Today’s Salon was going to be on signs of devotion across all fandoms, starting with the scalping prices of The Dark Knight Rises tickets and going from there, ultimately concluding that the reason we’re willing to go at midnight, pay inflated prices, and otherwise make pilgrimage is our way of giving back to the things that give to us. That’s still true, of course, but opening with the story of outrageous ticket prices for The Dark Knight Rises seems a bit flippant in the wake of Friday morning.
I feel highly unqualified to talk about this, to be honest. I’m on the opposite coast. I don’t know anyone involved. I was sheltered from violence as a child, to the point that it remains mostly symbolic and conceptual to me; I occasionally joke that I wasn’t punched enough in the face as a kid. But to let the moment go unremarked upon would be worse.
The shooting, for me, an observer whose heart is, of course, with the victims, has started to coalescence into a particularly powerful image. Here is the community I love—the true believers, to quote Stan Lee—attacked by that most individualistic of madmen, the lone gunman. I love the lights dimming in a theater, how the quiet crosstalk of other filmgoers quiets in anticipation, and we all, voluntarily, give ourselves over to the magic of film, which is to say the magic of story, something to which I am devoted to at a cellular level. The thought of innocents, including children, being mown down is enough to make me want to howl in pain; but the secondary thought that this man took advantage of such magic and such love, in one of the last spaces in our increasingly fragmented society where people can commune with each other and story, to pursue his unfathomable, hateful, and senseless motives makes me want to rage.
Things are going to change now. You can’t really ever plan for such determined violence, but we’ll want to do something, to feel like we can do something against such perfect evil. I don’t know what we, as a country, are going to do, but I hope it’s for the betterment of all of us. And I find myself turning to Professor Tolkien, as translated to the screen by some of us true believers:
“I do not know,” Gandalf answers. “Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that it is not what I’ve found. I’ve found it is the small things, every act of normal folk that keeps the darkness of at bay — simple acts of kindness and love.”