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)