Dark Knight

My pastor wrote an Awesome parallel of the movie Dark Knight to today’s society and I think it’s a great read and I want to share it with you.

The Dark Knight has broken all movie attendance records to date.  It may simply be symptomatic of a drought in good movies this summer.  Or it could be resonating with so many people because it addresses a collective moral angst in our society, as suggested in the following commentary by Marc T. Newman, The Allure of The Dark Knight: Speaking a Troubled Truth to an Anxious Audience.
So what drives audiences to repeat viewings of a film that is, by any standard, a dark film set in a dystopian world with, at best, an ambiguous ending? I would like to argue that The Dark Knight is resonating with film audiences because it has tapped into a collective moral angst about the condition of our culture, and the schizophrenic attitudes many have about what it takes to set things right. In line with our culture of narcissism, regardless of what the mirror shows, we enjoy looking at ourselves. The Dark Knight reflects our culture’s troubling truths: our downward slide into nihilism, the impossibility of continuing to draw from a moral well without replenishing it, and the difficulty of wanting heroes while inhabiting a post-heroic age. The world of The Dark Knight looks both grim and familiar… 
The Dark Knight introduces The Joker as the harbinger of a new immoral order. He describes himself to District Attorney Harvey Dent as a kind of force of nature: “Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I am a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. I just do things.” But moments later, he reveals his true identity, “Introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order and everything becomes chaos. I am an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fear.”
The crimes committed in The Dark Knight — murder, kidnapping, bank robbery and terrorism — are not otherworldly; they are the evening news. The Dark Knight merely consolidates them in a single city; creating a recognizable microcosm of crime. But unlike crimes of the past, where someone might do something evil to obtain something good – for example, rob someone to get money – The Joker simply revels in lawlessness. He is an icon for the random attacks against innocents by strangers and the senseless drive-by shootings that have recently plagued our nation. We live in a world that no longer makes sense. We see in The Dark Knight a fictional expression of our own world gone mad.

Under interrogation, The Joker rejects the idea that his is some alien ideology. Providing his analysis of the bastions of rules and laws – the police department – The Joker explains, “You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster…I’m just ahead of the curve.”
The important question to ask is whether The Joker is right.
I don’t believe The Joker is right. “I cling to the promise of Christ who assured his disciples that the gates of hell shall not prevail against us.” (Matthew 16:18




One Comment to “Dark Knight”

  1. Your pastor’s review is very reasonable and well-thought out, especially in comparison to some of the reviews I’ve read which take a similar “TDK literally reflects our decaying society” angle. There is one written by James Howard Kunstler (http://www.kunstler.com) which takes a particularly nasty and hopeless tone (but Kunstler is known for that, I suppose). There are a few points I’d ask people to remember before they start reading and seeing too much of the “real world” into this comic book movie (spoilers ahead!):

    (1) The Joker is clearly and definitively proven wrong at the end of the film about the nature of people. He sets two boatloads of people against each other, and in the end, neither group elects to kill the other in order to save their own hides. I am astonished that more people do not mention this clear victory of the human spirit when they write reviews about the “nihilism” of the film. Also, the best part of this victory, for me, was that it was not really Batman’s (ie, the Neitschean uber-man who works outside the law), but rather, a victory of the “people.”

    (2) Much of the dark setting and tone of the film is as much a convention of the genre as it is supposed to be a literal reflection of our society. What need would there be for a superhero if the world he inhabits is not indeed a dystopia–specifically, a world where the police, the law, the courts, etc were not enough? And this is true even of comics and comic book movies that are far, far brighter in tone. I think this is more a case of, “Imagine this dark world, and the sort of hero it would need . . . ” This has been going on in comics, most especially Batman comics, since the 1930s–long before a war on terror, etc. I will grant you that the filmmakers muddle things by including many contemporary references and topics–most notably repeated use of the word “terrorist” in regard to the Joker, and the whole “electronic spying” subplot near the end of the film. But come on: superheros have been using all manner of methods (whether technological or rooted in superpowers”) to spy on and otherwise surreptiously “control” the world they inhabit and protect. It’s only in a world of FISA laws, etc that these things have a particularly quick access to our collective emotional hot button.

    (3) Much has been written about the TDK filmmakers’ taking a very realistic and serious approach to this pulp material, but much of this writing fundamentaly misunderstands the nature and scope of this “serious approach.” By taking a serious approach to Batman–specifically, by moving the physical setting far outside the fairy tale confines of a Tim Burton landscape and putting it in a world that looks and feels a lot more like our own–I don’t think that the filmmakers were, by extension, asking viewers to look at every particualr in the movie and see it as a literal “reflection” of the contemporary world. Instead, I think that they were simply asking, “If a superhero film can be done without a wink, without a constant layer of irony, can the drama be more credible and engrossing? If we make a villain who doesn’t mug for the camera, can he be legitimately sinister?” The answer to both of those is “yes,” as it turns out, which is why I like the film. But did I leave the film actually thinking that I should place no hope or trust in the police, our legal system, our inherent goodness? Of course not. “Realistic” approach or not, it’s still just a movie! And to the degree that The Joker undermined human goodness for a large part of the movie–ie, that he basically “turned the world upside down” and “watched it burn”–it makes the triumphs at the end all the more meaningful, does it not? If we know all along that there is nothing to be afraid of, how invested are we in the drama?

    Well, I’ve gone on long enough.

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