Should tragedy ruin entertainment?
In the early morning hours of Friday, July 20, a 24-year-old male with bright orange hair opened fire in a sold-out theater in Aurora, Colo., as the large screen played shots from the hugely anticipated “The Dark Knight Rises.”
You know this already. However, does the fact that a violent crime occurred during an entertaining movie change the way you perceive that movie? Does James Holmes’ disturbing act affect your ability as a moviegoer to enjoy the epic sequel? Or does it not bother you? Maybe, more importantly, should it?
We enjoy movies because they allow us some escapist fun – a chance to get out of our own heads and lives and be the superhero for a change. Nothing is wrong with that. In fact, it probably helps us cope with whatever we’re dealing with that day.
But what happens when the real world, in all its harshness, creeps into our avenue of escape? Can we distinguish between our enjoyment of the film and the mark someone left on that form of entertainment?
Out of respect for the deceased, Warner Bros., the studio responsible for the movie, did not release its box office numbers. However, The New York Times acquired those numbers.
The studio executives believed the film would bring in about $190 million over the opening weekend, according to the article. The film only brought in $162 million. Apparently, Holmes’ spree had an effect on a minority of moviegoers.
Director Christopher Nolan said it best in a statement after the shooting. “I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.”
Obviously, Nolan feels strongly about how his chosen medium is now associated with the shooting. But, will his epic film be associated with James Holmes’ rampage? This isn’t the first time a sad event such as this, one that resonates with people, has affected something many people love.
In 1969, Charles Manson masterminded the deaths of three people based on lyrics in the Beatles’ song, “Helter Skelter.” He believed the song predicted a race war between whites and blacks – a war he tried to precipitate with those three murders.
Obviously, Manson was crazy. His interpretation of a song about a roller coaster was way off base. Does that matter though? Does his haywire listening of the song ruin the musical fun of it for the rest of us? Especially since the Beatles are so beloved.
Another example: Concussions in the National Football League. Does knowing that the very sport we all love is potentially lethal impair our ability to enjoy a Sunday afternoon come fall?
This one is yet to play out because the information on concussions is still relatively new, but parents are already having the discussion of whether or not they’d let their sons play the game.
How about the death of Heath Ledger? Everyone raves about his acting in “The Dark Knight,” but many surmise that legendary performance led to his death. He got so into his role that the darkness of the character seemed to overtake his real life.
Based on the box office numbers for the second Christian Bale-as-Batman movie – more than a billion dollars worldwide – Ledger’s death didn’t ruin the entertainment value of it. Maybe it shouldn’t have.
But can a movie be enjoyed when the audience knows the very thing they’re praising led to the actor’s death? Or should we just compartmentalize the sadness and escape, love the art for what it is?
Can a form of entertainment or art be separate from its real-world ramifications? Or is how people react to the art meaningless?
Did Charles Manson ruin the Beatles? Will concussions ruin football? Did Ledger’s death ruin the second Batman film? Will James Holmes ruin The Dark Knight Rises?