Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why “Bale Out Aurora” Is a Really Bad Idea

If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, chances are you’ve seen the post at right, musing about what a good idea it would be if “The Dark Knight Rises” star Christian Bale would visit the kids in Aurora hospitals who had been victims of James Holmes’s savagery. Oh, and in costume. I’m sure the person who came up with this idea did so with the best of intentions, and my friends who posted it are all well-meaning people. But this is—on so many levels—one of the worst ideas since John McCain picked his running mate.

I do take some consolation in the fact that I’m not the only person to think this way. The comments on a piece at Mediaite about the “Bale Out Aurora” movement are—hallelujah!—almost unanimously opposed to the idea, and for a host of very good reasons.

The first thing that came to my mind is that the very idea of a public request is little short of emotional blackmail. It is not Mr. Bale’s responsibility in any way, shape, or form. He didn’t shoot those kids. Neither as actor nor as character, much less as private human being, did he precipitate the attack. He owes his time to no one. Moreover, if he had been contemplating a gesture of some kind, his altruism is now ignored: it is the idiot tweeter, not he, who gets credit. That’s unfair at best, unethical at worst.

I read somewhere that he’s currently in Europe… kind of a long commute to Colorado. But frankly, it doesn’t matter if he lives across the street. I don’t care why he doesn’t go to Aurora (assuming he doesn’t). Maybe he doesn’t like mountains. Maybe he gets hives visiting hospitals. Maybe, OMG!, he just doesn’t want to go. It’s tacky to decide what someone else—even a celebrity—ought to do with his own time and money.

But the idea that he would be “a Hero right now, not a movie hero, a real flesh and blood one” is ludicrous. You want a hero? How about the first responders? The best Bale could do would be to be a guy in a Batman suit. That’s a damned sight short of any kind of hero in my book. Perhaps… perhaps out of costume, as a movie star, he could bring a little joy. But I’m pretty sure that a guy in a black costume, his face hidden by a mask, is not exactly what these kids need to be seeing right now. The last time they saw that, it didn’t turn out so well.

I will grant that any little kids who got shot need a hero, because their parents aren’t filling the bill. If I might quote from “Norman_Conquest” on the Mediaite comments, “‘Dark Knight’ isn’t a kids movie. Whoever took pre-teen children to that movie, esp. at midnight, is too stupid to breathe. (I don't care if it's legal.)” The phrasing might be a little crass, given the fact that some of those parents may, in fact, no longer be breathing, but the sentiment is right on target. Still, it isn’t the kids’ fault that their parents are irresponsible jackasses. That means that the rest of us have to look out for their well-being: and that means not subjecting them to unnecessary stress right now. It means they need to heal, and the last thing they need is some publicity stunt that will be seen by many, quite legitimately, as an attempt to leverage this horrific event into more press for the film.

Other commenters noted that Bale is notoriously volatile: not exactly the best characteristic for someone in this situation. It’s clear that he feels responsible in some irrational way—a variation on survivor’s guilt. His statement to the victims and their families was only two sentences long: “Words cannot express the horror that I feel. I cannot begin to truly understand the pain and grief of the victims and their loved ones, but my heart goes out to them.” Don’t get me wrong: I’m not criticizing him in the slightest. But he needs distance and time before he’s even going to be in the position of offering real solace or diversion.

I completely understand both the urge to do something—anything—to help and the frustration at our collective impotence to make things right again. I even get it that it might be “cool” if Christian Bale, completely of his own volition, volunteered to make an appearance, to sign autographs, whatever. But expecting him to do something specific just because you think it would be a good idea: nope.

If you want to help, make a donation to a local Aurora charity. Give blood. Pray, if you are religious. But the fate of those injured and of the families of those killed is now in the hands of real heroes, everyday heroes—doctors and nurses, clergy and grief counselors. Comic book heroes are never going to transcend their medium. Movie stars are all well and good, but their place in this saga is later, if at all. Christian Bale should not be trotted out like a dancing pony just because someone in the Twittersphere thinks he should be.

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