I awoke this morning at 4 to the most horrible thing I could ever imagine at a theater.
A mad man named James Holmes, age 24, a PHD student in neuroscience ~ and an apparently financially stable one at that, opened fire on a theater full of people, killing at least 12 and wounding 59.
Among the victims are a baby girl, shot right in her parents' arms, a 6 year old boy and a very small little girl.
Just 15 miles away from Columbine, he came in around 30 minutes into Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, right during a dark scene, filled with explosions, and he himself threw tear gas into the room. As patrons were trying to figure out if this was a publicity stunt, he opened fire, shooting people randomly at point blank range.
He went into three of the four rooms screening Batman that opening night in Colorado, before being taken into custody.
His apartment is said to be riddled with bombs and toxic chemicals.
In a sick twist, just 19 hours before the shooting took place, the movies Batman Begins and Bowling for Columbine were playing on several movie channels.
I can't even begin to fathom what kind of cowardly monster would not only do this, but smile about it.
In 1989 I saw my very first movie in a theater ever, it was ironically, Batman. I remember being in awe of seeing a movie on a screen so big for the first time ever. And it's a memory I'm breathing through right now.
And right now, I have a ton of questions. Call it a morbid curiosity, but I want to know exactly why this horrible thing happened.
How many children do you suppose were seeing this for the first time when the bullets rang out?
In this economy, where the average parent is holding down more than one job at minimum wage, how many parents do you think had to scrimp and save for just 2-4 tickets to see Batman? How many went into that theater that night, thinking that this was a special treat, and at $15-18 per ticket, it would be a one in a while moment, just to see ONE film?
How many went in to forget their troubles and just enjoy a new film, only to never come home again, or to come home scarred?
And what was the purpose of all of this?
The gunman was not a minority, nor is he poor. He's an intelligent 24 year old, with his whole life ahead of him, a PHD student, family friends, and yet he chose to become a monster. He chose to randomly end the lives of 12 or more, total strangers. Why?
Well I'm not blaming anyone or anything outside of the shooter, but here are some questions I have.
Can we blame the movie industry? Let's face facts here, the last nine years have been filled with nothing but drama movies.
Worse? Movies such as The Incredibles, Shrek 4 and Batman: The Dark Knight feature merchandise lines and ads with a focus on the villains, rather than the heroes of the films.
Think about that. The average movie goer in his 20's can't tell you who is the best in the Incredible family, can't remember what Batman did in the last film, doesn't care about Shrek's latest problem, but he can tell you (in oddly lifelike detail) all about Syndrome, The Joker and Rumpelstiltskin.
Syndrome and Rumpelstiltskin are murderous characters, who act very much like an aggressive internet troll. They claim responsibility for destruction (because they are proud of it) but not for their anger issues, their obsessive behavior over people they do NOT know at all, and yet they are wildly popular with 14-29 year olds.
The Joker is of course one of the most beloved villains in the Batman universe, but in the darker tales such as the 2nd Christian Bale movie and in one-shot comics like "Mad Love" the Joker is seen as less caring, more cerebral and he performs his task with seemingly little motive. 1988's "The Killing Joke" shows The Joker point blank shooting Barbara Gordon when she answers the door. He had taken knowledge of Commissioner Gordon's home address through barely known means, and opted to use it not to kill Gordon, but to torture him through his adopted daughter. At times, the post 1986 DC comics Joker sounds more like an aggressive hacker or troll, and less like the bank robbing villain Batman fans knew in the 1960's.
Do we blame media itself? I'm not going to sit here and type up an anti-video game diatribe, since even a monkey can read the ESRB warnings now, no. I do not blame video games.
I'm aiming for the kids shows this guy probably saw.
At 24 years old, he's old enough to remember G.I. Joe, Action Man, Street Sharks, C.O.P.S. (the cartoon), Captain Power, Sky Commanders, Max Steel, Space Strikers, Conan the Barbarian and countless dubs of anime originally made for adults but cut for US kids such as Cartoon Network's Gundam Wing and UPN/CW's Tenkoman/Tekkaman Blade.
Think about these shows. They were aimed at my generation, and at one point or another, standards and practices deemed them "perfectly safe" for children's television blocks.
But all of these shows featured an astounding amount of violence, brought to us by overtly-sexually-drawn characters, clad with military grade ammunition. Most of the so-called "good guys" were characters without remorse, little if any feeling, and let's be honest, if Max Steel had a YouTube account, he'd be a troll.
Each of them had an impressive toy line, and the earliest shows (such as Captain Power) encouraged young viewers to "act along" with the show, using their Mattel firearms and Hasbro weaponry. If you were born in 1987, odds are good that by the time you were five, you may not have been able to tell me where rainbows come from, but you would have told me what armaments are.
While everyone in the 1990's was wrongfully attacking games, music and movies aimed at adults, they should have been asking CBS, FOX, UPN, NBC and ABC why they were aiming these shows that glorified senseless violence at small children?
Contrary to popular myths, no real child has ever had access to GTA, but every child has had direct control of a Nerf Bazooka. Just ask your mom or dad if they remember Mattel’s line of pop guns.
Do we blame drugs? No, not the illegal kind, I mean Ritalin, Prozac, Zoloft. Think about it. ADD and ADHD medications weren't handed to my generation for actual diseases. Until a few years ago, SCHOOL TEACHERS, yes, the very people you entrust with your child's education, would up and decide that if he/she wasn't adult enough to handle your little junior, that he "must" be ADD, and they would put pressure on parents to medicate their children. And these drugs had almost ZERO testing before your child got to them.
Failure to comply meant that the school would call social services on you, and you can kiss your baby goodbye forever.
A good chunk of my generation ended up either over medicated or raped/killed in Foster Homes, you know, the places that the state deems "safer" than living with his family.
Do we blame a spoiled lifestyle? This coward was not poor, not stupid and likely never knew a day where he wanted for anything. He was a Caucasian, American boy, living a life of privilege, at least until he started studying for his latest test. That means in his short lifespan, he’s never known a day without clean water, clean food, a roof over his head, and he was going to a prestigious college for his PHD in Neurosurgery. Now you would think that a boy with all of this around him would have no desire to kill a theater full of Batman fans. Ungrateful is a word that can’t even be used here.
Maybe he was rich, maybe he wasn’t, but he was certainly more privileged than many of his victims.
UPDATE: Just as AMC Theaters is starting a ban on masks, fake weapons and "suspicious costumes" as they begin a hiring spree of new security guards, we learn more about the coward James Holmes.
James Holmes, 6'3, born December 13, 1987, has no criminal background, outside of a speeding ticket. He has no ties to terrorists and he has no accomplices. He has no ties to any military force.
He is described as having been both shy/quiet and a bit of a class clown. He was also a loner, choosing not to keep many friends. (Though many tried to befriend him.)
His family are friendly, outgoing people, active in their San Diego community. He on the other hand was a quiet child.
He has no Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Once tried MySpace but lost interest in it quickly.
He legally owns all of the weapons he was found with. Colorado has relaxed gun laws (even after Columbine) and he did pass all of the screenings.
He couldn't find a job right after graduating from college the first time, so he used extra money he already had to go for the PHD. (Though his college had him in a teach-as-you-learn program, with the intent to hire him on.) He was considering dropping out. He was studying the biological basis of psychiatric and neurological disorders.
He is a football fan. He also loved Will Ferrel's Anchorman. Talked with a man at a bar the night before the rampage about the Denver Broncos. Liked Techno music.
A total of 71 people have been confirmed shot by him.
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said the gunman wore a gas mask, a ballistic helmet and vest, and leg, groin and throat protectors. He said he had an AR-15 military-style, semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and two pistols. Initially, news reporters were claiming that he wore a red wig and a Bane mask, telling people "I am The Joker" though the details remain sketchy.
His family (a mom, dad and younger sister) is devastated by his actions, obviously, and have requested their privacy. I hope this is granted to them.