I grew up reading comic books. I get excited when comic movies come out with the characters I grew up reading. I remember the anticipation for the Tim Burton movies. They were a monumental event for my younger self. My identity was defined by the myths of superheroes. I loved the Christopher Nolan Batman movies. I was really looking forward to the release of The Dark Knight rises for many reasons. First because I always get excited for superhero movies. Second because I wanted to find some kind of ending or closure. I have grown weary of American cinema and am ready to just walk away from it. I wanted to see the last and final Batman film. I wanted to close the book on that chapter of my life.
When I got rid of my television and started to read more and embrace a stance against violence it became more difficult to watch films that use violence in a glorified manner. Watching violence for the sake of violence as entertainment began to increasingly bother me. I grew up with fantasies of kicking ‘peoples asses.’ I grew up with a desire to hulk out. I had fantasies where I had wonderful powers and when ‘bad guys’ came around I would hulk out or morph into a powerful hero who would beat up or physically demolish the ‘bad guy’. Of course these bad guys took many forms in my juvenile fantasies. They would be armed villains, mass murderers or even the kids that bothered me or picked on me.
When I grew older I did act out aggressively. I was expelled from many schools because of violence. I went on to become an adult who would go to bars and get in fights. I didn’t ‘talk trash’, I just went off heat butting or throwing punches, physically attacking whoever it was that confronted me in an aggressive manner. The milieu I had found myself in was one that was drawn to extreme violent and aggressive media. We embraced an era and genre of cinema that was excessive seeking the most brutal and disturbing depictions one could imagine.
As life went on I was immersed in many forms of violence in music, comics, cinema and more. And as life went on I found myself experiencing on many levels forms of violence. Living in an urban environment, being in the USMC and other experiences placed the reality of violence right in front of me. It began to bother me. As I examined myself and grew in my ethics as an anarchist, I could not watch military movies anymore. They would upset and disturb me bringing up many difficult emotions. I had taken away much of the media I was absorbing when I got rid of my TV and I began to feel impacted when I would see these images. I began to heal and I began to see these images in a different light. Much of the joy I found in these out of my innocence was gone. Through life I had been confronted with the reality of what was being depicted on screen. I could not watch without seeing the problems of what was being shown. It was not as simple as just seeing the movie. Now they made me uncomfortable. I began to see the ideas that I see as problematic in our society being reinforced in these films.
I went to the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. I was excited to see the movie. Throughout it I saw the myth that violence is the answer to our problems reinforced. I saw person after person terrorized, brutalized and murdered on screen for entertainment. The antagonist was the socialist who was just seeking to kill while claiming he does it in the name of the people. The protagonists were people who used force and violence to save the day. The whole film went against everything I am trying to oppose in what is wrong with how our society is structured. When I got home after watching violence, brutality and murder on screen I got online. Google news was reporting on the Dark Knight shooting. James Holmes walked into a Colorado theater and started shooting and killing people. The first thing that I thought of was how I just got home from watching the very behavior on screen for fun. Here we see it happen in real life and it is a tragedy. It wasn’t happening during a film about peace or love, but at a film that depicts the very behavior that is going on here in real life.
I am not writing to address censorship of media or to address gun control issues. The important part of this to me is to open dialogue about this violence. We watch it numb to the reality of what we are seeing. How much of this is inspired by what we see in life? How much does the messages in these films reinforce our embrace of violence? The heroes and the villains look cool while murdering people. The Colorado gunman took on the persona of the Joker a character from the previous Batman film. We need to discuss the messages we get about violence in these films and we need to discuss how much this impacts people. For many these messages reinforce an acceptance of violence. For those who oppose violence we should be asking just exactly what messages this gives others and ourselves. We need to stop blindly accepting violence and begin to have real discussion about it. It is not enough to say we oppose it. When we embrace it in culture we see those messages seeping out of the screen and infecting countless minds who have not evaluated the ethics of the use of violence in our culture.