A couple of days ago, I was thinking about how and why the DC universe in general, and Batman in particular, is so off-putting to me anymore. I was playing the demo of DC Universe Online, and there’s a massive opening animation sequence, all the good guys and bad guys slamming each other around for 15 minutes, and it’s all good comic book fun, and then the Joker says something along the lines of, “Come on, let’s go – we’ve got more murdering to do!” And that word - murdering - just struck a tone that felt so non-comic-book, so real-world, that it soured the whole thing for me.
I felt the same way watching both of the first two Nolan Batman films. For me, they were miserable, unpleasant experiences to sit through – they were focused on the kinds of things that actual villains and terrorists do. Come down from Asgard to steal some magical artifact or whatever? That’s fun. Blow up a boat filled with mothers and fathers and children? Point a gun at the head of a child? That’s not fun. That’s the kind of shit that people sometimes actually do.
I remember having that feeling for the first time with the Frank Miller book, which I read as a teenager. I knew it was revolutionary as comics/graphic novels/sequential art/whatever goes, but it wasn’t any fun, and up to that point I had equated comic books with fun. But everything is all Dark now. Batman in particular.
This thing, this thing is breaking my heart in ways I haven’t had it broken before, because of the kids involved, and I’ve got little kids and I see everything through that lens. Imagine that you’re 10 or 11, and your mom and dad are not only going to let you stay up and go out for a midnight movie, but you’re going to get dressed up like a superhero and see this amazing movie (one that you probably shouldn’t be seeing anyway because it’s too grownup, but mom and dad are awesome and they’re bending the rules because of how special this is) and this is the EVENT OF THE SUMMER for you and you’ve been counting down the days to it for weeks. And then this happens, and the best thing in the world becomes the worst thing in the world. What does that do to a kid? In some other configuration, with other specifics and details and taking place fifteen years prior, it turns a happy kid into an angry and lonely kid, and angry and lonely kids sometimes grow up and do awful things.
Guns aren’t the issue. Well-balanced folks have a variety of guns for a variety of reasons. I don’t own any, but that’s just because I don’t like them. But my neighbor does; he’s a Vietnam veteran who would never lift a finger against anyone that wasn’t actively trying to hurt him. If you want to hurt 10-year-old kids and their parents during movie night, you’ll find a way, and the gun isn’t the issue. The issue is, why do you want to hurt people you don’t know? What does that do for you? What is the net benefit for you, to hurt people you don’t know?
For me, I have to believe that it is rooted in childhood, in those first few experiences of what the world is and what we can expect from it. All of the monsters that the human race has so far produced have operated under the delusion that they were wronged, that something is broken or unjust or unfair and must be fixed by WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY, that you have to break some eggs to make an omelet. Whatever. Fuck those people.
If you have young people in your care or sphere of influence, please do all you can do to let them know that they are loved, they are important, they are good and valuable the way they are, and, crucially, so are other people, every one of them.