Friday, July 20, 2012

Darker Than I Like My Knights

Of course it was the Batman movie.

I knew that as soon as I turned on the TV, though it took CBS This Morning another ten minutes to confirm it.

Have you heard?  Christopher Nolan's trilogy is "cursed."  It's a dark story, acted out by troubled celebrities who walk dark paths to portray their dark characters.  Christian Bale went nuts.  Morgan Freeman almost died.  A stuntman on The Dark Knight actually did.

And remember when the Joker killed Heath Ledger?  Heath's among the legends now - those anxious souls whose performances are remembered and revered, though only within the context of the personal demons that wrought them - but the internet wasn't always kind to him.  Not before he died and certainly not after.  Remember how we blamed the Joker?  How we got so sucked into the story and the character that we assumed Heath must have too?  We didn't know where the line was between fantasy and reality, so we blamed a made-up character for destroying a very real person. 

With a little perspective (not to mention countless other distractions in the interim), we don't say that so much anymore; actually we don't say much at all about someone who's been gone for four and a half years.

But to this day no one thinks of The Dark Knight without also thinking for a second about poor, dead Heath Ledger.  And now, before most of us have even seen it, we already have the narrative in place for The Dark Knight Rises.

One of the victims of last night's shooting is getting a lot of attention today.  Funny, talented, self-confident, intelligent...I can say with complete certitude that Jessica Redfield was all of those things, though up until 11:30 this morning, I had no idea who she was.  She's famous now, three hours later.  She was tweeting from the movie theater last night, and now we're all silently in awe of the last thing she ever posted to Twitter:
In the hour that has passed since I last checked her Twitter page, she's gained 2,000 more followers.  Two thousand.  There will never be another update from her.  In a month, will these thousands even remember who she was?  Why they followed her?  Why would anyone bother clicking "follow," except to indulge a morbid fascination with death?  It makes it "real" to see a face associated with a tragedy...but it doesn't make it final.  Something of the mystery of death is masked when you're granted the opportunity to click a button and "connect" with a dead person.

She was a blogger, too, in addition to being a compulsive tweeter.  Her last blog entry, once it's read by more people, is destined to become a permanent part of the lore.  Early last month, she narrowly missed a shooting at a mall in Toronto, and her deeply unsettled feelings about how and why she escaped harm make for compelling reading.  The entry is haunting, graphic, and bone-chilling, especially within the context of what happened next.

It fits so well into the story, right?  Part of the curse?  How else could you describe someone who came within minutes of death by a random shooter, and then lived out five restless more weeks before returning to that exact fate, if not "cursed"?  We can read her words with voyeuristic satisfaction because we've been spoiled:  we know how the story ends and she didn't.  

It's almost like a movie.  Something not missed by the first few commenters who read her story on

No condolences, no comments on her genuinely shitty luck; just a list of trite pop culture references for a girl who could have been any of us, because who among us hasn't been looking forward to the movie that cost her her life?

Warner Brothers is already wringing its hands at what this means for the box office numbers, but I suspect they'll still make their millions.  People like Christopher Nolan's vision of Batman.  They think the world he lives in seems "real."  It's ironic, in a way, that we use "real" to describe our escapism.  We slip into movie theaters for two hours at a time to leave the world behind, but we're never far from the bigger distractions of an online world where dead people live and real life sounds like the movies.  That this happened is a horrific tragedy, and one that will likely have repercussions far beyond the weekend box office.  But do we really understand that?  Collectively?  Do we even want to?

How strange that we live in a time when movies seem more real to us than the world in which we watch them...


  1. wow, there I was still pondering on what to say about the internet and my evil iphone ... and then this...

    when I "heard" that, as a line below the news I think - or am I mixing up things already, this really is unreal ... - I was thinking exactly that: How sad that she lived thru the shooting to die in another one so close after.

    The referring to a movie on what happened to her, and the following of her "left behind twitter" - what does this say about us as humans?? I find it very disturbing and so sad. We are a species who thinks we are the most clever and the only ones with feelings - but this is neither clever nor very compassionate. It is like those starring at a massive car accident...SICKENING.

    I feel my eyes getting all wet - a part for the lost lifes, who one of them may have been able to save us all ... or become the next dictator.... but more for what it shows about us.


    (not sure this is an understandable comment)

    1. I hope I don't hurt anyones feeling with my post either... I can be a very dramatic speaker sometimes ... and as Becky knows, english is not my first language... so I hope I don't sound even more harsh as I sometimes do in german

    2. I think this story hit me hard because I still remember so much about 2008. Heath's death affected me in a deeply personal way, and I had a very difficult time getting through The Dark Knight the first time I saw it. I remember being so conflicted by the hype leading up to it, too. So many people were so excited, and most of the talk about Heath was somewhat tongue-and-cheek, like isn't-this-morbid-but-kind-of-in-a-cool-way sort of thing. And yet for me, whether I had a right to take it personally or not, I genuinely grieved for him, and it was painful to see someone I had so much respect for be reduced to a kitschy talking point by a bunch of fanboys on the internet. (And Sasha, I realize that I am speaking in really weird terms here, so forgive my random vocabulary!!)

      When I first heard about Jessica this morning, I watched myself dutifully click on all the links and get chills when I read her blog...and then I realized that I was doing exactly the same thing to her that others had done to Heath. I think it must be intrinsic to human nature to be awed by tragedy, and yet what good is consciousness if you can't look at your own behavior in an objective way and do something to change it?! I think it's amazing that, for the first time that I can ever recall, one of the victims is more memorable to me than the perpetrator. But! Where is the line between honoring her memory and turning her into just another character in this big, sprawling story about Batman movies making people crazy?

      And it totally all ties back into our conversation from the last post! I said all that about Facebook, and then I wound up posting this link over there. I know that most people will read this and either roll their eyes at me or just have no idea how to respond, but Facebook is ground zero for the online media world right now, so it seemed appropriate to post it there. The internet changes the scale of everything so much...and also means that things like this, as big as this story is today, are quickly overshadowed by the next big thing...

      What happened last night was beyond awful. But it will get more traction because of the Batman angle than it would have had it been any other movie. It just seems like the reasoning behind that doesn't speak very highly of our collective consciousness at the moment...

    3. I "dutifully" clicked on your link to her blog - it's the information displayed to us and we all follow thru - but we all need to work on that "beast"...
      I was wondering what she wrote that all everyone came up with were these posts about movies.

      And I really felt bad for reading that blog - and sorry for her and especially her family who have to go thru this kinda twice. First in June when she survived by a mere minute of changing her mind and now in an equally tragic and such needless way.
      For exactly that, it makes me feel even more sick that there are comments only about "entertainment" than about how these things even happening and what is wrong with us humans not to mention condolences to the family.
      To me it feels horrible...I ask myself if that is what we all are - some kind of entertainment "device".

      And that is where I find the link to FB/Twitter... - where it seems to be the most important to have as many "friends" as possible, instead of staying in contact with real friends or forming new friendships... there is no depth in our relationships - so how can there be a depth in our feelings?

      But on the other hand, I really don't wanna doom social networks completely... I wouldn't have bonded with you and Sam the way I did - for my personal view on our relationship, tho I haven't met the two of you (yet).


  2. Excellent Becky

  3. Wow... her blog was so scary to read. Makes you think there might be stronger "forces" out there hey. The whole thing is just so terrible.

    (And Hi "sasha" :) )

    1. Definitely scary. And sad. And awful. Her whole story was just tragic for the last few weeks of her life. And now we've stopped talking about any of it so we can talk about the Olympics...weird times we live in... :-/