Why I’m Still Planning to See “The Dark Knight Rises” This Weekend

Another shooting has occurred and we are all once again horrified and grief-stricken. Reading the details about the shooting fills me with frustration and anger at such a blatant disregard for human life. There have been many reactions to this event already, including some people choosing not to see the movie at all. I won’t pretend to know what these families and survivors are experiencing right now, nor how they feel about the movie or about other people going out to see this movie as if nothing has happened. My reaction to the events as well as others’ reactions is by no means intended to disrespect or undermine the seriousness of this situation. I am not trying to say that you are wrong for choosing to change your plans for whatever reason. However, I am intentionally choosing to head to the theater as planned. Here’s why:

Skipping out seems like a misdirected response:

I was listening to morning talk radio (something I rarely do) when the news came out and many of the radio personalities were stating their plans to not go see the movie for various reasons. One reason is out of respect for the families of those who were killed or injured. This is perfectly reasonable and completely understandable. I think that people should follow their conscience in this matter according to their proximity to the situation. As much as it saddens me, I can also understand why premieres have been cancelled and the cast and crew have pulled out of promotional appearances.

Another reason given was that it “doesn’t seem right” or that it would be too hard not to think of the tragedy during the course of watching the movie. Thoughts such as “this might have been the last thing they saw before they died.” I can’t guarantee this won’t happen to me as well. But some also stated their reasoning as based on principle since people died during this movie. This is what I personally disagree with since I feel this is a misdirected response. I understand and can respect those reasons, but it’s not the filmmaker’s fault that this happened. The movie itself is coincidental, this could have happened during The Avengers or an obscure indie film. Nolan, Bale and crew were working long and hard on this film way before one disturbed individual decided to perform an act of terror. I personally don’t want to allow my experience of a well-crafted and amazing film to be overshadowed by one person’s malicious act. I feel that that is giving one deviant too much power. We should be respectful of those that lost their lives and supportive of the survivors, but we should not allow evil deeds to take control of our otherwise peaceful lives. Which leads to my next point…

Senseless violence must be confronted:

The perpetrator is in custody and will be brought to justice. The rest of society must now decide how we will interpret and react to these events. Some will respond by reverently memorializing those harmed, others will seek ways to express overwhelming disapproval of this violence, and still others will carelessly go about their lives. I am in the second category.

Now, I know that I’m not the first or the last to draw a connection between the real-world event and the fictional narrative (even the perpetrator seemed to be inspired by comic book villains), but I’m going to go ahead and make the obvious and tragically ironic connection here myself. Batman Begins was about the tension between bringing justice through destruction (Ra’s Al Ghoul) and bringing justice through virtue (Batman). Joey and myself discussed this very issue in depth here on the Corner Booth. Whether or not a superhero should kill will be an ongoing to debate, but what is not in dispute is that superheroes should do something in response to the tyranny of evil.

This was the theme of The Dark Knight, and presumably The Dark Knight Rises also. The Joker (and perhaps also Bane) represent the chaos of evil and terrorism. Batman doesn’t put up with terrorists, and neither should we. This new trilogy highlights the dark and difficult process of decent people standing up to crime and corruption without becoming corrupt themselves. Seeing a movie on opening weekend is a small, trivial thing, but I feel that going to the movies in spite of this terrible act is a way of showing that we won’t allow the flow of our lives be affected by a few disturbed individuals. This leads to my next reason for going:

Rebelling against a broken world:

This was a horrible tragedy, to be sure. The shooting is an unfortunate and extreme example of how our world is terribly fallen and completely depraved. People wonder how to live and go on in light of such a tragedy, and they’re not wrong. We have laws and structure and government to prevent this kind of thing, don’t we?? We have gun regulations, social services, and prevention programs designed to hopefully interrupt these behaviors. In this situation, nothing stopped one person from choosing to do the unspeakable. He obtained a gun, formed a plan, and carried it out. If he can do it, why couldn’t someone else? We’re not really and truly safe, despite our best efforts to convince ourselves that we are. That’s why this event is so disturbing.

But that’s not the end of the story. There is a good God who is in control of everything. That claim will come into question again with this incident, just like it did with 9/11, Katrina, wildfires, etc. But the center does hold if Jesus is at the center. If you believe and dwell only on the dark truths in the above paragraph, I would totally understand why you would respond in fear and anxiety. But we Christians have hope and trust in a better, more powerful person that allows us to sleep at night. My one ticket to a movie is a small rebellion that displays my hope is in something greater. I don’t have to live in fear of death because death has been conquered by my savior. And so, I can live on this earth and enjoy comics, film, and art without being crushed by the depressing reminders of evil. That focus on a greater reality leads me to my last reason…

To be reminded of why these stories captivate us:

Again we face the irony of the situation. We love comic book movies because they inspire us in light of horrific events, events such as a shooting at a midnight showing……of a comic book movie. We feel powerless in these times because life seems so hopeless. We want justice. We want someone outside our broken system, like Batman, to stand up and put a stop to this madness. That’s why we admire superheroes and go to see these movies. The problem is that these heroes are not real and do not exist in a way that would have deterred this shooting from occurring. This creates a problem, but maybe C. S. Lewis can help: “If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

For my Christian friends and myself, these fictional stories point us elsewhere. There is a Just One who does and will right all wrongs and fight the crimes of human sin. The tragedy in Colorado makes me want to see Batman fighting injustice all the more so that I can be reminded of a greater reality where death, evil and suffering have already been conquered.

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Over the past decade superheroes, and the comics which spawned them, have seen a resurgence in popularity and mainstream media attention. Not since the Golden Age of Comics back in the 40’s have comics been such a large part of our daily lives. The Avengers continues to dominate at the box office, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has gained widespread critical acclaim, and now tights clad women, and especially men, have made headlines across the nation.

If you haven’t heard by now, Northstar an openly homosexual Marvel superhero, is about to take part in the first ever same sex marriage ceremony in comic book history. After proposing to his long-time partner Kyle this week, Marvel has been shouting from the rooftops trying to stir up publicity for the wedding issue next month. There are save the date cards at local comic shops, and nearly every Marvel issue rolled out this month had an advert for the coming ceremony. This single issue is taking on the scope and grandeur Marvel normally saves for huge crossover events such as Civil War. In fact, the current Marvel crossover, Avengers vs. X-Men has not received nearly the press or advertising campaign as this one-off event.

While in the Golden Age we saw the birth of heroes such as Captain America, a hero who bravely donned the Stars and Stripes to fight the Nazi hordes, heroes such as Northstar tell a very different story. Whether or not you agree with the message that Marvel is looking to portray, it is impossible to deny that a group of men and women largely known for tights clad heroes and wanton use of onomatopoeia, are making an impact on our political landscape. For too long this was seen as a kid’s game or mindless entertainment, but stories like this show us that these people have something to say, and that they’re not afraid to take a stand.

Having grown up surrounded by superheroes, the idea of them promoting a political agenda is not new to me. X-Men has spent the better part of the past five decades dissecting the undercurrent of popular society rejecting those who are different. Whether through paralleling the struggles of the civil rights movement or helping children who combat schoolyard bullies, the X-Men have shown that they long for a world where they can peacefully co-exist with the humans who hate and fear them. Marvel, therefore, has always been about confronting socio-political issue, but what’s interesting about this latest headline is that now they’re in a place for more than just the comic enthusiast sub-culture to hear about it.

What I want to focus on today is the fact that our entertainment is not content to be shallow. Issues that need to be addressed are being brought forward. With the resurgence in popularity that both Marvel and DC have found, those issues are being confronted in ways most people would never have imagined. As crazy as it sounds, the Avengers might make more of a difference in your child’s worldview than any teacher or friend. These are characters that people look up to, and what they say carries more weight with each ticket and comic book we buy. Whether you want to high five comic writers for taking a stand, or punch them in the face for championing views you don’t agree with, it’s important to see they are addressing them. Entertainment is often a reflection of our world, a window into what our culture values or what it fears. As you read, watch, or listen, don’t just consume haphazardly…THINK!

Nerd Christmas

This past Saturday was one of the most sacred and religious holidays in all of nerdom, Free Comic Book Day (FCBD). For many years I have heard of this phenomenon. I knew that there was such a time when Stan Lee rode into town in the SHIELD helicarrier and delivered free comics to all the good girls and man-children hoping for their fanatical financial support for the coming year, and this time I wanted to be a part of it.

What excited me most about this year’s FCBD was the idea of not just perusing the content that was easily accessible online, but actually waking up early and driving to my local shop to see what the fuss was about. I expected to see a large number of men of similar age and appearance to myself suffering from varying degrees of neckbeardery, kind of shuffling around waiting to pick up a new Avengers tie in. What I actually saw when I pulled up was a line out the door made up of people of all different ages and races and genders. That’s right, women. In a comic shop, it was awesome.

I’ve been semi-frequently visiting my local shop (Rogue’s Gallery in Round Rock, TX)  for several years now and only ever really seen guys who were more or less just like me, but this was a fantastic showing of all kinds of people willing to wake up early (10 am is early for comic enthusiasts) on a Saturday and make their way to a local shop to see what exciting things they could get their hands on. Moms and dads were there with their kids, wives with their husbands, nerdy manchildren like myself with friends of equivalent social standing. It was awesome. Never before had I seen so many people in the store.

What’s more, I saw a kid eagerly grab a Firefly hardcover and run it up to his mom expecting him to ask for the copy himself, and instead heard him get excited thinking he found one his mom hadn’t read yet. She responded that it was a variant cover and she had in fact read it a while back, but the important thing was that a woman in her mid forties was having a conversation with her middle school aged son about comics and not telling them they would rot his brain. She had a passion for comics (you don’t just know something is a variant cover if it’s your first rodeo), and she was sharing it with her children. I can’t tell you how much hope that gives me for my own future progeny.

Anyway, when I finally made it to the front of the line I found that FCBD is indeed an event for all ages. There were comics for elementary aged kids featuring Spongebob and Yo Gabba Gabba monstrosities, as well as new Marvel and DC heavy hitters for guys like me. I even nabbed a Firefly/Star Wars double issue that I’m sure the mom behind me was eager to pick up herself. It was great to see that people were excited to share their passion whether it was for a beloved child’s character, a classic superhero, or the continuation of a short lived (but well loved) television series. Kids were excited about reading, parents were excited about sharing a hobby, and several wives and girlfriends I saw were happy to pick up a new Buffy comic, and I am always on board with that.

As a local business owner (of a sort) myself, I loved seeing a small brick and mortar overrun with people. While I noticed a few simply grabbing their free books and heading out the door, a fair number were picking up complementary books or trade paperbacks and helping to keep this little store alive. Randy and the guys at Rogue’s did a great job managing the queue while also providing helpful advice to those who wanted to know which free books were best as well as what to get if they liked what they read. This was my first Free Comic Book Day, but seeing how positive an experience it was, I will definitely be going back again next year. Feel free to catch a ride to the shop with me if you’d like, or check out a local brick and mortar yourself. More often than not you’ll be glad that you did.

Joey’s Podcast Playlist

I spend around ten hours a week commuting to and from work.  I used to listen to talk radio in the truck, but I think that led to elevated blood pressure and the overuse of football stats in everyday conversation.  To better pass the time, I started listening to a few different podcasts.  These give me enough free options to find something that suits my mood and helps me learn something new.  Here are my recommendations:

  • B.S. Report with Bill Simmons.  In addition to being The Sports Guy on ESPN, Simmons is also editor-in-chief on Grantland, a website that covers sports, pop culture, music, and even pro-wrestling on occasion.  These podcasts cover the same gamut of topics.  Rating: PG-13.
  • PTI.  Pardon the Interruption is a 30-minute spors show that airs weekdays on ESPN.  This is the audio from the show.  I don’t have cable, so I listen to yesterday’s show during my morning commute.  Rating: PG
  • Freakonomics Radio.  The guys who wrote the Freakonomics books also have a podcast.  Like the book, it covers a little bit of everything in a bizarre way.  The premise is: What do the numbers say about Issue X?  What do we do about it? Rating: PG
  • Friday Night Comedy.  If SNL’s Weekend Update came from England and was half-an-hour long, it would be Friday Night Comedy.  This podcast from BBC Radio has a panel of comics talking about current events (both European and global). Charming. Rating: PG.
  • The Game Informer Show.  Game Informer magazine, which (predictably) covers video games, has a weekly podcast with game reviews and industry news.  I tend to share their tastes ratings-wise so this is a helpful resource to find lesser known games.  Rating: PG/PG-13.
  • The Indoor Kids.  This is from Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist Network of podcasts and shows.  Basically, a comedian and a psychologist (who are married) talk about specific video games or game-related topics.  Some of the more interesting ones involved asking what, exactly, a game is.  Swearing and blue humor abounds. Rating: R.
  • Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show. Another podcast from a comedian, although not necessarily a funny podcast.  KP and Samm Levine (of Freaks and Geeks fame) spend an hour or two talking with some kind of artist about their craft and life.  This is my favorite podcast right now because you get a couple of hours of some of your favorite artists/celebrities in a laid-back and largely non-snarky format.  Some of my favorites were Zach Levi, Chris Hardwick, Chris Pratt, and recently Damon Lindeloff. Heads up on swearing. Rating: R.
  • Unbelievable? A British podcast that tackles relevant and controversial topics of faith in a safe and respectful way. You can be disagree without being mean! Yay! Rating: PG.

I also listen to these while working out, although listening to Nathan Fillion talk about Halloween costumes for fifteen minutes probably won’t help your run time.  If you’re like me and you like to zone out during workouts, podcasts might be a good move.

Finally, a lot of these have existed for dozens or even hundreds of episodes.  If you want a jumping on point, let me know and I’ll give you specific suggestions.