Shmuel and I love to listen to shiurim by Rabbi David Sacks from the Happy Minyan in LA. This week Rabbi Sacks gave a very moving commentary on the recent shootings in Colorado.
James Holmes, the 24-year-old suspect, was apparently obsessed with Chris Nolan’s Batman series. He wore a gas mask and armor into the theatre (others were dressed up for the premiere too, so it didn’t look out of place, apparently). He threw a tear gas bomb, and opened fire on the crowd, killing twelve and injuring dozens of others, some of whom are still in critical condition. Holmes had also dyed his hair red, and when he was apprehended, he said “I’m the Joker,” referring to the villain in the Batman series.
Rabbi Sacks is a television writer himself. He’s written for The Simpsons, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Malcolm in the Middle, The Tick and Murphy Brown. He knows something about the topic. He knows what a huge responsibility it is to portray something on the screen, because people feel they’re actually seeing something that’s real, even if they know intellectually that it’s fake.
Heath Ledger himself, who had portrayed The Joker in The Dark Knight, the second movie in the trilogy, claimed that the role was so disturbing to play, and died a few months after he finished filming for the role, of an accidental toxic combination of prescription drugs.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Ledger’s preparation for his role as the Joker:
To prepare for the role, Ledger told Empire, “I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices – it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath – someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts”; after reiterating his view of the character as “just an absolute sociopath, a cold-blooded, mass-murdering clown”, he added that Nolan had given him “free rein” to create the role, which he found “fun, because there are no real boundaries to what the Joker would say or do. Nothing intimidates him, and everything is a big joke.”
It seems that Holmes was similar. He had received a grant to study neuroscience, and had withdrawn from the program not long before his rampage. He began amassing an arsenal over two months ago and would receive packages often at work. When authorities tried to enter his apartment, they realized it was booby trapped. If they had tripped the wire, they would have been killed, and the occupied apartment building would have exploded.
What I’m getting to is this: We realize the huge responsibility of making films. We’ve already seen in our commercial work how – through simple editing – you can use people’s own words, from their own mouths, to make them look like they’re saying something they didn’t actually intend.
The Batman murders were perpetrated by a very sick man. He alone is responsible for the death of 12 and the injuries of 58 others.
I’m just waiting for some bad news relating to that song that’s been on the radio nonstop for a while – “Pumped Up Kicks.” Normal people take the song as a commentary on violence in schools, very tongue-in-cheek. But surely some wonky kid will someday use this song as his (or her) anthem. Did Foster the People think about that when they recorded it? Does that thought even cross the mind of a radio DJ when he plays it for the trillionth time?
We are what we eat.
After hearing Rabbi Sacks’ powerful shiur, we are recommitting ourselves to making videos – and the short sci-fi movie that we’re working on day and night – that impact the world for the good. We want you to hold us to this, and let us know when we’re failing.
This is also a reminder to be very vigilant about what your children AND YOU watch. Don’t just let the junk seep in. Be on constant watch. Holmes seemed to grow up normally, excelling at school, even serving as a counselor in a camp for underprivileged children. Scary.