Disturbed By The Ideology Of ‘The Dark Knight’

From the New York Times:

A fellow novelist, Andrew Klavan, has celebrated this reading: “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.” Trace the Bat-signal’s outline with your finger and “it looks kind of like … a ‘W.’ ” Is it so?

In the words of the critic Dave Kehr, “I’m not sure that it matters whether or not ‘The Dark Knight’ espouses conservative values … it certainly expresses them. … Ideology creeps in on little cat feet, whether you want it to or not.” I’d add that a popular myth or symbol as resilient and yet as opaque as Batman has a tendency to collect and recapitulate meaning beyond a creator’s intentions. Yet Mr. Klavan’s confident partisan interpretation seemed to grant this film too little and too much at once. Perhaps I’m too prone to bear down on “The Dark Knight” as the tea leaves in the dregs of a political season’s cup, but I couldn’t shake the sense that a morbid incoherence was the movie’s real takeaway, chaotic form its ultimate content.

Everyone agrees that Mr. Ledger’s Joker steals the show, but really, what’s there to steal? The film was the Joker’s to begin with. Scene after scene presents a sensual essay in taking good-guy torture and a crumbling social and economic infrastructure equally for granted. No one in this Gotham can remember a time before the town’s ruin, and the movie declines to hint at a way out, only noting that our hero’s bitterness was predetermined by his failure — or was it the reverse?

Like the fogey I’ve become, I felt brutalized as I watched, but after the tide of contradictions had receded behind me I wasn’t stirred to any feeling richer than an exhausted shrug, as when confronted by headlines reminding me that we no longer have a crane collapse or a bank failure, we have the latest crane collapse, the latest bank failure.

In its narrative gaps, its false depths leading nowhere in particular, its bogus grief over stakeless destruction and faked death, “The Dark Knight” echoes a civil discourse strained to helplessness by panic, overreaction and cultivated grievance. I began to feel this Batman wears his mask because he fears he’s a fake — and the story of his inauthenticity, the possibility of his unmasking, counts for more than any hope he offers of deliverance from evil. The Joker, on the other hand, exhibits his real face, his only face, and his origins are irrelevant, his presence as much a given as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or Fear Itself.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
This entry was posted in Hollywood and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.