Published July 20, 2012
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Friday that the alleged gunman in the attack on a packed theater in Colorado identified himself as Batman’s arch-enemy “The Joker” after he sprayed bullets into a midnight showing of “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises.”
“He had his hair painted red, he said he was ‘The Joker,’ obviously the ‘enemy’ of Batman,” Kelly said at a news conference in which he said security at New York City theaters was being increased.
The horrific shooting left at least 12 people dead and scores wounded.
If indeed he identified himself as The Joker, could the suspected gunman, James Holmes, have been influenced by the Batman movie or cartoon series?
“There have been a tremendous number of studies showing that violent movies can indeed increase the likelihood that somebody in the audience will act aggressively,” Leonard Berkowitz, PhD, Professor of Psychology Emeritus, University of Wisconsin, Madison, explained to FOXNews.com “There is considerable research that such an effect could have indeed taken place. Just as people get sexual ideas from watching a sexual movie, other people can get aggressive ideas from watching an aggressive movie. Those members of the of the audience who have some violent tendencies or an aggressive disposition may then be influenced to act upon those ideas.”
Compared with earlier incarnations of the Batman franchise, director Christopher Nolan's trilogy about the winged superhero is especially dark. In one scene in “The Dark Knight Rises,” a masked villain is seen leading a violent gang into a packed football stadium where they attack innocent victims with guns and explosives.
Witnesses say that Holmes was wearing a bullet-proof vest, riot helmet and gas mask as he opened fire in the suburban movie theater, which was filed to capacity. Holmes reportedly shot at victims with as many as four weapons, and set off smoke bombs or tear gas in the aisles.
The Associated Press compiled a list of more possible parallels between the massacre in Aurora and the Batman comic book character.
-- Bruce Wayne, Batman’s alter ego, became a crime fighter after he witnessed his parents being killed leaving a movie theater.
-- A video game based on the Batman comic, "Arkham City," takes place in an abandoned movie theater, the same theater where Wayne’s parents were killed.
-- In Frank Miller’s 1980s comic book reboot, "Batman: The Dark Knight," the Joker kills an entire late-night TV audience with gas.
Even before the shooting in Colorado, fans of the Batman franchise reacted aggressively when a film reviewer dared to criticize the third film in Nolan’s trilogy.
Marshall Fine’s less-than-glowing review of “The Dark Knight Rises” earned the reviewer death threats, posted on the movie review web site, RottenTomatoes.com. The vitriol was so intense, the website discontinued any and all commenting on the movie.
“Someone said that they’d like to beat me into a coma with a hose, someone else wanted to set me on fire,” Marshall Fine tells FOXNews.com. “But I never took those comments as threatening, because there’s a big difference between someone sending you a letter or calling you on the telephone and posting something anonymously on an Internet thread.”
Fine says there's also a big difference between a random Internet threat and what happened in Colorado.
“We know nothing about [the shooter] and why he did what he did,” said Fine. "This is an act of violence and everybody knew that every theater in the country was showing this movie at midnight last night, so it was going to be packed with people. So, if you’re someone who’s decided that, ‘I’m going to make an impact by killing a bunch of people and becoming a celebrity,’ what better way to do it than to go to the place where you know the most people are going to be so that you can have the most victims."
Psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, a member of Fox News’ Medical A-Team, agrees.
“Batman didn’t cause this shooting,” he wrote Friday. “The very real man who opened fire on moviegoers did. And while it is true that a darkened movie theater at midnight, showing a much-anticipated film to a packed audience, can attract someone intent on violence, football stadiums can, too. Restaurants can. olitical events can. (Case in point: Gabby Giffords).”
Yahoo! Movies’ contributing editor Thelma Adams concurs.
“I think it’s an isolated event that shouldn’t really be tied to the Dark Knight and the movie itself,” Adams told FOXNews.com. “The person who took this action in Colorado had not seen the movie. So he’s not reacting to the movie itself. I think you have to keep that in mind.”