The increasing trend of cool, invincible villains in films could lead youngsters to a criminal bent of mind, say psychologists. On Friday, a masked gunman shot dead 12 people and wounded 59 during the screening of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, in Colorado, US. It is now being reported that the red-haired, masked murderer was inspired by Bane, the burly antagonist of the film, as well as Joker, the iconic villain played by Heath Ledger in the film’s prequel.
Psychologists say ‘hero-fication’ of villains in recent films is to blame. “Studies have consistently shown that youngsters are quick to imitate violent behaviour, especially when it’s glorified on screen,” says Dr Samir Parikh. “Young people choose characters based on who they think is the coolest, even though he may be shown to die in the end. No wonder we are seeing so many fans of the villains these days,” explains psychiatrist Pulkit Sharma.
Film buffs, too, admit that such portrayal is risky. “Of late, films show villains looking cool and getting away after a murder or theft. One gets inspired to become fearless like them. It is providing fodder to the dog in us. Once after watching a film, I felt like slashing my boss’ throat. Thankfully, I didn’t fall prey to the thought,” says advertising executive Ajitesh Raina. “Characters such as Bane or the Joker make you believe that your dark side is way more powerful and larger than life than your meek, weak, stupid self that always ends up getting bullied and beaten at the hands of those who are in control,” says Debasis Bandyopadhyay, a doctor.
It’s not just Hollywood, our own cinema, too, reflects the mindset. ‘Who cares for the hero, it’s the villain that’s cool,’ says Shah Rukh Khan’s 11-year-old on-screen son in the 2011 superhero flick, Ra.One. More recently, the fearless though corrupt villain, Sardar Khan, in the hit film Gangs of Wasseypur inspired many. However, actor Manoj Bajpai who plays the character refuses to take the blame. “It’s ridiculous to blame films. Why haven’t all kids grown up to be good guys because all these years we have been showing heroes winning over villains. To murder someone, you have to be mentally disturbed and sick from inside. Films have got nothing to do with it,” he says. “Parents should be able to guide the kids into understanding the difference between real and reel,” argues filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar.
Batman’s still rising...
Marred by the shootout, Warner Bros, producers of the Batman series, cancelled the film’s Paris premiere, to be attended by actors Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway and director Christopher Nolan. “We are deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident... We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time,” the studio said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the movie scored the second highest grossing midnight opening in US history, bagging over $30.6 million in an evening.