If one believes that Super-Heroes represent modern Mythology (Superman as an Apollonian God, The Flash as Mercury, Hawkman as Horus, Aquaman as Poseidon and Spider-Man as the Trickster, and so on): then Batman is the Chthonic Deity, the Hades/ Pluto/ Hern the Hunter figure, formed out of the Darkness symbolized by the Underworld. Batman, more than any other Hero, takes us to the murky, troubling places of society and the psyche; Batman is the Hero intentionally created to address trauma, and the evil of the Noir.
The Dark Reflection to the Hero is often the Hero’s Arch-Villain, the Yin-Yang opposite to the Hero’s good, a theme introduced with the Joker in the very first Tim Burton Batman movie: “You made me.” “No, YOU made ME!!” This theme was much more-iterated in Christopher Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight, which postulated the Joker as a psychotic figure of anarchy and mayhem, rising as a challenge to Batman’s protection of Gotham.
In an extremely arresting example of Life purposefully imitating Art, as anyone who has been conscious this weekend knows, the midnight premiere of the third installment in the Nolan/ Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, was attacked by an extremely well-armed gunman Thursday night, July 20, 2012, in Aurora, Colorado. Allegedly calling himself the Joker (“I am the Joker”), the gunman managed to create a new niche in the black annals of serial murderers: never before has such a blanketed assault been comic-book-themed.
What gets me is the (Comic-book) Mythological aspect to this crime. The gunman was apparently inspired by the violent anarchy that the Joker unleashes in The Dark Knight; he apparently identifies very with the Joker as a character (always beware of one psychotic who finds self-expression and actualization through the character and actions of another); and moreover, he purposefully made his attack just prior to a screening of the movie’s opening: in other words, at a time when the audience was preparing mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, to journey together into the mythic landscape of Gotham City, its conflicted Hero, and its twisted villains (some of whom seem irretrievably more twisted now). With expectations and excitement at their peak- this is the moment that the attacker chose to attack the safety of a movie-theater, a movie-experience, and the well-being of the assembled, as surely as the Joker terrorized a fictional city in a fictional movie.
What is meant to be the greater good to unfold from this tragedy (as we are always told, that there must be some greater good to be located somewhere), is difficult to understand. The man involved pretty clearly seems “not right” in his head (among other things, I am surprised at how comparatively easily he was apprehended by police in the parking-lot afterwards; don’t tell me that he was planning on just getting into his car and driving away). I assume the satisfaction of his notoriety will sustain him throughout the rest of his life’s imprisonment. A Mythic Story: Batman and the Joker. A Madman- and a too-twisted identification. A tragedy.
If there is one possibility of redemptive outcome to emerge from this massacre and horror, I hope it will be this: in casting himself in the role of “the Joker,” the murderer put the Face of Grotesquerie upon the policies of the NRA which oppose so thoroughly any meaningful efforts at gun-control regulations in this country. If the lunatic with the slashed mouth and the painted face, the madman able to purchase four guns in two months, with thousands of rounds of ammunition- if this psychotic’s face could become the Face of the “Lock and Load,” “Stand Your Ground,” “You’ll Take My Gun When You Pry It From My Cold, Dead Fingers” crowd- maybe we can at last begin to turn the tide on the outrageous level of gun-violence in the USA.