Crazy people are with us, always. For a few people, brain chemistry changes, as yet understood, happens mostly around late adolescence and early adulthood, and makes them see things that are not there, in reality. Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, heard his neighbor’s Labrador give him commands to kill. Jared Lee Loughner, James Holmes, and undoubtedly Anders Breivik are all part and parcel. Insanity, however, does not mean a lunatic writhing on the street (though it may). Some people who are completely insane can operate at a functional level, and many are only a danger to themselves (by living lonely, often street-level self-medicated lives). The poor unfortunate Kelly Thomas, beaten to death by Fullerton cops because he fought his arrest, is one example. But a very few are going to be dangerous. And a functioning society should have avalanche routes, like Swiss Mountain towns, pointing the dangerous ones away from ordinary people.
Hollywood — this means you. Its time to stop glamorizing violence, cruelty, depravity, and making the villain more interesting than the hero. This includes all the female-oriented Twilight, Buffy, Breaking Bad, Shield, Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and Boardwalk Empire stuff. As well as the “arty” things that guys like Chris Nolan and Oliver Stone produce. Here’s the easy rule of thumb. Don’t make the villain cooler than the hero.
Crazy people can’t distinguish reality from fantasy. That’s why they hear the neighbor’s dog giving them orders to kill. Or think they actually ARE the Joker in the Batman movie. There is a simple way to respond to this responsibility not to make these guys more dangerous to ordinary people than they already are: stop glamorizing the violence and cruelty. Make the hero more interesting, human, and worthy of emulation than the villain.
In “Liar’s Poker,” Michael Lewis relates how he found Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas astonished that young men approached them and told them how the movie “Wall Street” had inspired them to become (ruthless) Wall Street traders. Gordon Gekko was supposed to be the villain. But he had the coolest lines, the most swagger, owned every scene, while the protagonist was called “Bud” and played like a chump by Charlie Sheen (before Sheen’s signature smirking hilarious arrogance in “Major League.”) Between “Bud” and Gordon Gekko? Who would most young men want to be?
Nolan’s Joker character was presented, as he too often was in the comic books, as some force of nature, unstoppable and only temporarily chained. Batman could never win against him. The better treatments showed the Joker as essentially, a coward, and his own fear being why the Batman always beat him. As well as a touch of effeminacy and a hint that he was well, fond of young boys, this made the Joker a villain, not just a cooler hero without boundaries. Young men don’t aspire to cowardice and molesting young boys. That’s an unattractive trait that makes him a good villain. Ian Fleming understood this when creating his villains. As did later movie producers. Ernst Stavros Blofeld, or Auric Goldfinger, were icky old guys. You didn’t want to be them.
The latter two Nolan Batman movies seem to encapsulate suffering and impotence as the mark of the hero. Something the Batman character (Action and Will Personified) never embodied in the comic books, which is why a generation of boys loved him since the late 1930’s. No doubt this appealed to the arty side of Nolan, and lead actor Christian Bale. But it only served to make the Batman character, and his self-imposed limits that separate him from a villain, less attractive. As crazies may be crazy, but not stupid. They prefer the strong to the weak, every time.
If we can’t lock up crazy people, and we can’t (not the least of which is no one trusts the State or rather the people who run it one iota, given their total failures in pretty much everything), the least we can do is demand responsibility from Hollywood.
Do the victims at Aurora Colorado have a cause for action? I think they do, and should bring suit against Warners, and Nolan, and Bale. For signing off on stuff that was bound to affect crazy people. The suit will probably fail. But that’s OK. It is important to make WARNERS in particular, and also Nolan and Bale, defend it. As a warning shot to Hollywood, that they bear responsibility just as say, car manufacturers do, or motorcycle makers, or any other company making things for the general public.
A lawsuit, and expensive time and money spent defending it, is the only thing to cause a change in Hollywood. Lord knows appealing to the essential good nature, responsibility, and decency of Hollywood is … a good laugh. A lawsuit slapped on Warners, particularly now (to depress Box Office and kill the sales of Batman stuff where they make the real money, on toys and lunchboxes and the like), is important.
There ARE steps that can be taken. Expensive ones, and difficult ones. Nevertheless, they can and should be done.