10 February 2009|
I have to make a confession: I am obsessed with the movie The Dark Knight. I think I’ve watched the DVD about forty times - and it only came out two months ago. The film has even leapfrogged Dr. Strangelove, Braveheart, and The Big Lebowski, and is firmly ensconced behind Godfathers I & II on my list of favorite movies. The movie combines a realism that gives it a human quality not seen in many comic book adaptations, yet never lets you forget that it is, after all is said and done, a comic book.
Andrew Klavan, though, writing for the Wall Street Journal about a week after the film’s release in July, believes that the film is an homage to now-former President George W. Bush - even going so far as to claim the “Bat Signal” used by Commissioner Gordon bares a close resemblance to a “W”.
Klavan avers The Dark Knight,
“...is at some level 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. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand.”
This is, of course, absolute nonsense more suited to a child than anyone who can refer to themselves as a “grown up” and keep a straight face. Klavan goes on to compare the movie favorably to other big budget hits like 300 and Lord of the Rings (movies I also love) - while ignoring the fact that 300 champions militarism, eugenics, and a monarchical system - bemoaning the fact that “conservative” views of moral clarity are relegated to the world of fantasy. This, of course, is only possible because the idea that the world is merely split between opposing camps of good and evil is a fantasy unto itself.
Klavan tells us, “And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society -- in which people sometimes make the wrong choices -- and a criminal sect bent on destruction.” This, though, blurs the line between fantasy and reality once again. Al Qaeda is not the Joker and George W. Bush (or Barack Obama, George Washington, or any president) is not Batman. Batman can make judgements that eschew moral equivalency because Batman lives in a world that does not exist. Al Qaeda is not a nihilistic organization. Though undoubtedly willing to employ violence, destruction, and murder, Al Qaeda does have a purpose, and one does not have to agree with that purpose to be cognizant of it.
Should the American people put there faith in a hope that President Bush - or Barack Obama - would have the moral fortitude that Bruce Wayne possesses? Are we to expect any person to not allow the type of power a president can wield to corrupt them? This would require Americans to suspend, not only their disbelief, but their system of government that keeps that type of power in check even in the face of evil. No adult should be naive enough to think that a president can be as incorruptible as Batman.
Klavan destroys his own argument in his third paragraph when he suggests that “Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.” This certainty about reestablishing the civil liberties of the American people is perfectly fine when it has long been argued by former President Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and others in both the former and current administrations, that the threat from terrorism will never end. Therefore, the emergency Klavan describes will never be over - and, more importantly, the civil liberties decimated in the name of stopping evil will never be restored.
That, of course, is the ultimate tragedy hidden in the absurdity that Klavan proposes.
So, to paraphrase Lloyd Benson’s famous admonishment from the 1988 vice presidential debate, “I know the Dark Knight, I have seen the Dark Knight, and Mr. Klavan....George Bush is no Dark Knight.”