Batman As Bush, Ctd.

by The New Republic | July 25, 2008

There's far too much nonsense to catalog in the Andrew Klavin piece Isaac cited last night. (The bat-signal looks like a W if you "trace the outline with your finger"? What is he, six?) But I did think it was worth taking a second to unpack the concluding lessons Klavan takes from The Dark Knight:

That's real moral complexity. And when our artistic community is ready to show that sometimes men must kill in order to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values; and that while movie stars may strut in the bright light of our adulation for pretending to be heroes, true heroes often must slink in the shadows, slump-shouldered and despised -- then and only then will we be able to pay President Bush his due and make good and true films about the war on terror.

Without giving anything away, I think the middle assertion is fair: Batman does compromise one civic value in order to capture the Joker--though it's worth noting that he does it in such away as to ensure that neither he nor anyone else will ever be able to do it again. The last assertion strikes me as just plain goofy: Is George W. Bush "slink[ing] in the shadows, slump-shouldered and despised"? He seems to me to fall rather more neatly into the "pretending to be heroes" category. Klavin probably should have held that particular line for a follow-up "Okay, fine, Cheney is Batman" op ed.

But it's the first "lesson" that suggests (along with a misquote of Commissioner Gordon in the previous line) that Klavin really wasn't paying attention during the film. I don't think it's much of a spoiler to point out that Batman never kills anyone. Indeed the message of the film could hardly be in more explicit disagreement with Klavin's reading. The Joker merits death about as much as it is possible for a human being to merit death. I suspect an overwhelming majority of Dark Knight viewers wish Batman would kill him. (I know I did.) And yet, despite multiple opportunities to do so, he doesn't--a fact the Joker repeatedly teases him over. This is a bright line he won't cross under any circumstances, even to "preserve life."

Klavin concludes by hoping that the day will come when we give Bush "his due," evidently oblivious to the fact that this undoes the entire piece he's just written. As Klavin notes--it's the whole point of his metaphor--Batman doesn't get his due. That's his burden. That's what makes him more than a hero. Klavin, by contrast, wants exactly the opposite: He wants Bush to get credit for all the (supposed) good things he's done, he wants him to be acknowledged as a hero, he wants him--to borrow a phrase--to be able to "strut in the bright light of our adulation." He wants Bush to be Iron Man.

--Christopher Orr

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-plank/batman-bush-ctd