If the goal of terrorism is to cause terror, then the only way to combat terrorism is to not be terrified, right? That’s what I told myself when I decided not to change the plans I had made with a friend last week to see The Dark Knight Rises on her birthday Saturday in the wake of the Aurora shooting. I decided that the right thing to do was to soldier on as though it hadn’t happened. So I entered the crowded Arclight Hollywood Theater, just like I did last week to see Ted, to watch the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It is a decision that I now strongly regret.
Within the first ten minutes, the violence depicted on screen did much to make me uneasy. I simply could not disconnect the images of a fictional masked individual filled with rage and unspeakable evil shooting innocent people from those of the very real super-villain who killed 12 people and injured 59 others on Friday.
As I watched the character Bane (Tom Hardy) open fire on the Gotham Stock Exchange, I felt nauseous. And it did not get better. Batman, the superhero, does not vanquish evil until the last possible minute (literally, as there is a countdown involved in the plot). So I sat in a theater for two hours and 45 minutes (the movie had no glimmers of hope or bits of comic relief to ease the tension) watching unrelenting terrorism because I was waiting for a hero to save the day.
But that sickness and sadness did not subside after Batman and Catwoman teamed up to defeat the psychopath at the very end of the movie. I had the same horrible sensation as I drove home, listening to the news on the radio about the victims of the Aurora shooting, one of whom was six years old.
I love going to the movies. I go to movies nearly every weekend. The movie theater is where I go to escape. It is where I feel comfortable and safe. It is where endings are always happy and where boy always gets girl. It is where I take comfort knowing that no matter how awful what I am watching on screen is, whether it be Something Borrowed or the violence in The Dark Knight Rises, it will be over soon and that it is not real.
I know that I am not alone in these feelings. I know that everyone who goes to see a horror movie in theaters is inwardly repeating that mantra of “it’s not real, it’s not real.” But after a man violates that sacred place where so many of us feel at home and murders 12 people, it’s much more difficult to say those words. For them it was very real. No part of me was able to enjoy The Dark Knight Rises knowing that while superheroes don’t exist, their foils most certainly do.
I don’t regret going to the theater. I think that we shouldn’t be frightened to go about our normal everyday activities after something like this, which includes escaping reality via the movies. If we are too scared to do that, then we are like the citizens of Gotham: imprisoned by one crazy evil person. That said, I wish I had seen a different movie. Instead of helping me to escape real life, The Dark Knight Rises pushed me further into a nightmareish reality I won't soon forget.