July 21, 2012

James Holmes: Let the Mythologizing Begin


Nolan’s Batman trilogy has proceeded on the assumption that what happens on the screen in some way reflects what’s happening in the world, that fantasy and reality are mutually permeable—this is what makes his movies function as political allegories, if at times muddled ones. Why shouldn’t we assume the reverse is true as well—that the grim, violent fantasies we gather to consume as a culture have some power to bleed over from the screen into real life?

— from: Why There? We can’t blame The Dark Knight Rises for the Aurora shooting. But we also can’t ignore the parallels between Christopher Nolan’s grim world and our own. Dana Stevens (Slate)

While arguing that drawing a causal relationship between the representation of violence and actual violence is reductive and lazy, Dana Stevens does put on the table the fact that the Aurora massacre and the new Batman film are inextricably tied. Because Holmes didn’t open fire during a showing of “Happy Feet Two,” Stevens argues, she believes that one has to “at least talk about why [Holmes] might choose The Dark Knight Rises as a backdrop (and possibly a template)” to understand the meaning and motives.”

I don’t take issue with this exercise conceptually, but I find I do in practicality.

Sure, Holmes’ reference to himself as the Joker, and the painting of his hair red, lends more credence to a fantasy identification. Adding more fuel to the hell fire, the rich trove of Batman history has already unearthed this chilling association to a scene in a Batman Dark Knight comic about a character opening fire in a movie theater. What with the bulletproof vest and riot mask and helmet and leggings, and groin and throat protector, on top of the trove of weaponry in Holmes’ possession, you can almost imagine him straight out of Gotham, can’t you?

Still, in the coming days, Holmes — the neuroscience grad student — is going to be turned into the monster, the evil character, the mad scientist-bomber, the diabolical force and X-factor without any assistance from what’s playing at the cineplex. In these photos, and sifting through the more physical and tangible elements of this crime (as much or as little as it was inspired by Batman), hopefully we can take it easy on the myth-making, whether its referential to the DC Comics, or the Kozinsky/McVeigh brand.



In the mundanity of Holmes’ “uniform” in the theater parking lot, however, scattered on the pavement in the stark light of day, these sad, meager and scattered scraps of visual evidence speak just as much to the miles-wide gap between Hollywood and the theater inside Holmes’ mind.


The thing is, we live in a culture that glorifies violence, that makes it easy to acquire the implements to perpetrate it, and does very little to identify and treat those who, in their anguished estrangement and then steep decent into mental oblivion, might resort to it. Apart from how much Mr. Holmes was shaped by popular culture and how much popular and media culture is setting about to shape Mr. Holmes, why not do some sifting through that?

(View here for full BagNews coverage of the Dark Knight massacre.)

Photos via The Denver Post Media Center theater shooting slideshow.

(photo 1: Global Grind via TMZ. photo 2 & 3: Karl Gehring/The Denver Post caption 2: A combat style helmet was one of many pieces of evidence in the parking lot behind the Century 16 movie theatre where a gunmen shot and killed 12 persons Friday morning, July 20, 2012. Witnesses claimed the shooter was wearing a helmet, a gas mask and a bullet proof vest.photo 4: AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post caption: Agents from the FBI and ATF investigate the scene behind the Century 16 theater in Aurora where 12 people were killed and dozens of others were injured during a premier of The Dark Knight Rises on Friday, July 20, 2012 in Aurora.)


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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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