Have any of you seen the John Waters classic Serial Mom? If not, I suggest you find it on Netflix or Amazon, it’s really a delightful movie. Even though many fans of John Waters consider it his mainstream sellout movie, it’s still an amazing piece of social satire that stands the test of time. I watched it again recently and about the only thing dated in the flick is the existence of video stores and VHS. But the rest? Timeless.
Pussy willows, Dottie.
The main theme of the film centers around a suburban housewife with a homicidal streak who decides to murder anyone who slights her or her family for the most trivial offenses (spoiler alert). It’s funny because in the dark corners of our minds many of us often think about killing those who annoy us. It’s a way for us to psychologically turn a situation on its ear and laugh at the absurdity of ever doing such a thing. And then, we dismiss such thoughts and go on with our day. We know that someone annoying us doesn’t merit a death sentence.
Then, something happened that tragically mirrored this social satire. Chad Oulson, 43, was gunned down in a movie theater outside of Tampa, Florida, by retired Tampa police officer Curtis Reeves Jr. for the social crime of texting during the previews of a movie. Oulson’s wife, Nicole, was injured trying to shield her husband from the bullet that killed him.
Accounts are varied as to what happened. I would guess that things happened very quickly, given the nature of these occurrences. At the time of this writing, witnesses are saying that Reeves asked Oulson several times to stop texting. Oulson was heard saying he was texting his 3 year old daughter. A brief argument ensued and Oulson, witnesses say, threw his popcorn at Reeves. That’s when Reeves drew his gun and fired.
It’s troubling to read comments from people saying that Oulson deserved it. I mean, it’s just… words fail me on that one. We’re supposed to be civilized, we don’t get to shoot everyone who commits a social faux pas, or even those who are rude and who throw popcorn at us. Movie theater popcorn may not be good for you but it’s hardly a lethal weapon. Reeves couldn’t possibly have been in fear for his life or safety, but let’s say he was- perhaps he, and many other people who walk around carrying concealed guns- shouldn’t put themselves in that position unless they are legitimately protecting someone else from grievous harm?
How threatened are you by someone texting during a preview anyway? I don’t care if he was sending his daughter a nice text or if he was sending his mistress pictures of his engorged penis, it’s the previews. Furthermore, there were numerous options available here- Mr. Reeves could have summoned management to the auditorium and had them issue Oulson an ultimatum- put it away or go outside and text. He could have changed seats. What kind of Dirty Harry wannabe confronts someone over something so trivial and then shoots his way out of it?
Gun balls. That’s what it is. People who walk around with a pistol who feel empowered, in this case an ex-cop who probably felt downright deputized. Or maybe at age 71 he just didn’t care anymore. Whatever the reason, there’s a wife who is now mourning her husband and a 3-year-old little girl who gets to grow up without her daddy because some psychopath who was, up until then, a “responsible gun owner” killed him over something completely harmless and nonsensical.
Gun balls. Because if Reeves hadn’t been armed he never would have confronted a stranger. Gun balls, because without the gun, George Zimmerman would have never left his vehicle. Gun balls, because the gun that amplifies your manliness gets you into life or death situations you never would have been in and never needed to be in had you just left it alone. And for every case of a gun owner defending their life or home from a criminal, there are far more tragic stories like this, like the woman in Detroit who was in a car accident and knocked on a door for help and was shot point-blank in the face by the resident.
More and more, I am growing weary of those who adamantly defend the 2nd Amendment to ridiculous extremes while people are being shot left and right all around us. Allegedly, the heyday of the Wild West was 150 years ago, not that anyone would notice. We just have cars instead of horses and better-designed guns with greater capacity capable of killing more people in less time. Our sense of civility hasn’t changed all that much if people are still being shot for feeling slighted.
I don’t really have a solution to this. As far as I know, Reeves was a responsible gun owner. He has no record of prior gun violations, no red flags that crop up telling me that he shouldn’t have had a gun. He is a retired cop, someone who we once relied upon to protect us from the bad guys, not someone who shoots moviegoers for texting. It doesn’t matter because nothing will be done. There will be no legislation passed that will address psychological issues for the aging gun owner or any gun owner. There will be no universal background checks- if 20 dead first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary didn’t compel Congress to act, nothing will. There will be no repeal of terrible laws like Stand Your Ground- even though it won’t apply in this case. Why would there be? The gun industry loves it, they love the culture of fear that sells MOAR GUNZ and makes people think that shooting others is an acceptable means of resolving conflict, even conflict that is dangerous to nobody, or conflict that the shooter initiates unnecessarily.
That is what will be done, because we are a nation with a suicide pact, and we’re in love with death.
Be careful out there.
Update, 1/18/2014: It is looking like Reeves will indeed use Stand Your Ground as a defense. How many more people have to die needlessly before these laws are repealed or struck down?