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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Darkness, Violence, and Hope Connected With The Dark Knight Rises

APA Hope and excitement filled the audience members at the opening, midnight showing of one of the most anticipated movies of the last half-decade. But The Dark Knight Rises will not be remembered for its captivating action sequences, surprising plot twists, cinematic mastery, or its attentive and meaningful encapsulation of one of the most remarkable trilogies in film history. Instead, the film will forever be linked with the horrifying massacre of 12 people and injuries to 58 others in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, allegedly by recent graduate school dropout James Holmes.

Holmes's actions have experts—desperate to find comforting causation for such incomprehensible behavior—reaching for mental illness as a solitary explanation. Holmes apparently made claims connecting himself to "the Joker," a character with a psychopathic personality from the second film in the trilogy. News reports indicate he had been treated by more than one mental health professional, and various diagnostic labels have been suggested.

The violence perpetrated at the Aurora movie theater mirrors a common stereotype perpetrated in movies—that all people with mental illness are violent. In reality, people with a mental illness are much more likely to be victims of a violent crime than to perpetrate one. Choe et al. (2008) found that 2 to 13 percent of outpatients with a mental illness perpetrated violence in the previous 3 years, whereas 20 to 34 percent had been violently victimized.

As stories of mental illness and violence shroud the Aurora tragedy, equal weight should be given to the heroism, bravery, and self-sacrifice of many of the deceased and survivors of the shooting. In this spirit of reframing, the PsycCRITIQUES review of The Dark Knight Rises by Jeremy Clyman helps viewers focus their attention on the artistic and thematic merits of the film. Clyman highlights the science surrounding the character strength of hope as it is deftly portrayed in the film. If there was a strength of value for not only film-goers studying the movie, but also those afflicted with a mental illness and most especially those victims and families struggling to move forward, it would be hope.

What strikes you most about the film and the events surrounding the film?

What factors might most contribute to such extreme violent acts? To what degree do you believe mental illness played a role?


Choe, J. Y., Teplin, L. A., & Abram, K. M. (2008). Perpetration of violence, violent victimization, and severe mental illness: Balancing public health concerns. Psychiatric Services, 59, 153-164.

Read the Review
ReviewA Ray of Hope in a World of Darkness
By Jeremy Clyman
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2012 Vol 57(34)



Directed by Christopher Nolan, one can just simply assume the captivating action sequences and perfectly executed plot twist are the highlights of the film. What also strikes me most about the film can be attributed to the professionalism and realistic portrayal of characters within the movie.

I believe it is unfair to approach this film in a psycho-analysis perspective because it is very obvious that the joker character played by Heath Ledger has exhibited a lot of characteristics with a psychopathic personality and his performance was so outstanding and realistic that it raised concerns whether he was overly obsessed with his movie role. To say it is unfair is because movies are made to entertain the audience and to have this constant relation to whether the character would affect the society would just destroy the art in the film.

To suggest what most contribute to such extreme violent acts in the Aurora movie theater, I would assert that the movie did not actually shaped or caused the tragic. I believe Holmes was already suffering from mental illness and his actions were further manipulated by the Joker character where he possibly has taken on the role of and thought he could relate to him. However, i would argue, what if his mental illness was already persisting and he did not came across the film " dark knight rises" would he have never committed the crime he did?

Therefore, I strongly believe it is not possible to associate his actions to the film itself as there are other possibilities that might have triggered Holmes to commit such a crime.

Kenny Luk

When I saw the film, similar to Toby, I had the same opinion that the Joker, who was acted by the Heath Ledger, had an extraordinary performance inside the film.

Inside the film, although I did not appreciate for his anti-social behaviors, I was still impressed by the intelligence of Joker who committed his crime with thorough planning and expeditious actions. Played around by Joker, Batman was just under the domination of his intelligence.

On the contrary, Batman was dedicated to protect the city; however, he has sacrificed his relationship with his girlfriend, his friendship with loyal housekeeper in order to continue his heroic stories.

His story enlightened me that being a hero was not that easy at least the film portrayed he was not a happy person.

When it came to the Aurora tragedy, I didn’t think that Holme’s barbarous actions were mostly attributed to the psychopathic characters of Joker portrayed by film. I am inclined to believe that the movie gave him a role model for him to execute his crime under the packaging of a Joker.

If he did not watch the film, I believed that he might still commit the crime by using another packaging portrayed by another movie just like being the doctor Lector of the Silence of the Lamps. His motivation would not be affected by the movies but his expression of his crimes did.

I was conceived by the theory that the behaviors of a person were affected by different factors dynamically which included nurturing, environment, social circle as well as genes. It is unfair to attribute all the faults to the movies. Otherwise, the creativity of the film industry will be annihilated.


When faced with the names of any of the films from the Batman trilogy, the first memory that comes to mind is the death of Heath Ledger. Many questions were raised about his suicide, especially upon his mental health. Following this tragedy, the Aurora theatre incident further highlighted the issues related mental illness. Unfortunately, the media chose to emphasize on violence and danger when relating to individuals with mental illness. In comparison, the death of Heath Ledger, who committed suicide, was less emphasized in the media than the massacre that resulted from Holmes.

Similarly, the media continuously portray and highlight incidences that relate to violence and danger from any individuals that are mentally ill. Culturally, a similar film outside of the United States reflecting a psychiatrist with a mental illness resulted in the actor committing suicide. Due to the fame of this actor, there was more emphasis on this within the media. Yet, the continuous message that was broadcasted seemed related to how dangerous mental illness could be, instead of empathizing or understanding the victim. For example, relating to Holmes, were people interested in his background? Whether he had a traumatic history himself? Usually, these questions are often disregarded and forgotten due to the negativity of his murderous act. Moreover, elaborating from the Aurora incident, other violent incidences caused by the mentally ill are also constantly emphasized within the media. The overall picture that the media portrays further enhances the negative stereotypes and places a fear in the public of the mentally ill.

Therefore, regardless of whether it was the Dark Knight series, the media plays a significant role for the public in understanding mental illness. To enhance the interest of viewers, they highlight supportive views towards the stereotype. It would be difficult in the short term for the public to accept that there are indeed mentally ill patients who are more likely to be the victims instead of the perpetrator. Yet, I believe it is important for the media, especially the news to not only emphasize on the violence and negativity, but also shed light on the other areas of mental illness that the public may be less aware of. For example, how someone with autism can provide meaningful interpretations and assist society in their theories, instead of only constantly emphasizing how individuals similar to Holmes are dangerous.

Adrian Mark

Entertainment and news overly promote violent incidents related to mental ill people. Over and over again, news do like to put focus on how mental illness is the origin causing violence. Negative side of the illness has been the main account of information.

The mental disorder are the symbol of problems in predictability, mental ill people have been portrayed being incapable of building relationship with family and other people. For commercial reasons, medias would prefer to serve undesirable expectations of viewers and readers.

Most mentally ill people are not violent. People with mental illness can hardly function and they are disturbed in many aspect of life such as cognitive motors skills. The question is when one has problem even moving around, how one causes any harm. Multitude of studies proves mental illness people are not more violent than any other group in social strata.

Sadly, the vast majority of general public often connects violence to mental illness. When building up a relationship between mental illness and violent crime, we should also consider a list of risk factors including a background of violence, issues of substance abuse, socio-economic pressures (e.g.: poverty), and gender (e.g.: male)/ age (e.g.: young). Contrary to what most people would like to believe, many mental illnesses are victims of crimes such as being beaten up, robbery and rape.

According to Public Spending in Population and Vital Statistics for 2012 by Health Facts of Hong Kong 2013 Edition, there were 38,399 individuals (about 2%) of In-patient Discharges and Deaths in All Hospitals Classified by Disease, 2011 among 7.1 million inhabitants in Hong Kong. Based on the demographic figure, Hong Kong government has not taken the treatment of mental illness seriously.

Besides, some recurring violent issues with mentally ill people such as what happened in Tin Sui Wan in 2006 unveiled the needs of care not having consequently been responded.

6 years later we are in 2013, the resource allocation still remains fairly low falling to meet the society needs. Not only individuals with mental illness cannot live in dignity; but worst of all themselves and their families continue to become vulnerable to the burden of stigmatization.

Deborah Brauser, (2013),Violent Crime Against Mentally Ill Prevalent, Underreported, International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) 2013. Poster 46. Presented July 3, 2013.

Health Facts of Hong Kong 2013 Edition, (2013), Hong Kong SAR Government

V.A. Hiday, M.S. Swartz, J.W. Swanson, R. Borum, H.R. Wagner. Criminal Victimization of Persons With Severe Mental Illness. Psychiatric Services 50: 62-68, 1999.

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Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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