With the release of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises in theaters, retailers have brought DVDs of the Batman shows that I grew up with - namely Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond - to the forefront. We snatched up Season 1 of both series. While I was watching an episode of Batman Beyond, I felt I had an insight into the tragedy at the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.
In the episode, "Golem," Willie is a picked-on kid at the high school that Terry - the new Batman - attends. After being picked-on and pushed around by a bully, Willie's frustrated dad demands, "So what are you going to do to the guy who did that to you?" "When someone pushes you, you push back," and "I'm not raisin' no wuss." When Willie asks how he should deal with it his father replies, "Hit 'em where it hurts. You figure it out." Driven over the edge by the pressure of being picked on and the added pressure from his father to do something about it, Willie steals his dad's golem - a twenty-foot tall robot that works with a human controller. Willie uses the golem to destroy the bully's most prized possession - his car. An encounter with Batman during this incident accidentally fuses Willie's mind with the robot's, making it possible for Willie to control the golem without using the remote control. This also means that when the golem gets damaged, Willie feels it. He continues to attack the local bullies and even confronts his father, throwing his taunts back in his dad's face and almost killing him when Batman intervenes. Of course, Batman saves the day and Willie ends up in a juvenile facility, but I want to focus on Willie's relationship with his father and the influence this had on Willie's actions.
Willie's father was insistent that Willie fight back against his persecutors by any means necessary. I don't think Willie was trying to earn his father's acceptance by stealing the golem; I think he wanted to show his father how destructive he could be while taking his father at his word. So what does this have to do with the Colorado grad student who shot up a theater full of people watching The Dark Knight Rises? It goes to show the sort of familial relationships that can produce a killing mindset. We can't assume that the killer in this instance had this kind of family relationship, or even one like it, but it is worthwhile for us to think about these factors before we blame all of the killer's motivations on the movies. And of course, we must always remember that Batman himself never kills or condones killing.