On his popular Facebook page tonight, one man posted “Ramadan Mubarak” for his Muslim followers – a simple gesture of goodwill not unlike wishing someone “Merry Christmas”. Unfortunately, a few people took this as opportunity (in their minds, provocation) to spew hate in the most tiresomely clichéd manner. My mind was cast back to one of my old film lecturers revealing, in one of his wonderful tangents, that he had recently written about the major role music had played in the defeat of racism in the United States across the 20th Century, no doubt with regular reference to Bob Dylan.
The germination of this particular memory was in all probability due to the tragic events in Colorado last night, the news of which horrified me – in all honesty more than other mass shootings in recent memory. One particular aspect stuck out but didn’t surprise me: many of those witnesses and victims at first believed the gunfire to be part of the film they were watching, which happened to be The Dark Knight Rises. All sorts has been written about how we engage with film, how it reproduces the workings of experience (such as the optic system) and the human mind. The metaphor often used is “dreaming”. While on that plane, those in Theatre 9 were needless to say in a tremendously vulnerable state. I and many members of this site were lucky enough to see the film two days early, but these people were attending a midnight screening, their very first opportunity to see the film, their anticipation that eager.
Christopher Nolan, the director, released a statement a few hours ago. One line in particular echoed my own feelings:
The movie theater is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.
But cinema is not just a sanctuary for escapism. I believe it is a place of compassion. When we invest ourselves in characters and situations we become stronger, better people. On some level we learn to recognise ourselves in others. In her essay on the issue of Aboriginal representation in film, there is a passage by Marcia Langton in which she claims the worst form of representation is none at all. Rather than “Why are people racist?”, she prefers to ask, “Why are some people not racist?” It is a profound observation. There is a process of learning and experience involved, but it is one which requires constant renewal. Seeing more films, reading more books and comics – regardless of what is claimed by the sensationalist media – can only help to destroy social barriers, race, religion, class or other. Not only that, art helps us find purpose and true appreciation for one another. It is thus greatly saddening to realise that many will be put off going to the cinema by what happened in Colorado, at least for a while. It is my belief that no-one with this appreciation would willingly raise a gun at a fellow human being, or so readily spout hate over the internet. Luckily I know we’re all tolerant and understanding people, but I implore you: keep seeing films. Don’t let them win.
And Ramadan Mubarak for my Muslim friends.