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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Nature of the Threat

There is a new website started by Andrew Breitbart called Big Hollywood.

I highly recommend you check it out if you happen to blunder over here. It is meant to be a Hollywood conservative website, fighting back against all the liberal slop coming out of there nowadays. People are speaking out when perhaps its not wise professionally to do so, so please support them by going over there.

I have not posted anything in a long while, but a discussion at this new website got me going. Writer Andrew Klavan wrote an article called "Hooray for Big Hollywood" where he attempts to point out where, as dismal as Hollywood's left-leaning record has been, there is cause to rejoice over films with conservative themes that have come out and done well.

One film he mentions is The Dark Knight, and one poster attempts to discredit the idea that it has conservative or pro-war on terror, or even any pro-Bush sentiment.

I tried posting a response there, but it apparently was too long, so I thought I would post it here.

To see The Dark Knight as anything OTHER than a pro-war on terror films takes some pretty fancy mental gymnastics. The funny thing is that it is not pro-war or war-on-terror out of some ideological partisanship, but an understanding of common sense, history, and human nature. The characters of Batman and the Joker were written long before the War on Terror, or Bush, or Bin Ladin, and the struggle they represent is as old as history, but they fit so well already to our modern issues.

Batman is born in a society which has become rotten to the core, where criminals run amok due to both their ruthlessness and avarice, and the corruption of the state, which refuses to reign in them out of fear or in complicity. In short, they support one another in preying on the citizenry, with no one able to stop them.

Batman is necessary because there is no one else. No one who is in “official” authority can or will do anything either of fear or self-interest or both. Those few like Jim Gordon, who want to effect change, have no power, particularly working within the corrupt system. Thus, Batman must work outside the law to reform it. Of course, the powers that be don’t like this, whether criminal or legal. They would both prefer things continue as they are. If some people get hurt or killed in the order normal day to day, that is okay, as long as things stay stable and lucrative for them.

Batman refuses to comply. He sees his parents murdered before him, and thus sees the price paid for the system to continue as it is. He bears the cost of this Faustian deal and judges it an immoral exchange.

How like this is our modern day, where on the local and international level, thugs and tyrants are allowed to continue their predations every day, because no one wants to get involved, or risk injury or lawsuit, or worse, profits from it? You think the various powers that wanted to lift sanctions on Iraq were doing it of humanitarian concerns for Iraqis, or for some business interests? Why is the treatment of terrorists at Guantanamo given so much press and liberal outrage, while the abject misery, cruel oppression and systemic murder of Africans in Dufar or North Korea’s population given short shrift, if ANY mention at all?

Batman also succeeds not only because he is an outsider, but because he manages to instill fear in those who had used fear as their best weapon, because he so effectively intimidates those who had thrived on intimidation.

We have seen this in action. Tyrant punks with big mouths who get off on grinding their own people into the ground and making threats and even waging attacks against other countries tend to do so with nations either too weak of will or of might to respond. When someone lands on one of their neighbors with both feet wrapped in Marine boots, they get awful quiet for a while, and some give up the game, like Khadaffi.

Batman is also a symbol, perhaps his most important feature, something featured in the movie and so brilliantly captured in Frank Miller’s the Dark Knight Returns. He is a symbol of resistance; of refusing to become a victim, of having the will and gaining the power to fight back against those seeking to make you their victim. He will not take back Gotham city by himself, but by showing everyone decent there that fighting back is possible, that action with danger is better than fear with the same, and that the bad guys are not so tough when they meet fierce and determined resistance.

Iraq Surge, anyone?

Now, the Joker exemplifies the 9/11 terrorist, the jihadist, the madman, the fanatic for whom there are NO moral, ethical or societal compunctions or mores. His goals, his desires, his drives are paramount, and nothing, but nothing, is off limits as far as goals or methods. He is a raging ID, fully intent on doing absolutely anything he wants, because he recognizes nothing in society as worthwhile or sacrosanct except that which he desires. If true, pure nihilism had a face, it would be white, with a maniacal red grin painted on it.

He is the end result, the last bastion of evil, the final development in the evolution of evil which finds itself hard pressed, like the Uri-kai Orcs Saruman cooks up for the final battle of Middle Earth.

He challenges Batman not only physically, attacking him, attacking average citizens, attacking his friend and killing his lover, but most important, morally. The Joker realizes that he holds one trump card over Batman, and it’s a good one.

As much as Batman is an outsider, one who is willing and able to work as outcast, even an outlaw, to get things done, even HE has limits. He is fighting to preserve decent society and true justice, even if he shuns or skirts them at times.

Joker seeks to destroy all the same, and his greatest strength is the ability to do anything at any time. Period. No rules, not limits, no conscience. Not only does this free Joker to do anything he needs to further his twisted goals, but he knows the limitations Batman puts on himself as well as the ones his chosen society places on him, hang-strings him. The other bad guys know it:

Salvatore Maroni: [to Batman who is interrogating him about The Joker] No one's gonna tell you anything. They're wise to your act. You got rules. The Joker, he's got no rules. No one's gonna cross him for you. You want this guy, you got one way. And you already know what that is. Just take off that mask and let him come find you. Or do you want to let a couple more people get killed while you make your mind?"

And the Joker knows that the same society Batman is trying to protect will not support him, will even turn on him, even against their own best interest, because they cannot face up to what needs to be done:

The Joker: Don't talk like one of them. You're not! Even if you'd like to be. To them, you're just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don't, they'll cast you out, like a leper! 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... these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve.

Batman: Where's Dent?

The Joker: You have all these rules, and you think they'll save you."

In order to truly combat such a demon, Batman cannot operate by all the rules of society, even one what was less corrupt and more capable than his. The Joker operates so far out of norms of civilization that Batman has two choices; let him do his evil work and accept the losses, or follow him just far enough out into the darkness to grab his scrawny little neck and drag him in.

The challenge for Batman is not lose himself to the Darkness in the process, but there lies the real tragedy of the tale…

The Joker: Oh, you. You just couldn't let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You are truly incorruptible, aren't you? Huh? You won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won't kill you because you're just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.

Batman: You'll be in a padded cell forever."

But he won’t be. As part of the Batman mythos, the Joker is the modern Hydra, a deadly fanged head always popping back up in society to wreak lethal havoc, and Batman must once again catch him and put him in that cell, hoping it will be the last time.

Batman refuses to kill the Joker out of principle, to prevent taking that last imagined step into darkness, but as he will find out over the years, one can’t escape the blood on his hands. Bruce Wayne refuses to take a life, even one so deserving as this metaphysical psychopath, but in doing so, he will condemn countless others to death at the hands of the Joker.

As Batman says to himself in Miller’s TDKR on arriving on the scene of another Joker massacre:

“How many, Joker? How many have I killed by letting you live?”

One might ask the likes of Hamas, or their puppet masters in Iran, the same thing…