Don’t Blame the Writer

The Dark Knight Returns

The Dark Knight Returns (Photo credit: sickmouthy)

In the wake of the Aurora tragedy, the media is coming out of the woodwork with some off the wall commentating.  This terrible event has unfortunately become the fodder for those who would want to point fingers and blame others for the act of a deranged man.  I first heard the blame game being played as early as Saturday night when CBS ran a story about the similarities between The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, The Dark Knight Rises,  and the events in Aurora.  I also read an article blaming the violence in film and video games as the cause of all of our woes.

When are the actions of one person the result of another person’s actions?  Why is it that when people do bad things, we immediately start blaming everyone around the person who actually committed the crime?  As I tell my students, life is full of choices.  When are we going to stop blaming everyone else other than the people who commit violent crime?

The argument is that our society has too much violence, that it is the film industry and the video game industry who are to blame for the actions of these rogue nut-jobs.  Have they read classical literature?  Let us turn to Shakespeare and Titus Andronicuswhere we have several beheadings, a rape, dismemberment, and finally cannibalism.  It was extremely popular in its day, only falling into disfavor with the public during the Victorian era when Queen Victoria deemed it too violent to be performed.  How about Beowulf?  It is a virtual rogues gallery of violent acts and horrible nightmares.  What about Justine by the Marquee De Sade?  I haven’t read it, and never will, but all you have to do is say the author’s name to raise eyebrows.  The problem with the “our media is too violent” argument is that we have had violent media for centuries, but it has only recently been the blame for the actions of deranged people.

I am not advocating violence at all, but think that violence in the media is not entirely to blame for the actions of a few deranged people.  Questions that should be raised are questions about the murderer’s childhood, how all of the people around him missed that he was a deranged madman, and that we don’t really try to get to know people at all who then become alienated, who then become deranged, who then walk into a movie theater and begin national gun control debates.

The arguments should not be about gun control, violence in the media, or whether or not we should have metal detectors at movie theaters.  The argument should be that we may have become such a selfish society that we do not invest our lives in people who are lonely, or different, or “social outcasts”.  I am not excusing this murderer’s actions, but could this have all been prevented if somewhere way back in the formative years of this young man’s life, someone would have taken interest.

Look around you.  Someone you ridicule when their back is turned may turn out to be just like the murderer in the movie theater.  Take the time to get to know those around you, those people who may secretly idolize you.  Stop blaming the writers, the constitution and the producers of film and start living by the golden rule.  Maybe things will really change.

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7 thoughts on “Don’t Blame the Writer

  1. Here here! I’m absolutely sick of people shirking blame, pointing fingers and generally being wildly hypocritical about terrible events such as this.
    It’s not about video games films and music it’s about people. The sooner we all accept that, the sooner we make attempts to heal the wounds.

  2. I grew up with the Bugs Bunny cartoons that showed Wyle E. Coyote falling off a cliff, or Daffy Duck’s beak being blown off. Then, suddenly, the cartoons are being edited for violence! Hey! I am not a deranged murderer because of watching that kind of violence. I know the difference between fiction and reality and so do all my friends who grew up watching the same things as I did.

    Granted, the visual effects of movies these days may be desensitizing us to the violence, but not everyone is going to go out and kill someone because of it! It is a fact that certain individuals may be more attuned to violence than others. They may experience psychotic breaks, or they have the genetic propensity towards acts of violence. As you said, there are still others who have not been shown the kindness that might sway them away from rebelling against those they perceive as hurting them.

    There are many factors that create a serial killer, but you can bet, it’s not from watching the violence alone that triggers an episode like this!

  3. Thank you for this eloquent post.

    My parents became licensed foster parents when I was about 10 years-old. The remainder of my childhood was spent as a big sister to several very troubled and often abused kids. Some of their stories were truly horrific, enough to ‘break’ anyone. But, the one thing everyone tried to instill was that we are all responsible for our own actions. We are the sum of our choices, not ‘their’ choices. It’s a tough lesson for even the most well-adjusted person, a couple of my brothers never got it.

    I hope someday we can shift our energy from blame to aid. But I fear that won’t happen in my lifetime.

  4. It is truly sad how our media feeds a frenzy of blame instead of simple facts and insight. Now every group will use this horror to feed their own agenda, blaming guns, parents, movies and writers. They will all avoid the true culprit: A society that turns a blind eye to mental health. From the short excerpts I’ve read of Mr. Holmes, and my education in mental health and work in healthcare, it is quite likely he suffered an acute onset of schizophrenia.
    Delusional people do not make rational decisions, therefore, I would argue your statement this man made a choice. His schizophrenic mind took over and compelled him to take these insane actions.
    I wonder what would happen, if instead of every advocacy group getting their pound of flesh, our society addressed mental health? What if we took the money from the abismal failure of the ‘War on Drugs’ and promoted ‘Mental Health Awareness?’ What if we were taught to recognize these signs and had an place to report our concerns?
    Many of the people in Mr. Holmes neighborhood saw his aberrant behavior. They knew instinctually it was bizarre, strange, and yes, probably frightening. They just were powerless to do anything about it. Where do you go to report a person you think is loosing it? The police? They will just tell you they can’t do anything until a crime is committed.
    Well I guess they got their crime.
    If we want to really minimize these types of horrors, we need to address mental health in a sane and rational way. Not just throwing the mentally ill out on the streets to mumble or yell on our sidewalks.

  5. I’d highly recommend ‘Tough Guise’, http://www.sprword.com/videos/toughguise/, a documentary about masculinity in our culture and the media influence. It has a fascinating section on violence and how the media normalizes violent masculinity.
    I don’t mean to blame the media for a given individual’s choices, but to acknowledge that we are all heavily influenced by the media.
    I used this documentary when I taught high school media studies, and as part of advertising units in English. Was fantastic for getting students to think critically about the media’s effects on their ideas about what is ‘normal’.
    As writers too, I believe, we have a responsibility to consider how we construct gender in the media we create.

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