At the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO on July 20, no one ever expected twenty-four year old James Holmes to walk into a theater, chunk tear gas, and open fire on a sold-out crowd of filmgoers eager to see the Dark Knight take on Bane. In the wake of his actions, Holmes left twelve people dead ranging in age from six years to fifty-one, and at least fifty-eight other people injured and/or hospitalized. Some of them are still in intensive care as of this writing, so the number of the dead just might unfortunately increase.
I'll spend no more time on Holmes, as the media has seen to it that we know and learn as much about him as possible. What I will focus on is the impact that his actions will have on the future of cinema, pop culture, and the world of fandom and "comics nerds."
I went to see The Dark Knight Rises on the Saturday evening following the Aurora, CO events. Reaction to the tragedy in Colorado was immediately evident. The police presence was escalated, with at least two officers at every corner of the theater complex and more sitting in patrol units outside of the theater. Myself and my friends were just a tad anxious about going into the theater to see the film, despite being down in Louisiana and quite far from the events that took place in Aurora. I took greater notice at guns in the film while it played out and even held my breath for a second when a young lady innocently got up and left the theater about twenty minutes before the film ended. Needless to say that my head was not the only one that turned to the exit door as she made her way out.
After the film, my nerves eased a bit. Outside of 9/11, nothing has really set my nerves on edge as this event did. Why? Because I'm not just a fan of Batman, I'm a fan of film in general, and I frequent theaters both alone and with family and friends. I told myself before going to see the movie that I wouldn't let Aurora get to me, but it did.
Unfortunately I believe that an increased police presence is just the tip of the iceberg for the movie-going community. Ever since 9/11, our country has been quick to react to any type of occurrence such as the one in Aurora. I'm sure politicians will push for stricter gun control laws, as well as local authorities pressing theater companies to increase safety measures at their venues. I also believe that Hollywood will react with fewer guns in action films, at least for awhile.
Of course, the reactions by Hollywood and politicians will be easy enough to see, but what about the reaction of the general public? Comic book nerds (and you can toss in sci-fi and fantasy fans, as well as cosplayers and anyone involved in fandom) will once again find themselves at odds with the so-called normal world. Over the last twenty or so years, people such as myself who enjoy comics, sci-fi, fantasy, RPGs, anime, etc. have become more openly accepted in society. Heck, just look at the coverage given to events such as San Diego Comic Con or film premieres such as those for The Avengers and you can see how nerds have become slightly cooler.
However, the stigma that has always been attached to nerds, geeks, and dweebs like myself as being loners, weirdos, freaks, and just one bad social interaction from going postal on innocent people has been brought back to the forefront of our world. Yes, people like myself often are isolated from the general public, but it is usually due to the fact that what we enjoy is so different (at least in the general public's eyes) from the norm, that we only have a handful of tight-knit, trusted friends. Believe me, nerds are just as interested in finding a girlfriend/boyfriend, hanging out with their pals, or going to an event just as much as everyone else, but instead of looking for a hot partner, we look for someone who we identify with on an intellectual and/or social level (of course, if the person is hot, it doesn't hurt anything!). Instead of going to the bar to drink a few, most of us are just as happy sitting at a friend's house and watching a few episodes of Doctor Who. Instead of going to a football game, we attended comic conventions or go to the movies.
Nerds and geeks really aren't that much different from the rest of society, but I see the backlash coming. The first reaction was for many theaters to prohibit masks. Cosplayers and geeky fans are known for their costumes, so immediately this has been taken away from us. I wonder if costumes will be as freely allowed at comic conventions as they were before The Dark Knight Rises hit the screen? Or will cosplayers, in the name of security, be relegated to bringing their costumes and a photo ID with them to a convention and only allowed to put on the costume in a supervised area by the proper authorities?
I used the term going postal earlier. I wonder if that will now be replaced by something along the lines of batting out or playing Bane?
Fingers will be pointed at the poor saps like myself who wear clothing with Batman or Batman related subjects on them. Whispers of "Keep an eye on that one" will carry on the wind whenever a kid in a Green Lantern shirt with a nervous look on his face walks into a store. Heck, True Blood fans might even get picked on for wearing their Fangtasia tees.
In short, all of the work done that has made society more acceptable of geeks, nerds, and shy people has been undone by one sinister act. It's just one more wrong label applied to an entire group of people for the actions of one person. While the majority of us geeks over the age of thirty can remember a time when we were laughed at or bullied for liking the Flash or the X-men, a lot of the younger kids out there have grown up in a time when they were actually applauded for donning a Captain America shirt or owning a comic featuring the first appearance of a character like Hulk. I believe that it is this younger crowd who will have the toughest time with being ostracized.
I just hope and pray that our supposedly tolerant and intelligent society of today will look beyond the actions of one man in Aurora, CO and realize that there really is nothing wrong with being a bit nerdy, different, or socially awkward.
I guess what I'm really saying here is that we need to embrace our geekiness now more than ever and prove to all of the naysayers that we are not a bunch of psychotic freaks that are planning our revenge on society. Let's show the the world that beng a geek is fine and actually quite fun!
I feel terrible for the people and families of those that lost their lives or were injured in Aurora. All of these lives have been scarred forever, whether it be emotionally or physically. My heart goes out to each and every one of them and I pray that they recover as much as possible.
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