Let’s go to the movies! …too soon? Reflections on the cinema in the wake of Aurora, CO killings

FIRST: As we criticize, analyze, and politicize the happenings in Aurora, Colorado a few days back, let’s not forget to PRAY for the victims, both living and deceased, their families, and for changes in the systems of power that spend so much time policing the Hakeem’s and Juan’s of the world that they let the James Holmes- types slip through the cracks.

This weekend was full of cinematic adventure for me (why yes, I did binge on Bette Davis films, thankyouforasking), complete with two trips to the picture show to see The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spiderman, respectively. These jaunts to the talkies that would normally cheer me up, or relieve me of  deadline-induced stress, were not without internal panic and self-awareness in the wake of the ubiquitous Aurora, CO theater shooting that occurred early this weekend.

I have always enjoyed the movies, and considered the movie theater a safe space for release, escape, and mindless air-puffed entertainment (ohai, Little Man). However, watching two action-heavy, violence-saturated films just days after the shooting compounded the significance of the shooting with respect to the amounts of violence we consume on a daily basis.

On Saturday, I saw The Dark Knight Rises with a friend and her sister. I admit, before I went to the theater, I called ahead to ask if the staff beefed up its (practically non-existent) security, in light of the pervasive knowledge of ‘the shooting’. I was met with an exasperated employee on the other line, sighing, “No, we’re fine,” into the phone receiver. I imagine she had fielded several calls like mine that evening, and perhaps also on Friday night. The theater we visited doubles as a live events venue, complete with a large stage at the base of the screen.















Cue my nervousness.

When I wasn’t focusing on the film (which I found disappointing in its plot, execution, and acting–save Anne Hathaway, she can do no wrong), I monitored the exits of the auditorium for folks moving in and out of the space, and scanned the stage with my eyes several times for any sudden motion. After two and a half hours, the film ended, and I bolted for the door. The unpredictability of shootings coupled with public concern about copycat assailants made me fearful for my safety, even in a crowded theater of 600 people. That bothered my soul.

Bane and Batman practicing for The Tango Maureen. The scene didn’t make it into the final cut. Photo courtesy of MTV.com

On Monday night, I ventured into downtown Boston for dinner and a movie with some friends. The dinner: Bertuccis, the movie: The Amazing Spiderman. The film was incredibly imaginative, and a real treat, but the shooting scenes made the lot of us tense up, and look nervously around the theater, straining our ears for the sound of actual bullet shots. When several people left the theater suddenly through the emergency exit, we all turned to one another in our 3D glasses, each of us wearing a similarly distressed look on our faces. Watching the scenes involving gun use brought a fresh anxiety, a nervousness I never knew while playing Grand Theft Auto or while watching bullet-riddled action movies.  I felt incredible discomfort while watching Spiderman, the sort of discomfort that accompanies knowing better. I was aware that in my absorption in the plot, I probably would not notice anyone shifting in their seats, preparing to harm another individual, as I am sure the victims in Colorado were not expecting their film showing to end early, and with several reported deaths and dozens of injuries.

Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spiderman, aka “Angst and Awkward: Part Two”, photo courtesy of The Guardian

In short, it felt as thought I was listening to an ignorant co-worker or family member make wildly inappropriate jokes after an intense sensitivity or diversity awareness training session. A sort of, “Really? Is nobody gonna mention this? Are we just gonna ignore what’s wrong with this in light of reality?” feeling. In a word: icky

For the record: Spiderman was about seven times better than TDKR, in my opinion. The former was much more imaginative, and enjoyable. Besides Eduardo Saverin Andrew Garfield is adorkable. Oh God I just typed that word.

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