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The Batman Massacre and the Art Gallery of Your Soul

The Batman Massacre and the Art Gallery of Your Soul

Posted by Dr. Taylor Marshall

Our prayers and condolences extend to all who were murdered, injured, or who lost loved ones and friends last night in the Colorado massacre during the screening of the latest Batman movie.
I’m sure that many editorials will spill out about the levels of violence in the media. There will also be articles crying for gun control. I’d like to talk instead about the purpose of art. Film makers claim to be making art. This also allows us to examine film from the point of view of philosophy.
Three years ago, I wrote a post entitled: Is it fun to watch people die? or “On Being an Inglorious Bastard”. The post examined whether films like Inglorious Badards with their gratuitous violence and sadism were good shows to watch. I still haven’t seen the movie (I’ve never seen a Quentin Tarantino film).
That post three years ago asked the question: Why is America so obsessed with death? We’ll pay money to watch two hours of slaughter. And the Batman movies are even darker than ever. Clowns shooting each other in the head? The Joker mutilating people? This isn’t good for us! This is not good art. It is ugly. It mutilates the soul so that we cannot think rightly. Do you want to think rightly and clearly – then remove the distorted input. Bad art effects how see other human persons. We should live by the words of Saint Irenaeus about glory:
Good art is about man most fully alive in God.
Art produces images in the soul. Your soul is capable of being an art gallery. What kind of art do you hang there in your private gallery. The art gallery of your soul can be beautiful or it can be gruesome and pornographic. 
Take a moment and examine the art gallery of your soul: Is it pure? Is it beautiful? Is it redemptive? Does it draw you close to Christ? Would others find it beautiful and inspiring. 
If can choose, do not let evil images enter your soul. It’s dangerous. And please don’t let your children see them. There was a six year old and a nine year old at the midnight showing of Dark Knight in which those people were murdered, for crying out loud! What were children doing there in such a violent and gruesome movie?
The man who killed so many in the movie theatre during the Batman movie was allegedly dressed like the bad guy in the movie. This young man’s mind was, no doubt, filled with evil images. He even dressed himself up as an evil image. His soul was a gallery of terror. That is how he saw the world and he eventually transformed that fantasy world into reality.
You don’t have a to be a Philosophy major to realize that the watching the violent deaths of people (even if it is cinematic) is not good for the human soul. 
So fill your soul with something beautiful. Watch a sunset. Hold a baby. Enjoy a nice meal with your family. Listen to some Gregorian chant. Decorate the art gallery of your soul with a beautiful collection. As Saint Paul commanded us:
“For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline: think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, D-R)
If you decorate your soul with such art, it will inspire you and others to great things.
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3 Responses

  1. I don’t think you are correct in your labeling of Batman The Dark Knight as bad art,

    I have not seen the latest Batman movie, but I have seen the other two movies you have mentioned and Inglorious Basards (IB )is on a different playing field then Batman The Dark Night (BTDN). While yes there is violence in both movies there are completely different reasons for it and VERY different settings.

    IB shows both good and evil people killing/murdering to achieve their ends. It really had no plot or deeper meaning, just kill the “bad guys” because all the Nazis are totally evil and should be wiped off the face of the earth and the ones who do the judging should have a chip on their shoulder so that they can do it without regrets.

    The main character in BTDN is glorified in his policy of not killing anyone and protecting life whenever he can even if that life was trying to kill him only seconds ago, BTDN also shows what happens to you when you take justice into your own hands and begin being Judge, Jury and Executioner (you become what you were originally fighting) BTDN shows the real battle inside of our hearts between good and evil and the real effects on the world when we fall and the even greater effects when we don’t. Yes there is killing, but it is only done by the authorities and the “bad guys” yes some of what Batman does gets people killed (the scene where Batman makes the Jokers tractor trailer crash for example), but it is always to protect immediate innocent life when there is no other option.

    Violence is not an evil in and of its self, daily police have to use force (even violence) against people who are breaking the law. People have been able to use violence to their own means for as long as there has been history (I doubt Cain watched many violent movies before he killed Able) and the advent of movies have done little (if anything) to change that.

    Many of the greatest pieces of art show violence take St. Michael the Archangel thrusting his sword into the devil done by Guido Reni and is proudly displayed in the Santa Maria della Concezione church in Rome, it is a wonderful depiction of good over evil.

    This is a tragedy, there is no questioning that, but to label all movies with violence in them as ugly or soul mutilating is childish, The Passion by Mel Gibson was violent, but I doubt Saint Irenaeus would call it bad art. I would agree with you that IB is not a good movie, but BTDK is an example of good art in this day and age showing many Catholic principles and morals. That is has violence in it is a fact of reality, we live in a fallen world, and we find plenty of violence in the Bible as well (the first book of Maccabees has plenty of violence done to the people of Israel) done not only by the “bad guys” but Israel as well (child sacrifice, murder you name it its there)

    We have a very good rating system that helps individuals and parents decide if they or their children should watch a movie. That there was a six year old at the movie is the prerogative of their parents, they didn’t just sneak in. Movie theaters are very strict about making sure that the rating system is enforced and will not even sell tickets to kids who are underage without their parents going in with them, being just out of the teenager age and living in the area I should know.

    I am not saying everyone should watch BTDK or Batman Dark Knight Rises and yes you are correct in saying that people should fill their souls with good art, but you are misrepresenting BTDK and its philosophical underpinnings to make your point and that will only weaken your argument and make Catholics look like the uneducated mobs the media makes us out to be.

    • Excellent Analysis. Thanks so much. Overall point? Art does communicate with you soul. Guide both wisely.

  2. I have deep sorrow for the human lives lost here and empathy for their loved ones. They are all in my prayers. I lost my mother, violently, when I was nine years old, and I feel the pain of these events keenly.

    I do not agree with the wholesale condemnation of the movie, though, whether in this context or another one. I agree, of course, that children should not be exposed to such art with dark themes. However, in terms of discerning, careful adults watching such films (with each one taken on a one-by-one basis), I think of what Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1999 Letter to Artists:

    “Even beyond its typically religious expressions, true art has a close affinity with the world of faith, so that, even in situations where culture and the Church are far apart, art remains a kind of bridge to religious experience. In so far as it seeks the beautiful, fruit of an imagination which rises above the everyday, art is by its nature a kind of appeal to the mystery. Even when they explore the darkest depths of the soul or the most unsettling aspects of evil, artists give voice in a way to the universal desire for redemption.”


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