waking-arizona waking-arizona
Bad Ideas

Was Arizona Shooter Obsessed with “Waking Life”?

Waking Life

If something is too difficult to explain, just blame cartoons. So now some people are beginning to suggest that Jared Loughner, the gunman who went on a shooting rampage in Arizona that killed six people, may have been a fan of Richard Linklater’s 2001 rotoscope-animation film Waking Life. Last night on 60 Minutes, friends of the shooter said he was “obsessed with the film.” The connection stems from Loughner’s obsession with lucid dreaming–a mental state in which you’re aware that you’re dreaming–which is a central theme of Waking Life.

Fans of the film are so worried that they’ve already started publishing pre-emptive defenses of the film, like this one at the Brown Tweed Society:

Waking Life kept popping up in my mind because Jared Loughner wrote a lot about the blurred lines between dreams and reality. He also asked a lot of difficult questions about government and social control, questions which mirror many of those posed in Waking Life. Before his dark mental illnesses really took hold of him, some of Loughner’s questions contained a degree of reasonable skepticism grounded in established, though perhaps poorly understood on his part, tenets of philosophy and linguistics. He asked it in a poor, ill-suited context of course, but the question Loughner posed to Gabrielle Giffords at the much-discussed 2007 public forum–“What is government if words have no meaning?”–is a valid inquiry grounded in the assumption that government and other human social abstractions are primarily linguistic constructions. It’s exactly the kind of question that prompts much of Waking Life’s extended dialogue segments.

(Thanks, Richard O’Connor)

  • Compn

    well they cant blame themselves, and they blamed marilyn manson and mortal kombat for the past two decades of violent tragedies. so why not blame something different this decade?

  • Mo-crap

    Let this be a lesson: nothing good ever comes out of rotoscope.

    • that made me snort.

    • Maya

      Snow white also used rotoscoping. Hitler liked Snow white. I see a pattern here!

  • It’s those DAMN Animated Cartoons that promote violence! And Video Games! And Rap Music! And Rock and Roll! Not to mention COMIC BOOKS! And Pinball Arcades! Mini Skirts! Too much sugar in kids’ breakfast cereals! And long hair on boys! And Dixieland Jazz!

    Yep. There’s always something to blame. I blame the poor mental health care that is available to the general public.

    • You left out Dungeons & Dragons.

  • It was on 60 Minutes. They ran at least a minute from the film too. Then his stoner friends talked about his poetry.

    • amid

      Thanks, Richard. Updated the post.

  • Jim

    Uh oh, I’m a huge fan of “Waking Life.” Somebody tie me down!

  • Jared Loughner is mentally ill. Politicians and media are trying to find something or someone to blame.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Certainly a sad case where you wish this guy had gotten the treatment he needed (or locked up if necessary).

      The whole “Nihilism” issue is one I sometimes think about myself, though I do not believe it in a logical sense. I think it’s an interesting concept though when you bother to sit there in bed one night, and think how insignificant your life is in The Big Picture, though that’s probably a different philosophy I don’t think about either.

    • Doug

      …or they are trying to do something that is very human, trying to make sense of the senseless. Trying to find an answer where there isn’t one (or seemingly isn’t).

      And perhaps they are just trying to fill in all the missing pieces of this killer in an attempt to understand him. His love for this film may be just a part of what makes up his whole personality, or an outcropping of his personality.

      I don’t see anything sinister in attempting to understand.

  • Johnno

    Now I’m not saying we should blame the film for what happened, but it’d be interesting to eamine it in light of how this person was affected by it and what sort of role his obsessions played in the grander scheme of things. It could provide some insight that could be of use… at least for psychologists…

  • Alberto

    Look on the bright-side: “Waking Life” might be turning into the next “Catcher in the Rye”, so maybe in a couple of years we will show it to our youths in classrooms all across the country.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Yeah, it’s not too late for our youth to learn the lessons of “thinking outside the box”.

  • I watched the 60 Minutes piece, and have looked at the news today. I don’t see anyone ‘blaming’ cartoons or ‘Waking Life’ for what happened. Two of his closest friends gave the insight that he was obsessed with the film. Their statements seem credible, especially given Loughner’s own videos and known statements. Neither of the former friends, nor the 60 Minutes interviewer, suggested a cause and effect. What some news outlets are actually going to great pains to describe is his schizophrenia, and the lack of mental health awareness and treatment in this country. There’s no one scapegoating cartoons, so let’s get our panties out of a bunch.

    Actually, the one accusation made on 60 Minutes was not directed at cartoons, but at the community college Loughner attended for not somehow being more aggressive about getting him into treatment. That seems like a lot to ask of a community college, and if they had been more aggressive, I suspect they could have been the target of a successful lawsuit. Simply put, speaking from real experience, the vast majority of new-onset sufferers of schizophrenia fall through the cracks of our system, simply because the system is now pretty much all cracks.

  • Oliver

    I wanted to shoot *myself* after watching Linklater’s attempt to enliven sophomoric, smug philosophising with pure technique.

    • Absolutely. This man gets homicidally obsessive from the equivalent of watching a first-year sociology student at Starbucks wax all-knowing from behind a shower door? Good thing he wasn’t watching Coraline or he’d have blown up a hospital!

    • Aimee

      Smug philosophizing? I remember when it came out hearing all these people tell me it is so deep, and how much it changed their perspective on life.

      My response was “what 6 year old hasn’t thought these thoughts, but couldn’t articulate them into a nearly two hour burst of hackery”? Followed by a burst of eye rolling.

      And I was 21 at the time, and in art school, so my tolerance for (and indulgence in) pretentious crap disguised as art was pretty limitless. But I guess I had my limits…and this movie was it.

    • I’m not a big fan of the Noah Chomsky school of philosophy — especially when he ventures beyond linguistics into the conspiratorial — but I think the appeal of Linklater’s film is the sophomoric and playful presentation of some weighty topics of discussion.

  • Don

    With the 2012 stuff and lucid dreaming it sounds like the guy was actually into Coast to Coast AM.

    • red pill junkie

      Yes, if it’s not the ATS forums where a lot of “nutty” conspiracy theories are discussed, then it’s the smoking of Salvia Divinorum. And if that doesn’t scare people enough, then it’s Coast to Coast or Waking Life —not Inception, because Nolan still needs to earn WB a gazillion dollars more with Batman 3.

      Isn’t nice that we can pigeonhole people in comforting and tidy categories, that we can always find a dark external mind-scrambling cause behind these tragedies —so the selling of guns can be safely preserved?

      Just remember America: be afraid, and keep consuming.

      • Don

        Red: I’m not blaming C2CAM for causing it because I listen to the show (working third shift does that). I was just saying that the more I hear about the guy the more it sounds like he was a listener as well.

      • red pill junkie

        I apologize if I came out too defensive —being an active member of the tinfoil-hat-wearing community, it’s hard not to feel pointed at by the media right now :)

        C2C is like a cheesy Sci Fi B movie: meant mainly to entertain, but occasionally a good plot will get you thinking. Ditto with Waking Life.

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    It’s the tail wagging the dog and unscientific to always retro-analyze the perp’s obsession. The crazy mind comes first and then the perp’s misinterepting support or finding comfort for their distorted thinking from whatever cultural media.

    Many people have listened to heavy metal, watched Waking Life, read the Catcher In The Rye and listened to Helter Skelter without killing anyone. It takes just one idiot to wreak havoc and in our desperation for answers we look for some external cause when it all along is internal.

    This is just common sense; I’m just a layman ; I am not a socialogist or anything academic.

  • Dave

    “If something is too difficult to explain, just blame cartoons.”

    Exactly. “If something is too difficult to explain just blame ____________ “. ( just fill in the blank with something or someone you disapprove of . It can be Sarah Palin or President Obama , or whatever . Doesn’t make it so, but gives one a feeling of smug superiority. )

  • it’s human nature. Its a tragedy. Not everyone who watches something violent does it. The government needs to step up and put more funding into mental health, and schools should be talking about mental health and the importance of it as much as they talk about math or science.

  • Justin Spurlin

    Has anyone blamed Jared Loughner’s mental illness yet? I’m wondering if it could have been his mental illness.

  • Steve M.

    Politictions are stupid, and so is this mental case.

  • Jay Taylor

    No need to defend the movie. Is anyone actually claiming it was the movie’s fault?

  • Julie C.

    I watched 60 Minutes. I don’t think the psychologists nor 60 Minutes reporters were BLAMING Waking Life — just saying that Jared’s friends thought that he had identified with the movie and it seemed to be a favorite of his.
    It did wax philosophical in many manners.

  • If anyone was actually blaming the film, it should go without saying that the target of fault would be the psychological content, not the medium. If Waking Life happened to be filmed in live action, they wouldn’t be blaming 35mm cameras.

    Legitimate discontent likely drove Loughner’s mind to obsession. He was searching for meaning, like most of the human population in some form, only he also happened to be a psychopath. My partner’s a psychologist with a phd in sleep science, and I’ve obsessed in the past over lucid dreaming. And I own the Waking Life dvd, and novels by Philip K Dick, and a small fluro water pistol. Warning signs aplenty!

  • While Waking Life was a movie to see once, I think Jared Loughner might’ve had the Pi effect watching the movie. He just clearly went insane.

    And I bet he also wore underwear. Nothing good comes of wearing underwear!

  • What a load of horseshit. Should we now blame the Beatles for influencing Mark David Chapman to murder John Lennon?

    • NC

      Actually more like blaming The Catcher in the Rye for influencing Mark David Chapman to murder John Lennon.

  • Karen

    Or Freaky Friday for John Hinkley, Jr. attempting to assassinate ronnyboy regun?

  • Vzk

    It’s Beavis and Butthead all over again.

  • NC

    Dude 60 Minutes is nothing but a bunch of old farts who try to scare everyone. I remember watching it once when I was is in high school and they were talking about this kid who allegedly murdered his sister by shooting because he was obsessed with Final Fantasy VII.(I think any FF fan would know what wrong here)

    They did gloss over the fact that he was held by the police for a week and given almost no food and forced a confession out of him while some coked up drifter was seen hanging out by the house the night of the murder. 60 minutes… how we love you so.

  • David kelly is one of my favourite actors and i fail to see how a story about a lottery win and the subsequent debarcle in a quaint irish village can have any bearing on…. oh wait…. sorry i get it, you are talking about that plodding lunacy ‘waking LIFE’. I did feel like tearing my own head off after i saw just half of it.

    The thing with obsessing over a certain song, film, person whilst ignoring what should have your attention (personal hygene and not harbouring homocidal tendencies being the big two) is that it is mental illness which of course only solicits sympathy rather than tub thumping hysteria and sales of newspapers

    there is a ‘mitchell and web’ comedy skit about a rotoscoper gone bad… but I can’t find it… so, over all this comment started badly and ended with nothing at all

    all the best everyone

  • I heard that Charles Manson really liked chocolate chip cookies, too.

  • AaronSch

    What do we attribute the senseless violence and killings that plagued mankind prior to television, radio, movies and books? …that’s what I thought.

    • red pill junkie

      …Cave drawings and shrooms? :P