Warning: unpopular opinion below.

No, I haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises. I did see The Dark Knight after hearing so much about how great it was. But I remember feeling worse for the wear. No matter how well-made a movie is, if it’s that dark and violent I just don’t leave feeling like it was a good experience.

Before I wrote this I did a little research to make sure that Rises was as violent as it’s predecessors, and I found that indeed it has “a disturbingly high body count (which) is achieved via massive explosions, kidnappings, neck breakings, shootings, and hand-to-hand combat. While there’s not a lot of actual blood, there’s tons of death and mass destruction.” Check.

After the Aurora theater mass murder the NBC group of networks (among others) pulled all trailers for The Dark Knight Rises because they felt it was inappropriate to have images of gun violence from the movie run alongside news stories about the real-life massacre. Warner Bros. pulled trailers for the upcoming movie Gangster Squad that showed gunmen shooting up a crowded movie theater. Hmmm….

Imagine there were fancy cameras in that Aurora theater. And a film crew. And some dramatic lighting. And a fog machine. Maybe someone to yell “action” before James Holmes came through the door in a gas mask with his arsenal. Imagine it was all caught on film from interesting angles and spiced up with some loud sound effects and thematic music. Would you pay $12 to go see it?

Why not? It’s the same thing we are flocking to theaters to see. “Cool” might as well mean “violent”. Most would say that they wouldn’t go see it because people actually died, not because of the violence itself. The violence itself is perfectly fine, as evidenced by the $249 million the movie raked in over the weekend (and the hundreds of millions more it will make in the coming weeks) despite being marred by a massacre and much of its advertising being pulled.

So why is popular entertainment filled with so much gratuitous violence? Does it have to be that way? If they made a Batman movie just as stylish without glorifying violence would it be as popular?

Movie studios know about something called the lowest common denominator. The more they can appeal to the animal inside everyone by making violence seem cool, the more money they will make. What is on that screen is there because someone wants us to see it. The formula is tried and true. But as technology has advanced the depictions of violence have become more and more life-like. No one would know the difference if the scene in Colorado was filmed and edited into their favorite violent action movie. Which part inside of us is attracted to watching this? I don’t think it’s the good part.

Across the country people were bringing 6-year-olds to midnight showings of The Dark Knight Rises to watch “massive explosions, kidnappings, neck breakings, shootings… death and mass destruction”. One of them lost their life. A lot more were injured, and not just in Colorado. And not just 6-year-olds.