An employee at a UK theater caused a spat of controversy last Friday when he foolishly wore a gas mask to a Dark Knight Rises showing after the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado had been announced.
According to Newser, the theater employee arrived to the film’s showing during the previews, stopped in front of the audience, and stared at them. His actions and appearance reflected that of the Colorado shooting suspect, James Holmes, just hours after the massacre was publicly known. Elizabeth Atkinson, a 24-year-old school teacher, was in the audience at Worcester’s Vue cinema with her brothers James, 27, and Leo, 19, who all said that they were “appalled and sickened” by the theater employee’s stunt.
“In light of the recent and tragic event during the screening of the new Batman film in Aurora, Colorado, I was shocked and appalled by the attitude displayed by the staff at the Vue cinema here in Worcester, she said. “While the trailers were in progress, one of the cinema attendants entered the screen room wearing a gas mask and stood to the side looking at the audience,” she told the Telegraph.
In Atkinson’s own words:
“This is exactly as the gunman in Colorado was reported to have been dressed. I was not the only one who found this to be extremely disconcerting and inappropriate.
“I raised my concerns to other staff members outside, explaining that this attendant was causing discomfort. The response I received was one to suggest that they were either unaware of the recent shooting, or they were indifferent to it.
“I was told simply that he was ‘Dressed as the villain, Bane’. It was only when I explained further that the Colorado gunman was also dressed in this way, that the attendant was spoken to and the mask removed.
“One would have expected that the management of the Vue cinema would have been sensitive to this issue and dissuaded the staff members from dressing up. This incident was at best in poor taste, and at worst a sickening lack of respect.”
Atkinson’s brother, James, wrote a letter in complaint to the Vue theater. Though he himself is an aspiring filmmaker, and somewhat sympathized with the theater employee’s intentions, he found the stunt tasteless. “Even though I knew he was meant to be dressed as the character Bane from the film, I felt it was incredibly insensitive indeed in light of the recent shootings in America by a man wearing a gas mask.”
A Vue theater spokesperson defended the employee’s actions, saying, “Our staff are passionate about movies and often wear fancy dress on the opening day of blockbuster films. On this occasion a staff member started his shift in fancy dress, but removed it within minutes of being on site. We in no way meant to cause offence and wholeheartedly apologise for this misplaced enthusiasm.”
“Everyone at Vue Entertainment has been deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic incident that took place in Denver. Our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues of all those who have been killed and injured,” the statement said.
Of course, this statement seems to contradict the on-scene witness accounts of Atkinson and her siblings, but we just report. You decide what you think.
Was the theater employee’s attire disrespectful? Should he have just left the gas mask at home? Or are the Atkinsons and other members of the audience over-reacting? Sound off in the comments!