Over the weekend, people scrambled to find explanations for the shooting in Aurora, and one cop who wasn’t even there decided to draw allusions to media affect.
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly was quoted as saying “He has his hair painted red. He said he was the Joker, obviously the enemy of Batman.”
Keep in mind, the only person saying that the killer called himself The Joker is the commissioner of the New York Police Department, which is nowhere near Aurora Colorado. And also, The Joker has green hair.
Some sources have noted that The Joker donned a red wig briefly while dressed as a nurse in the hospital scene in 2008′s The Dark Knight. The wig is worn as a disguise for exactly 23 seconds before the Joker takes it off. There is no mass murder in this scene. The Joker shoots exactly one police officer while wearing the wig. This is not the look that The Joker is known for.
According to the Associated Press:
Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates would not confirm that information, but did say he had spoken to Kelly. The two used to work together in New York. Asked whether Holmes had makeup to look like the Joker, Oates said: “That to my knowledge is not true.”
So, according to a guy who wasn’t there, the killer tried to emulate a villain who wasn’t even in this movie by dying his hair to look the same color as the wig that the villain only ever wore in one brief scene; with the addition of a ballistic helmet which would have covered his hair anyway, along with a gas mask, bulletproof vest, and other tactical gear. No mention of a nurse’s uniform. Or purple outfit. Or anything else with any resemblance to The Joker. If anything, one could compare the similarity between a gas mask and the thingie that Bane wears on his face, but I guess that would be too far-fetched.
Whenever a crazed killer takes innocent lives, people grasp for straws to explain what his motivation was rather than accepting the obvious: that this is the work of a mentally ill person that probably could not have been prevented without limiting access to guns. People want to find a solution so they can feel like they’ve done something to prevent future deaths. So if we can blame the movie, well, that’s easier than challenging the 2nd Amendment.
The thing is, drawing these kinds of loose connections is irresponsible and unfair to everyone involved. Banning certain themes from movies, tv, music, internet, and all other forms of media will not prevent mental illness and it certainly won’t prevent violence from occurring. But continuing to compare this man to a comic book super villain only helps to turn him into an antihero. It sends the message to every other socially maladjusted potential murderer that if they want to become immortal in the country’s collective memory, then they should emulate popular fiction when they kill. They don’t even need to do it well because people will see what looks like Ronald McDonald and confuse it with the next most convenient clown.
Forget about the color of the killer’s hair. It’s probably the least important detail of the whole story.
UPDATE: Some have stated that the Joker played by Cesar Romero in the 1960s Batman TV show sometimes had red hair. This is false. In some vintage promotional photos from the show, the color is distorted, making his green hair and purple suit both appear red. This is a side-effect from the era when real photography behaved much like an Instagram filter.