Sometimes, things conspire to present you with a gift that is like Christmas & your birthday all rolled into one. Some unique gem that you never knew existed, let alone would one day confront first-hand. Well yesterday I discovered it. I discovered the Holy Grail. The zenith. The apex of us as a society. I discovered an article by Allison Pearson on Batman. And it might just be the worst article I have ever read.
Allison Pearson is someone who likes to confront the tough issues HEAD ON. As well as being an ‘award winning journalist’, Allison’s foray into books resulted in the penning of I Don’t Know How She Does It; some generic chick-lit garbage about a woman who has a perfect life, job and family, and is finding out that having the perfect life, job and family is not as easy as it looks. I’m not being gratuitous, here. That is literally the plot.
The shooting at the Dark Knight Rises premier in Aurora, Colorado, which has resulted in the deaths of 12 people, has been a highly sensitive issue. So the precocious lady in question just had the throw her two cents in. The article entitled “Why was a child watching such a violent movie?” examined an aspect of the appalling event which no-one, and I mean absolutely no-one, had considered; Why was a child in the cinema? The film is, like, all violent and stuff.
Pearson gets the ball rolling which an absolute peach of a gambit:
James Holmes. It’s a quiet sort of name for a mass murderer.
Terrific. No wonder he managed to formulate this plan undetected. If James Holmes buys 6000 rounds of ammunition from the internet, it’s fine. It’s James Holmes. It’s not the name of a mass murderer. Probably going to build a fort out of them. But get a similar order from Deathray Van Uzi, and you’re shopping him straight to the FBI.
The failure to distinguish between what’s true and what’s make-believe – is the crux of this tragedy.
Allison then tries to very subtly opt for the ‘Dem violent films made him do it rabble rabble’. But that’s the philosophical chameleon that she is. It isn’t even billed as an article about the murderer’s motivation. She’s just thrown in that psychological prognosis as a freebie.
Tragically, among the dead was a six-year-old, Veronica Moser-Sullivan.
What was a six-year-old doing at a midnight screening of such a violent film? A film with a 12A rating in the UK, which means a child under 12 cannot see it on their own. In the States it’s a PG13, which permits kids under 12, though parents are “advised” that it “might not be suitable”.
What kind of adult would subject a tired little girl, with a highly plastic imagination, to the deafening horrors of Christopher Nolan’s movie? Incredibly, Veronica Moser-Sullivan wasn’t the only, or even the youngest, child present at the cinema in Aurora that night. One couple took along a baby and a four-year-old.
The leap she makes is spectacular. It’s one of the most pointless, asinine, non-sequiturs ever bequeathed to the English language. Under the circumstances, it’s complete arbitrary nonsense. It’s the equivalent of assessing a car crash, seeing mangled bodies being taken from the scene, before peering into the car’s ashtray and saying; “Smoking eh? That’s bad for your health, you know. Dick.”
I’m unsure what the point of her argument is so far, but it seems to be loosely implying that…well it’s not really implying anything. It’s taken a tangible detail from a horrific story to lambast a parent for exposing a now deceased girl to superhero films. It suggests from the title that the tacit implication of the article is that had the parent not taken their daughter to the film, she would still be alive. But this isn’t really brushed upon. Which makes me think that Pearson may be that spectacularly dense, that she has completely failed to observe this from her prose. That her sole intention was to hijack this horrendous event as proof that some parents are unfit.
We’ve seen journalists do this before. Any time there is a shooting, people instantly try do draw links with their own personal bête-noire, whether it be violent games, aggressive music or the absence of religion. But this paragraph implies absolutely no link between the event and Alison’s prerogative. It’s an article about parents being shit, with some shooting going on in the background. Amazing.
However, it would appear that Alison has a word count expected of her, as she seems to run out of things to say on this line of enquiry half way through, yet continues to babble on about all sorts for another 500 words. Completely apropos of nothing, she sticks in a review of the film.
Well, I went to see The Dark Knight Rises last night and, I tell you, the innocent or angelic should be kept well away. In my house, we have our own film classification system. There’s SFG – Safe For Grandparents. And then there’s MA – Mummy Appropriate. The Dark Knight Rises would not get an MA rating. I belong to that endangered species of cinema-goer who still finds violence deeply upsetting, rather than funny in a knowing Tarantino kind of way.
At least, unlike the previous Dark Knight film, this one didn’t have a pencil being driven into someone’s eyeball by a demonic Joker. Batman (Christian Bale) has decided he is opposed to the use of guns, but there is enough punching, garroting and casual slaughter to satisfy the most Call of Duty-addled teenager.
Roger Ebert, eat your heart out.
It becomes apparent that the real point of this peace is a savage attack on violent films. Which is ironic, as I’d be much more likely to go postal if I was forced to read some abhorrent, kitsch, twee, cutesy chick-lit publication, than after even the most violent of movie-going experiences.
Only please don’t tell me that certain warped minds, minds like that of James Holmes, don’t sup full of the horrors they see on screen and develop a taste for it. Can it be coincidence that Holmes boobytrapped his apartment with explosives to kill police – the same wicked trick played in Speed by the maniacal Dennis Hopper?
See. Happened in a film and in real life. There was DEFINEITLY a link. There was no way he could have formulated a plan to booby trap a house without the Keanu Reeves vehicle “Speed”. Bet the Aurora bus service is thanking its lucky stars that managed to avoid any more of Holmes’ tributes to the now somewhat infamous film.
Now the reader is fully aware just how violent Batman is, Pearson goes fully for the parents. In the midst of what is little more than a crass rant about the downfall of society, the moral dénouement of her piece is to that a look at the event, and broad society in general -
In America, they have decided that the way to discourage mass killers is to deny them a place in history. Visiting Aurora, Barack Obama pledged not to refer to the killer by name. Some might argue it would be more effective to deny him the right to buy 6,000 bullets at a time. In the UK, we struggle to purchase two packets of Piriton in Boots. Remember that jaw-dropping scene in Bowling for Columbine in which Michael Moore goes to a bank that is offering a free gun to anyone opening an account? Such a culture is not looking for a cure; it doesn’t even know it’s sick.
This harrowing account of death, the downfall of society and cultural capitulation, leads Pearson to ask the question -
We need to ask what kind of a system allows a six-year-old to watch such a frightening film?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. THAT’S THE ONE FUCKING THING SHE DREW FROM THE WHOLE EVENT.
The article is a complete mess but it’s in the final paragraph that she really goes straight off the deep end, armed with nothing more than two ladles full of crazy.
In the midst of an apparent allergic reaction to correct sentence structure and grammar, Pearson throws in a conclusion that is completely at odds with her article, and makes absolutely no fucking sense to the common eye.
Batman himself flew into Colorado yesterday to pay his condolences. “It’s amazing to see Christian Bale,” said one fan, “he was stepping into reality.” So the actor who plays a fictional hero visits the scene of a real crime committed by a real student who thought he was a fictional villain and enemy of Batman, but who murdered real people who had gone to see a movie about a fictional hero who has the powers to defeat evil. Confused? We all are. And that confusion is a breeding ground in which dangerous minds can bloom and grow.
I’m currently on seven read-throughs of this, and I still can’t quite get my head around the point of her argument. What she appears to be saying is that it was wrong for Bale to visit the cinema, as people may see him out of costume, get confused about the difference between real life and films, then go on a killing spree. Is that it, Alison? Am I getting warm? Christ, I’d have more luck with a battered copy of Ulysses.
I don’t know why I expended rational thought on this piece. From it I’ve learnt that violent films & brushes with actors in real life will cause kids to grow up into murderers. But you don’t need to worry about that, as said kid will be murdered at the cinema by someone motivated to kill by said films, which your shit parent let you go and see. But then, if all parents are shit and let their kids see these films, they are all going to get gunned down due to the motivation via the plethora of violent films out there, like Batman, Speed and…I don’t know…Speed 2: Cruise Control. So if all the children are being killed in cinemas by crazy others, they can never grow up and become killers themselves. So then who is going to OH NO MY BRAIN HURTS.
It is honestly up there with my favourite articles of all time. It doesn’t quite match up to the Penny/Lezard house share in its soul-destroying futility, or Jan Moir on Stephen Gately for its horrifically ill-informed and crass conjecture, but as a stand-alone piece, my God it ticks many boxes.
The Telegraph has been shifting further and further to the right in recent times, with their columnists now awash with Conservative MEPs and reactionary wind-up merchants, but even they manage to write articles with more consistency than this. What starts as an attack on parents, ends in a look at what motivates someone to kill, but in reality it’s just a thinly veiled attack on action films. And an appalling one at that. Comparing wiring a house with explosives to scenes from Speed, using dressing up as a villain from the film as proof of motivation. Not considering that maybe, just maybe, in an auditorium full of people also in costume, it would be far easier to smuggle guns and ammo into a cinema by replicating a metal clad Batman-villain. Just a thought, like. It’s the kind of article that makes you feel better about yourself, as no-matter how much reality TV I watch, how much time I waste on droll internet sites, how many times I put off reading books to nap, I will never, ever, dull my brain enough to pen something this bad, before kicking back and thinking “That’s bang on the money, that”.
Thank you, Allison Pearson. For putting a smile on my face.