The senseless tragedy in Aurora will almost inevitably lead to a renewed debate about the link between films and real-life violence. This is a debate that can be traced back over the past few decades via Scream and alleged ‘copy-cat’ killings; Natural Born Killers and the murders which that film supposedly inspired; the murder of James Bulger in 1993 and the apparent link to the Childs Play films; and back to the film version of A Clockwork Orange and several crimes apparently inspired by it.
Some people are outraged by violent films generally and when things like the Aurora shooting happen, these same people become even more outraged and use the tragedies to add fuel to their crusades against any form of culture they see as morally objectionable. I think it is disrespectful to the memories of the people who lost their lives in these tragedies for their deaths to be used in knee-jerk arguments linking the actions of (usually) mentally unstable people to a film they may have watched or a comic book they may have read, or a video-game they may have played. Also I think it is basically wrong. Several studies have been done which look at the role of the media in violent crimes. As far as I can make out the results are inconclusive and the debate rages on among academics and commentators.
Even if a link can be established between a crime and a particular film or video game it doesn’t mean that the crime wouldn’t have been committed if the film or video game didn’t exist. Usually the person committing the crime has a history of mental health issues or a background in criminal activity or a natural propensity to violence.
I have always believed, and still believe, that a person does not watch a violent film and then go out on a killing spree because of that violent film. They are motivated by other forces and although aspects of their crime may be mirrored in the film, it is not the catalyst for the crime itself. The point is that the act they commit is already in their nature and whether they watch a film or play a violent video game isn’t going to make a person do something that is against their nature.
The counter-debate, and in my opinion the much more pertinent one, is about America’s gun-control laws. In Canada and Europe, where the owning of firearms is largely illegal, there is much less violent crime than there is in America. Quite simply, if you make it harder for people to access guns, then you make it harder for them to commit violent atrocities such as the killings in Aurora. Obviously there are other weapons people can access and making guns illegal wouldn’t stop people getting hold of them, but it would certainly make it a great deal harder. And surely that’s worth it?
The debate will no doubt continue and eventually die down until another tragedy (most likely in America) happens and the debate will start up again.
The awful, saddening and tragic killings in Aurora were committed by a troubled man and his motivations may never be known.
I just hope that The Dark Knight Rises is not forever damned by its link to this awful tragedy. That would be a shame, and ironic given the character of Batman never uses guns and makes a moral choice not to kill his enemies.