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A Long Dark Night: Gun Violence Romanticized and the New Batman Movie

Boys and men in America inherit a popular culture of indiscriminate vigilante rage.

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Add to this social isolation the possibility of chemical neural imbalance, a history of abuse or trauma and it is a toxic slush mixing in the mind of enraged young men. Finally, they stagger inside a blacklit life and see other wounded men on the movie screen, wearing masks and striking at the world. Virginia Tech gunman, Cho aptly detailed the arc of a disintegrating self image and its resurrection through violence. In his videos he declared, “You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. You just loved to crucify me. You loved inducing cancer in my head, terror in my heart and ripping my soul all this time.”

Anyone who watched the recent Batman movies will hear an echo of his lament in the villains. Ra’s al Ghul of the League of Shadows wants to cure civilization of rot by burning it down. The Joker’s nihilism drives his war on Gotham City. And now Bane and Miranda Tate again want to destroy a world that already destroyed them.

In repeating this mythology of regenerative masculine violence, we are creating stages where troubled lonely men take their stand and act out our fantasy. It’s not that we have sick young men among us. It’s that we have inherited and actively recreate a culture that gives them a vocabulary of indiscriminate vigilante rage. And then we allow guns to flow freely in the name of the Second Amendment. No wonder when they speak they speak in bullets.

Nicholas Powers is an assistant professor of literature at SUNY Old Westbury. His book of poetry, "Theater of War" was published by Upset Press in 2004. He has written for the Village Voice and the Indypendent.