning tool (as the media is intended to function), we spiral into a fear-gauged mockery of what we could consider “news.”

Our morbid curiosity fuels the media fire as the story continues to unfold.  As we passively watch Fox, CNN, MSNBC or any of the thousands of stations covering the event, we wonder silently as pundits debate the aftermath that only such a horrific and shocking tragedy could have.

Scott H. Greenfield, who is the author of Simple Justice, wrote a blog highlighting the unreal responses that a media-fueled agenda can create. Mere hours after the shooting, people were clamoring for more violence, his immediate death and fantasized about the shooting suspect’s demise within the criminal justice system.

Of course, we as simple observers are appalled at this man’s actions. But, as a civilized and informed society – as we love to pridefully boast ourselves as – shouldn’t we wait for all of the facts to emerge before clamoring for a decision? Isn’t it the job of the media to uncover these necessary facts? Our media, once again, has failed us. Instead of introducing facts that could lead to answers, only more questions began to steam from their coverage.

Do we need stricter gun laws? One pundit will ask. Maybe he was high while he was shooting the theater? Another might ponder. But worst of all someone somewhere will ask: was it the violent nature of these Batman films that caused such an outrage.

To that I would argue, it’s times like these where Batman is needed.

Yes, Nolan’s Batman trilogy is rife with violent images, psychotic characters and terrorist plans that include holding an entire city hostage – but as they say in the film “that’s the point of Batman.”

Movies are meant to entertain, enlighten, and provoke our imagination. For years, films have acted as one of the most powerful tools of entertainment and Nolan’s trilogy is one of the best examples of what a incredibly well developed, topical and spectacular series can truly be.

On the surface, the caped crusader may seem like a childish fantasy. How can we realistically believe a millionaire playboy scours the rooftops of Gotham City to purge the city of its crime?

But Batman is something more than that. Batman offers us, the audience, a chance to see the horrific events on screen and digest the simple – and oftentimes relevant – motives hell-bent people like the Joker, Scarecrow, Two-Face and Bane can have.

By watching a film such as Nolan’s Batman, we can see what drives men to “watch the world burn” in order to put such dark emotions that unfortunately permeate our society into context, and can better separate it from our own world.

But beyond just showing us allegorical characters that were created by smart comic book writers, Batman is able to show us – even if it is just a glimpse – of what evil men are capable of. Not only that, but the story of Batman shows us how men can stare into the face of evil and still come out on top.

One of the series greatest questions is “why do we fall?” And the answer, quite obviously, is “to learn to pick our selves back up.” Why can’t we take a page from Bruce Wayne’s book and apply this to our society?

So instead of our media plunging us deeper into the abyss of partisanship and asking questions that don’t lead to the answers at hand, perhaps would could learn something from the world’s greatest detective.

Or, if our media has truly failed us, perhaps we need Batman to save us more than we know.


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