Small Wonders: Hollywood scene turned upside-down

I met my deadline this week. I turned in a particularly entertaining rant about Hollywood and her lack of creativity.

Then we got news about the shooting in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater that left 12 dead and dozens more wounded.

So we’ll save my original column for another time and take a breath to reflect on one more senseless massacre.

In the face of these kinds of tragedies, it’s natural for us to wonder, “what if that was me or my child in that theater?” I’m already hearing people say that their kid or friend went to one of the many midnight premieres across the country or how they know someone who lives in Aurora.

We measure how many degrees separate us from that place or person because somehow that makes the tragedy more real for us. We draw that connection lest we become desensitized to just another one of the horrifying stories we hear each day and lose one more ounce of our humanity.

For those of us who work in the entertainment industry, we’ll have one more degree of closeness to discuss around the water cooler and over drinks at El Torito. Because, in a way, this happened in our house; very real violence snuck into the escapist oasis of a movie theater, where reality is supposed to check itself at the door when the lights go down.

When I asked my co-workers what this might mean to our industry, how we should respond, the responses were similar and not about Hollywood.

“No impact whatsoever,” Jason Barios told me when I asked if this would change anything. “An opportunistic psychopath chose a crowded venue that could have been any number of different places.”

It happened 20 minutes down the road from Aurora at Columbine High School. It’s happened at an Army base, fast-food restaurants, community centers and political social gatherings. In Virginia, Texas and Arizona. Only time will tell why this particular madman chose a crowded theater and this particular movie. But it won’t really matter.

“There may be many ticking time bombs out there waiting for their moment of crime,” Hopi Marcum told me. “The world will always offer the best and the worst of life, and it is our job to put more in the good basket … help God out as much as we can.”

In other words, it’s not about the movie. It’s not about the theater or box-office receipts; it’s not about guns, how fast they can shoot or the number of bullets in each gun.

The commonality is one desperate, sick, tormented person unleashing their madness upon innocent victims.

“If anything should be discussed,” Kelly Nisley said, “it should be our mental healthcare system. The attacker’s mother seemed to know right away that her son was in trouble when she was contacted by the police. Why didn’t anyone reach out for help?”

This isn’t about Hollywood or violence in entertainment; not about gun laws, civil rights or any of the wedge issues that inevitably resurface at times like this. This is about people. Sick people and suffering people and innocent people.

There will always be those who strive to exact their frustrations upon others in an effort to right the wrongs their malnourished minds create. And there is often little anyone can do — short of removing themselves entirely from society, which beckons its own form of madness — to avoid every possible dangerous scenario a free society has in store.

Now is not the time to legislate, grandstand, argue and fret over box-office records. One hopes against hope that a measured response and common sense will prevail, not calls for banning 3-month-old babies from theaters or prohibiting midnight movie premieres.

Not 48 hours removed, sadly, and we’re already programmed how to respond.

As we prepare for the candlelight vigils, the nightly news conferences where another local sheriff becomes a nationally known spokesperson and the election-year grandstanding by politicians in the name of those who died, let the rest of us remember that this is about people.

And let’s keep a town, much like ours, in our prayers as it enters the lexicon of our society as yet one more incomprehensible, unexplainable act of violence.

PATRICK CANEDAY doesn’t have any answers. Contact him at Read more at

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