Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Aurora and David Thomson on Batman

1. Thomson: http://www.tnr.com/article/film/105280/aurora-and-batman

2. My comment:

...I think Skahn's post gets at what's missing in Thomson's brief piece, which, I think, founders on a logical error. He wants it that Hathaway be wrong about the Aurora slaughter being an "unfathomably senseless act." Thomson wants to begin fathom it, to get causal purchase on it. To try to do so he notes the abundant and well crafted violence in movies and hints at (suggests?) some nexus between that violence and movies as an increasing "loner" experience. To wit, for examples:

... Has no one noticed how alone we are at the movies, or how unreal their violence is?...


... But ask yourself about “loners” in this best of nations, and why some of them need to fantasize over an on-screen power that has missed them out in real life. Look closely at the violence; see how excitingly it is shot and cut; and just listen to the souped-up impact of the blows struck time after time...

So, as I read this, there is, is there not, a tentative thesis lurking here: that we can get some purchase on fathoming this unfathomably senseless act by considering the sheer prevalence of violence in our movies such as Batman typifies? But Thomson, doesn't, as I read him, have the courage of this tentative conviction. He ends his piece by saying we should set aside notions of senselessness and consider what he says as closely as possible--this tantamount to him not owning his idea.

Actually, Thomson's tentative thesis runs into the brick wall of Holmes's obvious psychosis, sociopathy or whatever his mental defect may be identified to be. And here's where I see the pertinence of skahn's comment, even if I take a different meaning than the meaning he intended. I take the idea that violence is bred in our bone and that its aberrational explosion will always occur from time to time in different forms. As that is so, and as we perforce absorb and mediate what we experience, so movie violence such as Batman typifies may clothe an aberrational explosion. Which is to say, the aberrational explosion is antecedent to the form it apes, but is not caused by what it apes. If no Joker in popular culture, then some other heinous villain.

If what I say is right, that movie violence is not the cause of aberrational real violence but may inform how it manifests itself, then what Thomson wants to examine closely will not sustain scrutiny.

One other thing: in wanting to take up Hathaway's idea of "unfathomable senselessness," Thomson confuses her meaning. She was not saying, I'd argue, that there don't exist reasons or causes, presumably buried deeply in the wracked fractures at the base of Holmes's ravaged psyche, for what he did. What she's saying, I'd argue, is that such massive, purposeless and wanton evil is beyond humanel reckoning, beyond moral reckoning. Even with some understanding of the neurological cause and effect of Holmes's slaughter, it defies moral understanding. It defies cultural-become-psychological explanations of which Thomson tentatively speaks. There is a terrible existentiality to it. It just is. It just terribly is.

Thomson's stab at introducing some fathomable sense bearing close examination is a refusal or inability to face up to the truth of Hathaway's words: the world's overwhelming capacity for inexplicable evil and tragedy--the awful mystery of evil itself...

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