Pop Culture Gadabout
Sunday, January 25, 2009
      ( 1/25/2009 07:57:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"SOME MEN JUST WANT TO WATCH THE WORLD BURN." Gotta admit that when I read some columnist in the Wall Street Journal attempted to use Chris Nolan's The Dark Knight as a metaphorical valentine to G.W. Bush and the War on Terror, it got my fanboy back up. Putting the Decider and the Caped Crusader on equal levels struck me as reflective of agenda-driven criticism at its most ludicrous -- it's freakin' Batman, folks!

Then I got the DVD for Xmas in a chintzy "collector's edition" (a teeny comic collecting two Golden Age origins that've been reprinted multiple times, plus a replica of a Two-Face coin -- yawn) set, and I could see where the poli-pundits got the urge, at least. Dark Knight wants us to make a connection to the WoT, though it isn't as clear-cut in its endorsement of hard interrogation tactics as some would have you believe. Instead, it raises questions without emphatically coming down on one side or the other.

Thus, we get two older actors articulating two opposing perspectives on the Anything Goes approach to terrorist fight: Michael Caine's Alfred, who ruefully reminisces from his Burma War Years about the necessary evils men do in wartime, and Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox, who draws back after being asked to set up a Big Brother surveillance system. He does what Bruce asks him to do, but immediately destroys the system once it's been deployed for its single purpose. To keep the system going, he believes, would put too much power in the hands of just one man.

I bought this even-handed approach -- at least until we got the movie's conclusion where our hero is given a choice between a.) acknowledging that one of Gotham City's symbols of civic virtue has been driven mad and corrupted and b.) taking the blame himself for that symbol's mad actions. It seemed too obvious a set-up for the next flick, while the line used to defend Bruce's ultimate decision ("Sometimes the truth isn't good enough. Sometimes people deserve more.") struck me the kind of patronizing rationalization that has driven too much of our 21st century politics. Too, I find it hard to believe that two smart guys like Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon couldn't have come up with yet a third choice.

Maybe they could've blamed Al Qaeda?

UPDATE: Poli-blog satirist Roy Edroso (who can be a sharp pop critic when he's not dissecting the more insane conceits of ultra-right bloggers) has an even deeper take on TDK -- though he gives the Joker's red herring father story more weight than I do.


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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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