Batman Is Not to Blame for ‘Dark Knight Rises’ Shooting, Says Pop Culture Historian Christopher Irving (EXCLUSIVE GUEST BLOG)

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Writing exclusively for Celebuzz, pop culture historian and ‘Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics’ (with Seth Kushner) author Christopher Irving says that — though some may blame the violence in the Batman series for the recent Colorado shooting — pointing the finger at the franchise is playing right into shooter James Holmes’ “pathetic game.”

It’s great when pop culture reflects life, but scary as all hell when life seems to reflect pop culture. Last week was no exception, when a gunman mowed down several people in a movie theater during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. The media was, naturally, looking for a connection between the gunman and the film.

There wasn’t much luck in connecting him with DKR villain Bane (who wears a gasmask…of sorts, and body armor), but the gunman’s self-admitted Joker claim was definite, and pretty soon no stone was unturned in trying to find a parallel in the Batman comics.

What came up was a page from Frank Miller’s seminal 1986 graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, where a lone gunman (with red hair, like the Aurora one) shoots three moviegoers in a porn theater. If that didn’t inspire the killer, attention also went to the scene where Joker gassed an entire studio audience to death as a model.

The most ironic point of all of this is the running theme in Dark Knight Returns of a media that blatantly distorts the truth: the scene immediately following the movie theater shooting (which we never actually see…Miller “cuts away” before the gun can be drawn) has the TV news erroneously calling the porn theater “Batman-inspired.” Dark Knight Returns revolves around society’s shaping by that media, something that stands to be the only relevant tie between the comics and the massacre.

The past few days has felt like history repeating itself, as people are looking at the surface elements in a vain effort to create a news story or try to understand the rationale of a disturbed individual. Just look to thirteen years ago with the Columbine High shooting, or even back to the late ‘40s and ‘50s, when comic books were blamed for causing everything from juvenile delinquency to sexual depravity. When you consider the 73 years’ worth of Batman stories, with their Freudian rogues’ gallery, that’s thousands of stories where parallels could be drawn and similarities imposed to countless crimes.

So, why do we speculate? Because we’re all still grappling with the horror of that Colorado night and are trying to understand why someone would want to kill a theater of innocents. Did Batman comics inspire the gunman to become a gun-toting coward? I doubt it, but even if they did, blaming a 26 year-old comic book for the actions of a sad maniac is just playing into his pathetic game.

Instead, we should look at the central theme of the Dark Knight trilogy by Christopher Nolan: the films are about channeling fear and anger into finding ways to pick ourselves back up, from Bruce Wayne’s own victimization as a child to his heroism in DKR. We need that example more than anything right now, as we focus our thoughts on the ones who really matter—the victims—and not waste any more time trying to blame comics for the unforgivable actions of a coward.

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