Like a lot of people,I was shocked and saddened at the news. The motivations of the suspect, Mr. James Holmes, have already been discussed and debated. Political labels on both the left and right were thrown at him, as was the theory that he was pretending to be the Joker based on comments made to the arresting officers. Already, comic books have been used to illustrate possible inspirations for the crime, and there is no doubt that other aspects of nerd culture will be brought forward as evidence in the eyes of the public. Less than 15 years ago, less than 15 miles away from the theatre where the tragedy occurred, the Columbine massacre occurred. After that event, there were many aspects of geek culture placed under the microscope of public scrutiny. The aftermath of this event will, almost certainly, follow suit.
The reason this tragedy hits us close to home is that the victims of this horror are our own. These people were in costume, waiting to see something they were fans of in a way that few understand. They were families, they were friends, they were cosplayers, they were geeks, they were us. It’s ironic that such actions occurred during the showing of a film where one of the primary traits of the protagonist is his aversion to handguns. The fact is that twelve people were killed, and fifty more were injured, by one madman with four guns, and the victims could have easily been any one of us because this is the sort of thing we do. I can’t imagine the number of people reading this that actually attended a midnight screening of TDKR…
This is a crime beyond the reckoning and understanding of, I hope, all of the people I know. It is not, unfortunately, a crime beyond prediction. Looking over the responses on Twitter, I see calls for violence, promises to exact vengeance, etc. If that was all simply a reaction to this horrific crime, I would understand it, but I remember quite clearly sitting down in the theatre last night, before the movie began, and reading about how people who reviewed the film poorly received death threats on their websites. Violence must be eschewed from our minds if we are to rise above this. We now have a responsibility to each other to be better than what’s expected of us. The stereotype of a violent comic fan will likely be this year’s version of the violent DOOM player of the early 90’s, and we have to confound expectations, lest we deserve the labels put upon us. We have to react with prayers for peace rather than calls to arms. We have to react with compassion for the victims and their families rather than rage at the accused. We have to be calmer, we have to be more mature, and we have to be better than those around us. We have to be aware of the people who are calling for violence–now, and in the future–and we have to speak out, publicly, and say “No, that is not an okay thing to say.” We have to be role models. We have to be exemplary. We are, like it or not, a community, and we now have an obligation to that community to show it in the best light possible. If we aren’t strong enough, as individuals, to be able to do that, then we deserve the scorn that may come to us.
Don’t talk about violence. Don’t make jokes. Don’t make threats. In this situation, on this topic, be ideal. If you can’t, you’re not just letting yourself down, you’re letting everyone who people group you with down as well. Don’t let us down.
-Written by Cameron Russell (GeeksAfterDark)