The Dark Knight Rises: American Life Imitates Art

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 7/20/2012 06:39:00 PM
Nobody really doubts that Americans have an exceptional penchant for violence. Over the years, they have spent far more than any other nation building up an unparalleled capability to destroy human life. Despite various massacres like the current one, it remains exceptionally easy to acquire weapons in their country to shoot one's neighbours with utter convenience. Go ask Gotham City Mayor [sic] Michael Bloomberg. Strangely enough, they do not particularly like the persons who best exemplify this capacity for violent behaviour, jailing a quarter of all persons worldwide despite having only 5% of the world population. Nor should anyone be terribly perturbed when others point out that American culture is notably violent. From pro football to " pro wrestling," they also view acts of physical violence on each other--real or simulated--as forms of entertainment.

It is thus somewhat odd that Americans would be shocked by someone who simply lives out the sort of action occurring in movies which glamourize violence. Given the vogue for "acting out" the lives of superheroes in the absence of having meaningful real lives, the parallels between on-screen and off-screen shootings are uncanny according to the news reports. To someone's thinking, it obviously was a costume party that could have used more...theatrics:
[The suspect 24-year-old James] Holmes was wearing a bullet-proof vest and riot helmet and carrying a gas mask, rifle, and handgun, when he was apprehended, according to police. Holmes mentioned having explosives stored, leading police to evacuate his entire North Aurora apartment complex and search the buildings early this morning.

The highly-anticipated third installment of the Batman triology opened to packed auditoriums around the country at midnight showings on Friday morning, and features a villain named Bane who wears a bulletproof vest and gas mask. Trailers for the movie show explosions at public events including a football game. Though many moviegoers dressed in costume to attend the opening night screening, police have made no statements about any connection between the gunman's motives and the movie.
If nothing else, the shootings and the film have the same bleak quality about them which pervades modern-day America, a land where progress has stalled for over a decade or even four decades depending which measures you choose to use. Real median household income peaked in 1999 and have headed downhill since, while median income for working men today remains essentially the same as in 1969.

That's a long time for wait for progress to come along. In the meantime, the Colorado massacre is simply life imitating art, which in turn was inspired by such bleakness. Whereas in other times Americans would turn to more escapist fare in the belief that things would come good again, The Dark Knight Rises exemplifies a new breed of entertainment in which happily ever after is not really among the plausible endings. Of all outlets, the Wall Street Journal captured this zeitgeist:
The most stunning thing about the film, though—and this is said not by way of praise, but with anxious wonderment—is how depressing and truly doomy most of it is. Batman, played by a marvelous actor with a singular gift for depicting pain, suffers mortally. Drums beat incessantly—before, during and after a series of numbing, Neanderthal brawls between Batman and Bane. History takes a double beating from a script that reprocesses the storming of the Bastille into an attack by terrorist thugs.

Dark comic books have always been around, but with a difference; as pictures and words on paper, they've allowed readers to choose their own degree of involvement. "The Dark Knight Rises" allows no choice; it's immersive and assaultive to a degree that could only have been achieved by the conjunction of a quintessentially somber comic and a filmmaker with a complementary sensibility, marshaling the vast technical and financial resources of an entertainment conglomerate. During the Great Depression, moviegoers flocked to escapist films with glittering dancers, happy endings and upbeat songs like "Happy Days Are Here Again." For whatever this movie may say about today's world, it rises to a different occasion and dances to a different tune. Happy days are done and gone.
Life imitates art. What is remarkable to me is how the harder questions elude persons alike President Obama about characteristic societal flaws in the United States that America #1 cheerleaders prefer to ignore their "leadership" in. I mentioned these at the top of this post: Why does a hard-up country like the United States spend more than anyone else on guns when so many of its people cannot afford butter? Why do they make it so easy to avail of guns to shoot each other? Despite being "proud" of their country, why do they not feel ashamed about locking up so many of their brethren in historically unprecedented numbers? Why is American entertainment--already exceptionally violent--becoming even more so?

To paraphrase a certain leader they now largely disapprove of, the obvious hypothesis is that they've given up on possibilities for hope and change. On a more peaceful society where you cannot readily acquire the means to shoot your neighbours. On a more peaceful world free from the armaments they build more of than any other country. Or, even a more peaceful kind of entertainment as they infest movie screens worldwide with such violence.

Nothing's shocking here; the only thing I wonder about is why Americans do not readily admit that these acts and the entertainment industry which glamourizes them are entirely consistent with their obviously pessimistic mood. Unlike many other things nowadays, this event was entirely "Made in America."

Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?