Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dan in Chicago

I had dinner with Danno O'Linsenmann [sic] tonight. I am, as most of you know, a very introverted person, and this fact became a point in conversation, and I had to explicitly state it; for some reason I am not very introverted at all when talking to Dan. Dan frequently has insights or observations about things that I also think about. And I think he must be exceptionally good at listening — I am a difficult person to listen to because I lose track of thoughts and branch off into tangents (when I speak in long blocks I like to think my topics could be modeled like tracing typical function-tree return patterns in a computer program, but in reality they're probably more similar to coroutine yields, or maybe even spaghetti code full of GOTOs, and that's without even factoring in another conversant).

So one of the things I ranted on about was the new Batman flick. And I managed to do something I almost never do, which is communicate my thoughts effectively. Maybe if I'm lucky I can replicate that here. This is the big thing that disturbed me about The Dark Knight: its citizens of Gotham couldn't handle the truth. They needed to be kept in the dark and even lied to repeatedly by Batman and the police conspiracy surrounding him, an idea that went unquestioned by just about everyone.

This is not an art-house picture with a self-selected audience of intellectuals that would consider itself different (probably foolishly) from the major populace portrayed. It's Batman. The audience is, very clearly, the population of Gotham. And the filmmakers tell that audience a story, but tell them they couldn't hear the story if they were the citizens of Gotham. In that case they'd need to be lied to.

After some thought I've backed down a bit on some of my other critiques. There are lots of elements that appear to be allegories of the War on Terror; there are others that I read as anti-intellectual. These things are a little questionable: it may be that Bush's rhetoric about the War on Terror has always resembled the Batman story; the others I could just be over-reading (or mis-reading). There's the Joker's association of anarchy with random destruction, which is unfortunate, but predictable, and only comes up once.

The film's overall attitude, though, clearly seemed to be summed up by the line, "Sometimes the truth isn't good enough. Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people need to have their faith rewarded." That's the main issue, and I think it's a pretty crappy message to leave people with. It's not even that the people are to have their faith in Batman (an image-obsessed, opaque, deceptive embezzler, but who at least is the Good Guy) rewarded, but in the fallen Harvey Dent. It's the suggestion that Evil is too great to be confronted honestly. That the nature of our problems is evil in the first place.

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