The mass homicide in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater this July had a predictable arc in the media voicebox. Fervently ricocheting, on TV and online, opinionators tried to one-up each other about What’s Really Wrong with, well, just about everything.

That the arguments settled on the matter of assault munitions being as easily purchasable as tennis balls is both inevitable and proper.

But other cultural factors are entangled with James Holmes’ pathologies, including, obviously, movies. The discussion about the shooting’s relationship with violent films and The Dark Knight Rises appeared immediately and was quickly vanquished. Critics, editors and columnists barked en masse—don’t blame the movie!—as if their very industries depended upon it. Which they do, to some degree. And, yes, the vast majority of ticket-buyers for The Dark Knight Rises did not, in fact, hurt anyone.

But so? Amid the dread of having a cause-and-effect line drawn between viewership and berserk action, one reality has been overlooked: Our mass entertainment culture has changed, and we have changed with it. In her new book In Broad Daylight: Movies and Spectators After the Cinema (Verso), Gabriele Pedullà, an Italian professor of literature, builds a cogent and alarming argument about how much change we’re talking about. Pedullà’s concern is with how we watch cinema, and the ways cinema was and is produced to accommodate that process.

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