Are You Not Entertained?: Comic-Book Heroes and Catharsis

I was planning on posting a review of The Dark Knight Rises after going to watch it with Josh last night. A lot of factors made me begin to feel less than excited about this upcoming project.

Everyone with a keyboard is going to be reviewing the film in the days to come. Won’t people be tired of the hype? 

Do I have anything unique to say? 

In light of the tragic Aurora, CO shooting, how meaningful would a review of the movie really be?

I had almost decided that I just needed to get over myself and power through a detailed review when a friend from my literary and theater circles posted a link to the article Catharsis in a Cape on his Twitter. It was then that I knew that almost anything I had to say about The Dark Knight Rises would be redundant, for this NPR-written title had captured my feelings towards the movie with a single word–


As a former English major, this word is pretty significant to me. In fact, in my mind it’s one of the most powerful marks of good storytelling.

catharsis – n. A release of emotional tension, as after an overwhelming experience, that restores or refreshes the spirit.

I have so much respect for filmmakers, screenwriters, playwrights, and authors who can craft a story fraught with conflict and tension that climaxes at a point so powerful I can hear my pulse pounding in my ears–and then all of that stress comes crashing down on me in a moment of perfect resolution. Such resolution should make an audience feel cleansed, “refreshed.”

I love leaving a theater feeling emptied of myself and full of nothing but story.

I had never before thought of the powerful role that such emotional release could play in society as a whole. Especially in light of the Aurora massacre, I thought this article was a flawlessly eloquent expression of why comic book heroes so powerfully affect the masses and what an impact they have on the emotional development of a culture.

So rather than attempting to restate these profound thoughts, I’m going to just direct you to the well-crafted article on the NPR website.

Enjoy! And I hope you enjoyed the movie as well.


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