Eric Harris, one of the two teenagers responsible for the Columbine massacre in 1999, wrote in his journal that he wanted to make a “lasting impression on the world”. It’s certainly true that books have been written, films made, and schools themselves have changed in the wake of Eric and Dylan’s actions.
You wouldn’t necessarily want to be providing a murderer with their final wish, but in creating a piece that examines the phenomenon of school shooters, it’s hard to argue that we aren’t contributing to Eric Harris’ legacy. This is difficult.
It seems like, wherever we end up, our piece should carry an awareness of this irony. It certainly feels like a desire to be remembered, have a legacy and make a difference is something that many artists share with Eric Harris – and although we manifest that desire in acts of creation, rather than destruction – the feeling is at least comparable.
Perhaps, in looking at people who have done appalling things, a piece of art has a responsibility to explicitly condemn them? Or point a way forward? Or is it positive enough to examine the motives and try to understand? Maybe art has no social responsibility at all?
Writing a musical concerning these issues might feel particularly insensitive, but luckily we have London Road as a precedent! In any case – musical theatre is more than capable of crossing to the dark end of the street.
When I was 12/13, I loved this song. I didn’t realise what it was about until years later.