THE DARK KNIGHT IS NOT A CONSERVATIVE MOVIE.

I know that this debate was kind of over before I started blogging at TAPPED, but after looking at National Review's list of 25 most conservative movies I can't really resist bringing up the absurd interpretation of Andrew Klavan's that Batman is George W. Bush. I generally disapprove of political critiques of films, but comic books, our modern folk tales, are inherently political mediums. There's a reason why every major comic book cartoon, publisher or film has dealt with themes of power and its abuse over the past four years. But if you're going to interpret a comic book or comic book film politically, you have to understand its place in the geek canon.

The reason The Dark Knight gets so much love from comic geeks is that it gets at the soul of The Joker, namely his "One Bad Day" thesis, that anyone can be so overwhelmed by tragedy that they become a monster. The reason this resonates within the Batman narrative is that Batman himself is a monster of sorts, transformed by that one bad day when his parents were murdered in front of him.

But of course the point of The Dark Knight is that people can resist such transformations, that they don't have to become monsters to survive. The Joker knows Batman isn't a monster, not really, but he tries to make him one by making him break his One Rule: Batman doesn't kill. You could argue that such things as Hong Kong scene "support" rendition, but this is a comic book movie, and heroes have to do cool things. Within the context of the Batman narrative, the only rule that matters is the One Rule. Moreover, we're given a cautionary tale in the form of Harvey Dent in what happens when government officials start to believe that rules no longer matter.

The refutation of the "One Bad Day" thesis is the point of the final two scenes, the first on the two boats, in which both the inmates and regular people decide that living isn't worth murder, and when Batman disables all of The Joker's men while saving the hostages. If you see The Joker as a terrorist, then one has to conclude, like Batman, that some rules are so important they can't be broken. Which, it seems to me, is hardly an endorsement of Bush or his administration's behavior in fighting terrorism. So it's hardly conservative, at least not in the sense that Klavan means, that anything done in the fight against evil men is justifiable.

-- A. Serwer

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