Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams is America's least necessary cultural critic. Reading a Mary Elizabeth Williams column on any topic in the news is like sticking a needle full of SUPER SWEET SUGAR WATER in your veins and pushing the plunger until you say "Blaaaauuurrrrgghhhhpablumpablum." Does Mary Elizabeth Williams have something unnecessary—so unnecessary that it would have been a net gain to humanity to say nothing at all—to say on the topic of our recent Very Sad Aurora Movie Theater Shooting Tragedy? Yes of course she does. If you had hoped to avoid it, you lose.
When the tragedy first happened Mary Elizabeth Williams was like, "In the movies, we're vulnerable when we're alone. It's when we're in isolation that the bogeyman strikes. But at the movies, we're vulnerable together. At any moment, in any crowd, we can be rendered helpless by a single madman with a weapon. There's no safety in numbers after all. But the comfort and consolation we require is. Just yesterday, crowds in Colorado gathered to share a movie. Today, they are coming together to grieve. Our indomitable human instinct to seek each other out and share our experiences collectively is what will always put us in the path of danger. Yet in our moments of deepest grief and most senseless loss, it's also the thing that sustains us." And I was like, great, incredible example of wordy vapidity there in the last two sentences.
And then today Mary Elizabeth Williams was like, "Movies are our escape. But they're also our catharsis. They're how we work through our fear and anger, how we make sense of the senseless. And in the wake of the most profoundly senseless acts, the challenge for the entertainment industry is to figure out at what point a once-innocuous scene becomes a painful reminder of a tragedy, or when an image, a reference or a word takes on unintended meaning. When terrible things happen, the question almost immediately arises: How soon is too soon?" Oh. Word. I was wondering, when terrible things happen, does the question arise immediately? And it turns out, no, it's only almost immediately. Asked and answered. A good day of reading. And then shortly after that Mary Elizabeth Williams was like, "There is always the hope that a time will come when a fictional scene doesn't trigger the pain of a real-life disaster. With time, maybe a scene of gangsters blowing through a movie screen won't hurt so much. Or maybe, from now on, that image is irreparably altered. Eleven years later, I still can't see a shot of the twin towers in a movie without breaking down. I've tried. I can't. It breaks my heart every time, like it was yesterday. It's an ache that never goes away. Similarly, the idea of somebody tearing through the fantasy of moviegoing and turning it into an opportunity for destruction is no longer a clever cinematic conceit. It's something somebody really did. It's changed the experience. It's changed many of us as moviegoers. And in at least one case, it looks like it's changed a movie itself."
Was that real life movie theater shooting sad? Yes. Did they change a scene in another movie for it? Yes. Did we need Mary Elizabeth Williams' patented "take" on these facts? Yes, because "we" are fans of hobbies such as hitting ourselves in the face with hammers and reading Mary Elizabeth Williams columns on the internet even when nobody is holding our innocent baby hostage in order to force us to do so. We just love pain. In conclusion, we'd like to remind you: movie theaters sacred hallowed pain space changed forever and healing experience together fear overcome nation unity instinct family and other empty words, because space on your internet screen must be filled every day at all costs. This is what you deserve, American readers. Comforting meaninglessness.
*I know we sound like we're being "mean" but come on, this shit is paid work for public consumption and there are other people in the world who could use a job writing crap and who might have something to say, besides.
[Photo: Wade Rockett/ Flickr]