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In the Wake of Shooting: Is There a Link Between Pop Culture and Violence?

Warner Bros., the movie studio that produced 'The Dark Knight Rises,' has pulled a trailer for its upcoming film 'Gangster Squad,' in which men are seen shooting up a crowd in a movie theater.

The suspect in Friday's massacre in a , James Holmes, had obviously not yet seen The Dark Knight Rises, as the movie was having its premier at midnight Thursday, just minutes before he allegedly stormed the dark theater with canisters of noxious gas and assault weapons.

Although the new Batman movie has not yet been widely seen, early reports indicate it is dark and violent. And, no one knows what role the movie may have had on the alleged actions of the 24-year-old neuroscience honors student who is suspected of killing 12 people and injuring dozens more.

According to the New York Times, a spokeswoman for the the movie's production studio, Warner Bros., said the studio has pulled its trailer for an upcoming film, Gangster Squad. In the trailer - which was shown at some screenings of The Dark Knight Rises, but not in the Aurora theater - men are seen shooting up the crowd in a movie theater.

"The Joker"

Not much is known yet about the suspect Holmes, but according to a federal law enforcement source, he had colored his hair red and told police he was "the Joker." "The Joker" is the iconic villain in the Batman series.

In the days to come, much more will be learned about the life of the suspect, and perhaps to his motives for this horrifying act. But for now, the questions that surround the killings are sadly well known: Was he insane? How did he obtain assault weapons? Was he influenced by violence in movies? Did he see a violent act at a crowded movie premier as an opportunity gain publicity?

Need for validation, or need for violence?

In an op/ed article in the New York Times, film critic Roger Ebert asks if the link is between this violent murderous spree and the movie, or between the violence and the publicity that surrounds one who commits such an act.

"Those like James Holmes, who feel the need to arm themselves, may also feel a deep, inchoate insecurity and a need for validation," wrote Ebert.

A bill struck down

In June 2011, a California law authored by California Senator Leland Yee that would have restricted access by minors to violent video games was was nullified by the Supreme Court.

"Unfortunately, the majority of the Supreme Court once again put the interests of corporate America before the interests of our children," Yee said in a press release posted on his website.

The bill, which was signed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 would have criminalized the sale or rental of violent games to anyone under the age of 18. Stating that video games are protected by the First Amendment, a U.S. District Court judge blocked the bill, and the bill was ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court.

Assault weapons used

Yee is currently authoring a bill (SB 249) that would close a loophole in California's assault weapon law. The law would limit the easy reloading of semi-automatic weapons such as AR-15s and AK-47s.

Chief Dan Oates of the Aurora police said when Holmes surrendered to them Friday, he had in his car an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, and a .40 caliber Glock handgun, and all three were believed to have been used inside the theater. Another Glock handgun was found inside the theater.

Holmes remains in custody in Aurora.

Tell us your thoughts

Do you think there is a link between movie and video game violence and violent actions like the one in Aurora, Colo.? Take our poll and give us your thoughts in the comment section below.

Lou Covey, The Local Motive July 22, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Violence and media have been hand in hand for centuries. Homer's Iliad, Mother Goose, Grimm's Fairytales, Edgar Allen Poe... Sometimes violence can be great art.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive July 22, 2012 at 04:22 PM
We have all kinds of gun laws in this country and there are more proposed and passed every month, somewhere. I have the feeling this particular incident would not have been stopped with an all out ban on weapons.
Rebecca Lorenz July 22, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Books. Magazines. Imagination. People dream up wild stuff about all sorts of things every day.
Rebecca Lorenz July 22, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Games, movies, magazines, books, may help people devise a method but the person has to do a lot more than fantasize about an act. Researching and purchasing the equipment (lots of money), training to use that equipment, going to the location, and then actually committing a horrible act. By the way, a person like that could and would use other weapons if guns are not available. What kind of person goes through all that and does not stop at some point to question him/herself, or maybe does question him/herself and then decides their plan is fine? If someone is bent on committing an atrocity, they will. This is sickening and terrible and makes me cry.
Maria July 31, 2012 at 04:44 AM
I doubt it's the violence in movies or games that cause "deranged" or "lost" people to commit such horrific acts. First of all, how many millions of people watch or play these movies and games that don't act in a violent act. It seems to be a two fold explanation that might be slipping through the cracks for all these extremely sad cases. In all the past shootings at the schools and now the theater, there seems to have previous alarming behavior from the shooter prior to the act but no one acted on it or there was no legal action that can be taken for just behaving "odd." As usual, our so called "Representative" blame the guns and ignore any other facts. Instead of looking for a solution or preventive process, they just push their ideological agenda. Also technology has advance so much in the current years, I think our culture, especially for the youth, are suffering for it. Cell phones, computers, ipods and so on, freeze out any social interaction with people that there seems to be an alarming cut off to connecting with each other therefore, when a "sick" individual becomes detached and dangerous, he doesn't have any compassion for his fellow human beings. Our culture is sick and our children are becoming the causalities.

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