Saturday, July 26, 2008

Debating the Politics of the Dark Knight

Two interesting articles break down the political message of the decade's biggest movie, and give nearly opposite interpretations.

At, Michael Dudley sees the Dark Knight through the new lens of a post- 9/11 narrative in American politics. From violent but futile interrogations, to an intrusive but ultimately useless surveillance system, to the redemption of prisoners clad in Guantanamo- orange jumpsuits-- Dudley argues the movie's popularity is a sign that America has gotten wise to dangerous tactics of the past 7 years.

He concludes:

"Even in the face of incomprehensible, implacable evil, The Dark Knight reminds us that [principles of law, fairness and justice] are our only anchors, for without them we betray both them and ourselves.

America may still have that chance. At the moment, however, its Constitution has been mauled, and politicians of both parties long ago surrendered their capacities to stop an illegal war and the looting of the nation's wealth. Now, however, The Dark Knight warns against both abandoning our principles out of fear, grief and hatred, as well as abdicating our moral agency to external authorities -- both of which comprised the hallmark moral syndrome of the years following 9/11."

Meanwhile, Andrew Klavan of the Wall Street Journal sees things exactly the opposite way:

He begins:
A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .

Oh, wait a minute. That's not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a "W."

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight"... is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

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