Since I do not believe that life imitates art, I tend to agree with Anthony Lane’s judgment of the Aurora, Colorado massacre:
…no film makes you kill. Having a mind to kill, at least in any systematic fashion, means that your mind is ready-warped; that the warping may well have started long before, perhaps in childhood; and that you may perhaps seek out, or be drawn to, areas of sensation—notably those entailing sex or violence—which can encourage, inflame, or accelerate the warping.
As of now we do not know whether James Holmes was mentally ill or was suffering from a brain disease, like psychosis.
I assume that he was psychotic, but we await further information.
Even if he was severely disturbed, the anguish and the agony need not have expressed itself as it did.
Not all psychotics or even psychopaths become mass murderers.
Does the ambient culture have any role here? At the least, the culture tells you what you need to do to be noticed, to be taken seriously, even to get help.
If, for example, Holmes was seeking celebrity through infamy, he succeeded. Today, he and only he is monopolizing the news. His story has overtaken all other events.
If he is a psychotic with megalomaniacal tendencies he might have believed that this kind of media coverage would confirm the truth of his delusions. In the space of a few minutes Holmes has gone from anonymous to eternally infamous.
On another score, Lane was working with imperfect information.
Attempting to refute the notion that the film made Holmes do it, Lane wrote:
The film, which the killer most certainly will not have seen beforehand, presented him with an opportunity; it did not urge him on, or trigger him into homicide, but it was, nonetheless, the occasion that he sought. He would have known that people had been talking of “The Dark Knight Rises” for months; that the excitement was mounting; that they would flock, in a good communal mood, to the first available showing.
After Lane wrote these words, we learned that the trailer for The Dark Night Rises was, in many movie theaters, coupled with the trailer for a movie called: Gangster Squad.
At the end of that trailer a man opens fire in a crowded movie theater.
Even if, as I and Lane believe, life does not imitate art, some individuals will still try to imitate what they see in a work of art.