Movies do influence the way people think. That’s not to say that the latest Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises caused James Holmes to commit the horrible act of mass murder in an Aurora, Colorado theater that has stunned the nation, and a lot of the world. But, they are very influential, in my view. And since he died his hair a lurid red, reportedly telling police he was a Batman comics villain, The Joker, and since a Batman mask was reportedly found in his apartment there does seem to be some reason to believe that he was influenced by the Batman story.
I know that movies have had a big effect on me, especially when I was a child and teenager. For instance, anti-racial and anti-ethnic prejudice films helped shape my world view in those areas. I recall such films as Gentlemen’s Agreement, The Boy with Green Hair, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pinky, and Imitation of Life. And I remember the tremendous influence of World War II propaganda movies.
Then there was the other side. The first film epic, the milestone, great silent box office blockbuster Birth of a Nation, produced and directed by D. W. Griffith, was a racist film. It glorified the Ku Klux Klan. It caused such a row by organizations such as the NAACP. that Griffith made another even more expensive epic called Intolerance to show that he was not a racist. It bombed at the box office. Griffith lost a ton of money on it because it was the most expensive movie made at that time.
Many movies, maybe most, are extremely violent. There has been a debate for a long time about whether that causes movie goers to be violent. A number of studies have presented evidence that violent movies do influence children to be more violent. I just read there have been 500 over the years. However, not everyone agrees with that claim. I supposed you would have to say the jury is still out on that one.
In my view, movies definitely affect us emotionally. In years past, Hollywood showed a lot of violent crime, but the bad guys always got their just deserts in the end. That did not stop the villans, though, from often being the most interesting characters in the movies. And, eventually, Hollywood became more realistic, and sometimes the bad guy did and does get away with it.
When we try to blame the Batman film with influencing James Holmes actions, we do have to reflect on the fact that of all the thousands who saw that Movie over the weekend, only one opened fire in a crowded theater.