Friday, August 1

Considering "The Dark Knight"

I was not really interested in posting my thoughts on this latest entry into the Batman franchise at first. Really, what more was there to say? I was there on opening weekend and enjoyed the movie an awful lot. The pacing was frantic in the best possible way, the imagery was terrific and the acting, especially that of the late Heath Ledger, was spot on. What impressed me most, perhaps, was how the movie made the most of the briefest, most understated scenes. When Wayne turns his scarred back past the camera, when the Joker rides through Gotham, his head outside the window and the street lights glowing something like a carnival behind him, I caught my breath. But Rotten Tomatoes currently provides links to 235 other people who think the same thing and have communicated the sentiment with greater eloquence and a superior background in film.

Then I came across these two articles, one an opinion found in The Wall Street Journal and a feature in Spokane's The Pacific Northwest Inlander, on consecutive days. For those lacking the will to read the pieces themselves, let me summarize the most important points. In the Journal, Andrew Klavan argues that the hero of The Dark Knight is a metaphor for the Bush administration which has been forced to take morally questionable actions in its defense of America and been declared vile for performing them. In the other article, Steve Schneider suggests that Batman and Harvey Dent represent the literal black and white halves of Obama and his politics of hope.

Something had to be written. Thus, the post.

Both articles take The Dark Knight in unexpected directions. Both articles do so with more-than-competent writing. Both articles, unfortunately, are also trash. Klavan's interpretation offers far more self-justification than any analysis of the movie. Klavan takes a very simple and clear theme of the film, the need for evil to sometimes be committed in pursuit of good, and applies it to a modern situation, President Bush and his War on Terror. There is nothing wrong with the appropriation. The problem lies in the application. Why Bush? Why not Steve Jobs? I hear the man is a jerkwad, but he does turn out some terrific products. The extent of Klavan's reasoning is that the Bat signal kind of looks like a "W."

Schneider's article just confuses me. "... Our collective anxiety over the resurgent politics of hope."? Obama is the freaking presumptive Democratic nominee. If America' citizens were really that bothered by the core of his campaign, why did they vote for him in the first place? Because they thought he looked good? I doubt it. And do you really want to compare your favored candidate to Dent and Batman, characters who respectively go insane and become a fugitive?

It is obvious that neither man is truly interested in engaging the film, merely looking to justify their ideologies by finding them in the film and wallowing in the typical citizen's supposed agreement as demonstrated by Knight's record-breaking box office returns.

Big whoop.

Rebuttals to the articles were not the main point originally. By themselves, they really are not worth the time. Who cares if two politically-minded writers drag some pop culture by the barest threads into their arguments? I do not, and I wrote the stupid post. What these articles represent, the elasticity of interpretation, does, however, matter to me. I thought I would write some grand indictment of the deconstruction which allowed these interpretations to arise, but once I thought about it, that post became far more difficult. The Dark Knight is not an ambiguous movie. There is evil, there is good and the difference between the two is obvious because death is always on the line. Evil crosses that line without a thought, and good, though it may be tempted, stays on the right side. Where does the ambiguity arise that two men are able to interpret the film in such radically different ways? It does not. Then again, neither article provides a convincing argument, much less a valid one. What I needed to accept is that people will do stupid things and look for reasons in the wrong places. Bigots will base arguments on Biblical passages, and Al-Qaeda terrorists will find inspiration in the Qur'an. It hardly means they are right. It is no different for Klavan, Schneider and The Dark Knight. All we can do is be reflective and retain the ability to discriminate between the good and true and the false.

1 comment:

Pleasance said...

People should read this.