There's something very wrong when pop culture fandom has become a life-threatening pursuit. A movie theatre should be one of the safest places on the planet. Everyone is seated. People are there because they want to be there. The mood is usually happy in anticipation of the fun about to be had. Seeing larger-than-life images on a giant silver screen filled with beautiful people in magnificent surround sound is a true experience. One every American has come to love in the 21st century.
Another advent of the 21st century? Americans killing other Americans. Not in war. Or battle. The new phenomenon is one that, ironically, started the superhero craze.
After 9/11. it was clear that the only monsters we had to fear were other humans. And so, the decade of superhero escapism began. We were helpless to stop the death and destruction of 9/11 as ordinary human beings, but superheroes, especially ones like Batman and Iron Man, were just like us. Yes, they were super at being heroes, but they weren't aliens or mutants or science experiments. With just a fancy utility belt and cape, Batman could thwart even the greatest of villains. With his bare, very human hands. Iron Man has a special suit. But underneath the suit, he's still just a regular guy doing extraordinary things. America's zeal for "regular guy" superheroics is apparent in the now billion-dollar industry its created. Comic books, the founding venue for all superheroes, are mainstream. Comic Cons, or Comic Conventions, are popping up across the country like Taco Bell stands. It's a fast, easy way to reclaim agency over a situation that, though brought on by humans, seems beyond human control.
Some of the emerging questions from the last decade ask about Evil: What is it? Where does it come from? And how can we stop it? All much too simplistic to truly answer. And that's part of the problem.
We're so distracted by sparkly, rich vampires and caped crusaders that we've let ourselves forget who created evil. It's not God. Or the devil. It's you. And me. All of us.
As soon as news of the shooting broke out, political pundits on both sides of the bi-polar political fence began blame-shifting from right to left. Somehow, amidst the dead and severely injured, the 2012 election became the focus. Gun legislation was being called into question. People on the left said the shooter was a member of the Tea Party. People on the right thought a 30-year storyline containing the villain Bain was in direct reference to one of their party members. People! Get it together. American citizens died today. More than 50 have been injured, including a four-month old baby. Forget the politics. To even bring partisan agenda into the mix is an insult to the family and friends of the victims, as well as to the American people.
We need to stop looking at screens of all sizes and start looking at each other. When a woman can't safely stand in line to see a film, we have a real problem. When sitting in a dark theatre becomes a place of terrorism, we're in serious trouble. As a society, we've got to put aside pop culture and take a cold, hard look at who we are and why we have people like this young man killing innocents. It's not because of Batman. It's not because of violence in videogames. It's because mental illness has become pervasive in American life.
Does anyone wonder why? Why so many are on anti-depressants, sleeping pills, and other anti-psychotic drugs? The number of prescriptions for each is the HIGHEST it's ever been. Stricter gun legislation wouldn't have prevented what happened. Being liberal or conservative is irrelevant. Our humanity is what's in question. And we need answers as to why that is. Soon.
Something has happened to us. But we're all too distracted to notice. Maybe it's environmental pollutants. Maybe it's beef. Vaccines. Factory emissions. Whatever the cause, it's clear our human physiology has been compromised. Brain chemistry is more off than on in the 21st century. Though the medical community is fond of blaming mothers, there is a preponderance of increased AD/HD, bi-polar disorder, depression, manic behavior, autism, and other serious health concerns with no explanation as to WHY. If you start asking, there will be an answer. But if you continue looking for ways to escape reality, we'll quickly find ourselves in the unenviable position of being caged by our own ignorance.
And ignorance is the excuse of the apathetic. That's the real danger....
To help the victims of today's shooting and their families, please visit the Colorado chapters of the American Red Cross website below. And be safe. There can be no justice for the lives taken, the innocence lost. Neither can be given back. All we can do is move forward with a greater awareness of each other: