How banal evil is. How stupid and limited. And yet people seem to make the mistake of thinking it somehow grand and astonishing. It is. In the world of fiction. In our imaginations it creates a kind of frisson, an excitement. It represents change and the possibilities that chaos can bring. We all have dark dreams from time to time and sometimes they make us feel more powerful and more full of possibilities. We revel in the freedom imaginary villains have. But the grandeur of evil always becomes lost in its translation to real life.
The big screen shows us an expendable public. A crowd of ‘extras’ waiting on the whims of the villain to display his power by taking them down like so many cardboard cut outs. Even our heroes can create a lot of (apparently insignificant) collateral damage in the world of the cinema. We’re used to it. Crowds are just part of the canvas on which the ‘important’ people paint the action. Every so often some desperate person tries to make their lives relevant by stepping into the role of the fictional villain. The moment they do, despite the interest of the salivating media, they reduce their contribution to the world. Most children eventually realise that breaking something is a whole lot easier than fixing it.
In real life, it’s that faceless crowd that is suddenly raised to the level of the remarkable. It’s the people pausing to help others in the midst of a spray of bullets, or the man jumping six metres to the ground while holding on to his four-month-old baby. Meanwhile the ‘Joker’ reveals himself to be tragically irrelevant and misguided, a young man with psychological problems committing a random act that signifies nothing. Except, perhaps, his failure to understand what every costumed kid at that premiere realised; those villains that we love to hate are make-believe.