MUELLER: Watching movies in a post-Aurora world
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Anyone who knows me, or has even just glanced at one of my articles here in the Tribune, knows that movies are my life. I write about movies. I watch an excessive amount of movies. I work at a movie theater. There is still no greater rush than walking out of a great movie and racing around, desperately needing to talk to somebody about what you’ve just seen.
This summer, a horrible act during a midnight showing in Aurora, Colo. tried to ruin that spirit-raising feeling. A building made for dreams was turned into a building full of nightmares as a young man opened fire on a crowded premiere showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Twelve were killed, fifty-eight were injured and an entire nation was left disturbed, puzzled and deeply saddened.
The nation mourned, and the gunman was caught and arrested (I will not use his name and give him the attention he almost certainly desired after committing his crime against humanity). Immediately, the questions began flying about how we can stop future tragedies like Aurora from happening.
The easy answer is more gun regulation. It’s a noble idea but flawed. Though more information is coming out about his mental health struggles, the gunman bought and possessed all of his weapons legally.
Another attempt at prevention discussed was adding more security at movie theaters. It’s another understandable idea but one that screams of overcompensating. Metal detectors and enough extra staff to secure every auditorium – up to 20 in some theaters – would be too costly for any cinema to stay in business.
For those who hear the gunman’s description – he was dressed as the Joker with the red hair included, hints of which can still be seen in his mugshot – and ask how no one could have considered him suspicious, it was a midnight showing. Dressing up is a midnight showing tradition and one of the elements that make them such entertaining events. At the theater where I work, one young audience member arrived dressed as a Stormtrooper from “Star Wars.” Enthusiasm for a movie should be appreciated, not punished.
In this age, it’s easy to want easy solutions, but the tragedy in Aurora doesn’t come with easy answers. Would added security really make one feel better, especially knowing both metal detectors and added movie theater staff in the seats wouldn’t have stopped the gunman in this instance?
It’s a sad thing to admit, but sometimes, bad things will happen. Even with all of our regulations and attempts to make society the safest and best for human kind, tragedy finds its way in. The important thing, then, is how we react to it and how we move forward.
A few people have chosen the embarrassing tactic of using humor. The day after the tragic shooting, I was working at the theater, and a customer told me that “The Dark Knight Rises” was “to die for.” We kicked him out of the building. To make snide attempts at humor about the tragedy is an insult to those innocent people whose only crime was wanting to let their imaginations go wild for a few hours. The event could have happened to anyone anywhere, and to make fun of their loss shines a tragic light on our culture’s plague-like “as long as it’s not me” mentality.
No, the best way to react, to move forward and to honor those lost is to keep going to the theater. The art of cinema is one of society’s greatest creations. It’s a way for people to communicate, to share emotions and feelings that words alone could never come close to doing. It’s a communal experience that brings people of all cultures and ideals together.
As goofy as this may sound, a movie theater is like a church for me. It’s a sacred place where, for a couple hours, we give ourselves over to our feelings and imaginations and let them soar. It’s where dreams are made and shared. The events in Aurora may have briefly violated that precious place, but as a society, we cannot let it shake our faith in the cinema.