Bush as Batman?
July 25, 2008
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[After reading back through this I realize I should warn that there are spoilers here. Beware.]
Andrew Klavan would have us believe that G.W. Bush is Batman. To be more fair he’s drawing a comparison, but for some reason I just keep having visions of Robot Chicken’s version of Bush running around in a bat suit instead of a flight suit.
Why does his take on terrorism immediately devolve into a simplistic depiction of good and evil? This doesn’t just demean the complexity of the problem of terrorism and our responses to it in the last 7 years, it also demeans the movies that Klavan so ardantly tout as being the pillars of his world view. (While I’m concentrating on the latter here I feel I should state the obvious that the real shame is in the former.)
Frankly this take on The Dark Knight misses so many of the nuances of the film that I don’t know where to begin. I will note that Batman doesn’t kill in the film. Going beyond the line into the “real moral complexity” of torture, killing, and extrodinary power to do the “right thing” is exactly what the Joker entices him to do throughout the movie. It is what the inherent evil Klavan’s discussing wants because it destroys the boundary between good and evil by making those upholding justice step into injustice. The values Klavan touts the movie for are in fact the result of the heros going beyond the pale. He may not have noticed a rather intregal point of the film’s plot in the form of Harvey Dent’s fall from grace. Dent is driven mad by the Joker and the boundaries of right and wrong are blurred to the point that they become as arbitrary as the flip of a coin. Dent goes on to unilaterally kill those that have betrayed him and eventually turns against Gordon by threatening his family and holding Gordon’s son by gun point. Yet Dent’s example as a pure hero is a necessity for Gotham. This is not, as Klavan might like, because the things he did were right. They are revenge killings and they don’t do anything to stop the terrorist in the movie. In fact, the Joker takes Dent’s fall as his crowning achievement. The Joker cannot win though. Gotham needs to believe that an ideal like the justice that Dent represents can even exist in a place like Gotham. Batman takes Dent’s sins on himself to keep that hope alive. Batman must run in order to hide the fact that Dent crosses the boundaries that Klavan is so flippant with. It is a crossing that leads Dent to threaten a child. Moral complexity indeed.
I’m interested to hear thoughts on this from folks and hope to write more on it as I give it more thought.