A few nights ago I let a good friend in on a realization I had shortly after I climbed into this Ticket Booth of mine: my goal as an artist had never been to change the world. I was never the type to come up with a brilliant sociopolitical message or image that would cause a world spiraling out of control to open its eyes to self-improvement. Rather, I want to help my readers to escape and forget about the world crumbling around them, if only for a few hours. We don’t need to close our eyes completely, but it is okay, if not recommended, to take a nap now and then. The “Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh” version of Hollywood that I have been trying desperately to keep alive has functioned as my highly valued portal out of this confusing world. It’s a portal that continues to provide me with great comfort, and over the last couple of years it’s filled me with great pleasure to share it with others.
At first I thought there were no words to describe the sadness and anger that many of us felt yesterday. But now I’m beginning to see that there are far too many words, and you’ll forgive me if I express any half-thoughts. It’s unbelievable that we’ve been here before and still we have no answers to the endless number of questions: how could this happen, how can we keep it from happening again, and of course everyone’s favorite, who’s to blame? Would answering that last question provide answers to all the rest? In the last 24 hours I’ve heard blame for the theatre shooting in Aurora, CO dropped on the doorsteps of Hollywood, Washington, D.C., the NRA, the Board of Education, all parents, liberal churches, comic books, and the ever frequent “it all started with the assassinations of JFK and MLK.” Sadly this octagon of pointed fingers that we’ve seen in past national and international tragedies never once provided me with comfort, despite which corners I feel share in the responsibility.
If memory serves, the first time moviegoers saw a bullet enter a character’s body without the camera cutting was in Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Before then, the Code determined that movie violence could be little more than sound effects and an actor’s well-timed “fall to the ground.” As the two title characters drive away from one of their earlier bank robberies, a man jumps on the running board of their car as they make their getaway . . . Clyde shoots him in the head and bloodies up the movie screen. At my current this-will-pay-the-bills-for-now job, recently I was told that I’m very good at wording emails and should be a politician. So how’s this for spin—this envelope pushing of Bonnie and Clyde resulted in skyrocketing sales of French berets, not bullets. In light of this fact, can we still blame the movies, Your Honor?
After the initial shock, the selfish thoughts started pouring in. However guilty I felt about thinking such things, I have to admit that these were there: are movie theatres no longer a safe place of escape for me? Will the process begin to parallel that of going through airport security? Should it? What will the box-office numbers will be like after this? How can I keep encouraging a love of movies if the world becomes terrified of them? I can’t stop these self-involved thoughts from popping into my head, but after they come and go, I arrive at my own bottom line:
People have lost their lives for absolutely no reason, and right now, no well-thought out argument that appropriately blames one group over another is going to make me any less angry.