Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is "The Dark Knight" Conservative?

I decided to start us off a little lighter than usual today, and in Kyle Smith's review of "The Dark Knight" for Pajamas Media it seems fairly light enough, but his point is well taken:

There is no pretending necessary to fear the Joker (Heath Ledger, in a role that is already a screen landmark). It is said of the Joker that “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

How to deal with such a figure? There is no easy answer, and here is where The Dark Knight strikes me as a conservative movie.

Liberals live in a world of “and.” Full security and full civil liberties. Universal health care and the best quality with no waiting. A dynamic economy and full welfare and unemployment benefits. Liberals, in other words, live in that scene in Spider-Man in which Spidey, forced to choose between saving a tram car full of innocent civilians and saving his girlfriend, chooses both. Liberals live in a fantasy.

Conservatives, though, live in a world of tradeoffs, of either/or. For having this relationship with reality, conservatives are caricatured as grumpy, stingy and negative. Surely all it takes is a bump in taxes on the wealthy and everything will be affordable? Where’s the Hope? Where’s the Dream? Yes, we can!

The Dark Knight lives on a razor edge of tradeoffs. In the coin flips of Harvey “Two-Face” Dent there is a message that not only can’t you choose both heads and tails, but sometimes you’re up against a trick coin that ensures you lose either way.

As Thomas and I watched this movie this past weekend, there were times where we felt like we were watching a car crash in slow motion. It is a cinematic masterpiece with outstanding performances by all involved. But the underlying message. Mr. Smith points out earlier in his piece that the "Spider Man" franchise is the very essence of liberalism; it is the epitome of "and." But in "The Dark Knight" there are gritty decisions that have to be made, and none of them are ever as easy as one thinks.

The Joker is pure chaos, and he becomes the one thing that has Batman beyond concerned. There is a point in the movie where he demands that Batman turn himself in, or he will kill people everyday until he does. Not an easy choice for the hero because he knows that in turning himself in, he will most assuredly be killed, and the Joker's reign of terror over Gotham City will not cease.

For Batman, it is always an "either/or" choice. There are never any easy answers. This is what makes Batman inevitably conservative. Liberals fail to understand that you cannot have everything. There is no "this and that." That is utopian, and impossible to achieve without disenfranchising others. In Batman's world, he understands there will always be the haves and the have nots. No one said life was fair, but he tries to make it as equitable as possible.

With Batman, everyone knows he will do what must be done, and that he will do his best to protect the innocent from the guilty. But he does not go out of his way to accommodate their every need. That is not what he is about. For him, his job is literally zero-sum -- there are winners and losers -- and in the end it is all for the greater good of protecting the city he loves dearly.

Marcie

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Batman decides to use sonar technology to snoop into everyone's lives (i.e. wiretap) to find the Joker causing imminent danger. At the end of this story, 2 boats of people and a bus load of reporters would've died without it. Interesting constitutional conundrum.

July 29, 2008 at 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to say if the message of Dark Knight is inherently conservative. The plot has to take so many twists and turns that could not possible ever happen that it's not clear what the political message is. It could just as easily be that the anarchy of the degree needed to break down true liberty is impossible.

Ironically, the wiretap technology used by Batman is more-or-less a reality and was used by the US military elite Delta Force to capture Columbian drug czar Pabulo Escobar. If there's any message here, it's that one technology like this only has a place in a society that never had liberty.

Scott Sommers.
Taiwan Weblog
http://scottsommers.blogs.com/taiwanweblog/
What I Think about Dark Knight
http://scottsommers.blogs.com/miscellaneous_writings/what-i-think-about-the-da.html

August 7, 2008 at 12:53 AM  

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