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Monday, July 23, 2012

Is It Time To Rethink Violent Entertainment Culture?

Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from the action thriller “The Dark Knight Rises.” (AP/Warner Bros. Pictures, Ron Phillips)

The shootings in Aurora, Colorado have many asking if there is a link between violent movies and gun violence.

Roger Ebert wrote in the New York Times that he doesn’t know if there’s a connection.

James Holmes, who opened fire before the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,” could not have seen the movie. Like many whose misery is reflected in violence, he may simply have been drawn to a highly publicized event with a big crowd. In cynical terms, he was seeking a publicity tie-in. He was like one of those goofballs waving in the background when a TV reporter does a stand-up at a big story.

But Boston Globe Film critic Ty Burr thinks it may be time for a conversation about violence in entertainment, and the mentality of fans of these films.

Let’s be clear about this: James Holmes is not the poster child for anything but the sickness in his head. Yet it’s difficult, at this point, to fully separate the act of a single deranged man from the all-encompassing mania this series engenders in a surprising number of people. For millions, “The Dark Knight Rises” is just a movie (and, to this critic, a very good one). For a vocal contingent on the fringes, it’s much more — a film that has to be perfect for the world to make any sense at all.

Earlier in the week, the popular movie review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes suspended user comments for “The Dark Knight Rises” because fans were directing multiple death threats and rape threats at critics who had dared to give the film less than a perfect grade. Reviewers like the Associated Press’s Christy Lemire and movie blogger Marshall Fine were promised physical extinction for daring to not like a movie that those posting the threats hadn’t even seen.


  • Ty Burr, Boston Globe film critic

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  • J__o__h__n

    Nonsense.  The problem is lax standards for dealing with the mentally ill and NRA zealots refusing any sane gun regulation.  Normal people can watch movies without killing people. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

    The Batman movies by Christopher Nolan are much less violent than many of the other movies released in the last decade.

  • J Frog

    The smoke we put into our lungs and the junk food we put into our stomachs effects our physical health…why shouldn’t the violence that we put into our brains not effect our mental health?  I doubt we will ever see a mass killing during a “Downton Abbey” showing.

    • Guest

       A mind is a terrible thing to waste – UNLESS, I guess,  it’s an American mind!!!!

  • Guest

      What rights do little kids have NOT to be taken to a violent, loud, traumatic, movie – AT MIDNIGHT???

    What if a foster family had taken their small kids to a movie like this?  What would social services have done? Does the desire for adults to have some “late night fun”, trump a parents obligation to do what is best for their kids (including protecting their hearing)?

    Shouldn’t there be a law that prevents kids under 12 from entering an R rated movie, even if accompanied by an adult (don’t know if Batman was ‘R’, or PG-13)?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

       I think we have enough laws already

      • Guest

         To protect kids? Ask Penn State if we have enough laws!

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/YI7JPHPR4F6T2PALUHX4CXUHWQ It

          What at Penn State did we already not have a law to cover?

          • Guest

             The one that throws LOTS more people in jail – THAT one! The that throws anyone that knew about what was going on in jail.

      • Guest

        Then I guess enforcement must be the problem, eh, when babies and 6 year old kids are taken to movies like this – at MIDNIGHT! Kids don’t need to see and hear this crap when they are that young.  American “adults” need to grow up and stop acting like 8 year old’s – that goes for the gun obsession too.  I gave up my “six-shooter” when I was 10.

        Folks, it’s a movie about a guy who dresses like a bat! – that can’t wait a few weeks (Warner Brothers)? At least the French and some other countries had the decency to cancel showings for a while. 

  • Mike

    If we consider ‘regulating’ movies for inspiring violence, then how much more should we consider ‘regulating’ religions, because they inspire MUCH MORE violence!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=607008107 Joseph Shaffer

    Overall, I agree with Mr. Burr in that there should be a discussion regarding the depictions of violence in the entertainment media. I disagree with his view that the popularity of Nolan’s Batman movies is due to its ability to overcome the crisis of identity of its viewers.  Your discussion comes close but misses the point to, what I believe, is the real reason why these movies strike those of my generation so strongly.  Nolan’s movies resonate, not just because they allow an escape from the lived world, but because they provide an insight into the world that we live. We see in these films a world of insensitive violence and chaos, and this resonates so strongly because this is what we see in the lived world. 

    I was in the 7th grade when the September 11th attacks occurred. That act of mass death seemed incomprehensible in its motives and its scope. It shattered our sense of physical security, that we could wrap ourselves in a blanket of security and be safe. It left in its wake a confusing world where people you never met wished your death, not for your own actions, but because of your national identity. It demonstrated our vulnerabilities and in its wake left an indelible mark on how we viewed ourselves and the world around us.

    Nolan’s movies resonate to me and my generation because it strikes to the core of these unspoken emotions, these fears and crisis of place in our world. The Dark Knight is the exemplar of this, with Heath Ledger’s Joker embodying the force of violence and chaos. His actions are incomprehensible, his actions are violent to the extreme and is bound to no moral code or rule. And he aims to prove that within each of us is this same capacity, that we are all as dark and twisted as he is. And the ferry boat scene, the cathartic moment in the movie, proves that he is wrong. There is redemption, even in the most hardened of criminals, that defies the violent insanity of the Joker. 

    Batman represents what is good in ourselves and in our world. He is a beacon, not only to the citizens of fictional Gotham, but to the US and everywhere in the world. It transcends the screen and comes out to us in the audience. Even though there is violence, confusion and death in our world, even though we may not understand it, at least we know that that is not all that exists in our world. That we can stand strong in defiance to such violence. Real world events like the shooting in Aurora, at Virigina Tech, at Columbine, do show us that people are capable of violent actions, but also show that there is courage and heroism. And thus is the concept of Batman, and the fictional world where he stand fast against violence, so compelling and so emotionally resonating.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YI7JPHPR4F6T2PALUHX4CXUHWQ It

    Batman is an inspiration against crime. If this lunatic was inspired
    by it he would have shot a drug dealer. The thing that is more inspirational to
    these sick individuals is their legacy left by the news media and a court system that will not allow us to remove them from this earth.

    • ask

       He’s playing the Joker, not Batman.

  • D.M.

    I have a few friends, all in their early to mid 30′s, who still live their parents and are members of the “omniverse” Mr. Burr mentions.  Their lives revolve around playing the latest video games and watching movies and TV shows.   I’ve given up trying to get them out of the house and any attempt at doing so is rebutted with accusations of being judgmental.   How do you put a greater value in reality when a generation is so stubborn to avoid it?

  • Pepper

    Yes, yes, yes!!! A hundred-thousand times YES. We are so immersed in violence as a form of entertainment it isn’t any wonder people turn to it when they’ve snapped mentally. God help us.

  • Guest

    Violence in any number of forms has always been, and will forever continue to be, a part of the human condition. There is no amount of legislation, no dumbing down of the myriad forms of entertainment, and no censorship of literature or artistic expression which will alter the behavior of humanity as a whole. It is not our responsibility to advocate for laws second-guessing where or what time a parent can choose to take their children on a Friday night, nor to dictate what others “should” or “shouldn’t” find entertaining. 

  • Miles

    I think we do need to have a conversation about the mentality of fanboys and how the internet enables despicable cyber bullying due to a perceived lack of accountability in the eye of the abuser. That’s serious stuff. But I don’t buy the argument that violent films create a violent society. Canada and Europe watch the same films we do, and you don’t see bi-weekly shooting sprees in their communities.

    • Jan

      What about Norway–it’s been exactly one year and you’ve already forgotten?  What about school shootings in the UK?  The attack on pre-schoolers in China? The shooting at the mall in Toronto that one of the Colorado victims had survived one month ago? 

  • Jonrbeasley

    What this man has done is deplorable, but I find it deplorable as well to talk of infringing on our constitutional rights because of it.  Many have died for free-speech, many have watched violent content without incident, and many commit violence through motivations that escape rational thought.  A normal person does not come to the conclusion of shooting anyone, especially innocent children, from ANY legitimate rationale.

    Even the argument that exposure to violence jades us to it is short of a worthless one; if violent stimuli begets violence how do we insulate everyone from all violence at all times?  Good lucking banning war, and censoring the press from covering news/facts is more dangerous than violent entertainment could ever be.

    Plus, watching C-Span/polotics makes me angrier and more prone to violence than any movie can.

  • guest

    I have not seen the these new dark batman movies because they are dark and violent.  The batman that I grew up with was cheesy and was the good guy.  This batman is dark and is a bad “good” guy, the line is blurred.  The violence and the excessive “action” of today’s movies desensitize the emotions  and mind to accept and normalize it.  It takes more and more violence etc. to get the desired ‘high’ of excitement from them.  The previous level of violence, anger, action becomes acceptable and “normal”.  It is disturbing that so many people now rave about how “good” these types of movies are and cannot sit through a movie without it.

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