The crowd that assembled on Saturday night for a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Sheepshead Bay, a remote and fairly diverse part of Brooklyn, could be described with only some exaggeration as a mob. I was instructed to wait outside in a loose throng, clutching my ticket to the sold-out show, because there was not enough room for us in the theater lobby. An employee searched my bag before I could enter—I was at first relieved, and then disturbed, to realize he had bigger concerns than the Sprite Zero and Pretzel M&Ms I was sneaking in—and two New York City police officers stood watch at the door. This was no ordinary movie. One day earlier a man walked into a screening of the same movie in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 58. That was a crime straight out of a Batman movie—a brutal attack on random citizens, motivated by a kind of insanity that challenges the very notion of a civil society. The Aurora screening had its real live supervillain–the shooter described himself as “the Joker.” In Sheepshead Bay we had real live cops—the New York City police who frisked me with their eyes provided the basis for the Gotham City police. And at every screening—The Dark Knight Rises earned $162 million over the weekend—there was a Gotham-style mob. The viewing of this movie creates a set of circumstances in which someone like Batman ought to emerge and tilt our society back toward civility. But there was only one Batman, and he was stuck on the screen.
- Brian Hurley