Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dark Day

First of all, let me begin by saying that my sincerest sympathies are with the victims and their families of the theatre shooting in Colorado.  I have thought of very little else since Greg woke me up yesterday morning to tell me he had bad news.  For a person who is rarely lost for words, I find there are no good words here.

When Greg woke me at 7:00 yesterday morning, I had been in bed a little less than three and a half hours after coming home from my own Dark Knight experience, which was the polar opposite of those poor people in Colorado.  My eyes slid over to my jewelry chest, where the souvenir lanyard my fellow movies goers and I all got to wear during our marathon session of all three movies lay after I had stripped it off on my way to the bed.  I was still wearing my new Batman t-shirt, having decided I was too tired to even change and just crawled under the covers to catch a few hours before a full day of work. But, it had been a happy tired.  Maybe that makes my shock and sorrow worse, I'm not sure.  I'd like to think I'd be in shock and saddened over the event regardless, but there was the added component that I feel so involved with these films.  All of Pittsburgh feels that way to an extent about the new film.  The anticipation had been building here all week.  This was a big deal for the city, which has been featured in a lot of other movies before, but never with anything of this stature.  We were all anxious to be showcased to the world in a movie with the chops this one promised to have, and for those of us who had been lucky enough to be involved in the actual film as extras, that excitement was heightened a little more.  But, I am so enamored of The Dark Knight, holding it up as one of the best movies I have ever seen, which has never wavered in all the many times I have seen it, I had been like a kid waiting for Christmas for weeks now.

Marissa and I had shared a wonderful time.  For us, this has been a complicated summer, and I have not spent a lot of time with her, so in the hours before the first film rolled, we were able to catch up a little and we actually talked, both buoyed up by the heady anticipation of seeing the movie we literally had a lot of sweat equity in.  The theatre management had the process down for us.  One of the managers came in several times before and during our almost ten hour long experience to tell us what to expect, how long we'd have between films, where we could find restrooms, places for smoke breaks and how best to get additional concessions without long lines. The lanyards were our identification tags so we could get discounts on concessions as the long night wore on and so we could come and go without hassle, but it also serves as a souvenir that we can keep as a reminder of the event.  It's a slick marketing idea.  And of course, the crowd was absolutely pumped to be there, so it was a like a party atmosphere.  Some people were dressed up, others, like myself, just had Batman or Dark Knight t-shirts, and of course there was the not uncommon sighting of Hines Ward jerseys, since he is the player who runs across the field as it blows up.

The huge amount of greasy popcorn we ate is messing with my stomach still, my head is throbbing due to lack of sleep (on the day of my family reunion no less), and I'm exhausted, but it would be a good exhaustion if not for what I woke up to the next morning.  Now I realize the movie will forever - or for a long time anyway - be tainted by the tragedy at the Colorado movie theatre.  I know, I know.  That is hardly important in comparison to the real-life tragedy of the people whose lives have been torn apart and forever changed as a result.  But, I'd be completely lying if I told you I didn't regret the fact that, if this was somehow fated to happen, it revolved around a movie franchise I love so much.  And my own very happy experience with the rolling out of the movie just seems to spotlight the horror a little more.

The debate will ensue, I have no doubt, over the role violence in movies played in the massacre.  I saw comments online yesterday about some of the young victims, asking what were they even doing there.  I confess, I had some of the same thoughts.  In addition to the simple fact that taking your infant to a midnight show is not a great idea and it's rude to your fellow movie-goers, this is not a film that a young child should see.  He's called the Dark Knight for a reason people.  And that reason has nothing to do with the outfit being black.  I remember walking out of the second film for the first time feeling a little stunned actually by how dark a film it was.  Then I realized I loved that fact about it.  Well, this final installment is darker.  A lot darker.  A nine-year-old cannot appreciate the complexities of the themes being touched on in the trilogy.  But, at the same time, of course a nine-year-boy wants to see a movie about a comic book hero.  I see the conundrum - it's not a kids' movie, but it's heavily marketed, and when you sell bat masks on the toy aisles at Walmart, what do you expect to have happen?  So, does that mean that we're setting our society up for more James Holmes'?  Maybe, but consider this.  What would you attribute the killing of six million Jews to?  Adolf Hitler certainly had some help leading the world into a world-wide conflict that saw a concentrated effort to wipe out an entire ethnic group, and there was no Spiderman or Batman to point fingers to then.

No, there was some sort of catalyst there that so tragically set him off, but he was a disaster waiting to happen regardless of this movie.  We have to look at what it is about individuals like John Shick, the Western Psych shooter here in Pittsburgh and this young man, both brilliant, but deeply troubled, and see how we can identify and help them before they become household names for the wrong reasons and rob others of their chance at life.  But, it's a cop-out to blame the movie for the deep dark of that young man's mind.

Maybe you are wondering if I will go to the movie again.  I had to think about that myself briefly.  The idea that somebody might pull a copycat crime, particularly in one of the cities where it was filmed, definitely crossed my mind.  But, the answer is absolutely yes.  Just as soon as I possibly can.  Here's what I finally decided:  I can get hit by a car walking the dog.  I can drop dead of a heart attack doing the same thing.  Life is uncertain.  I'm not going to stop living it just because of that fact.  I am going to place my faith in the basic goodness of humanity and accept that this is a tragedy, a horrible, horrible tragedy, but an isolated one.

The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Brother Studios, 2012

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