Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What is a Hero? Understanding Batman: The Dark Knight

“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
– Harvey Dent, Gotham City Prosecuting Attorney
Batman: The Dark Knight

The newest installment in the Batman series of films (Batman: The Dark Knight) is not about capes, or villains, or even good versus evil as much as it is a cinematic essay on what it means to be a hero and the morality code – the self-imposed sand line – of the heroic icon.

To do good, to change the world, to save lives, the hero must endure pain, suffering and the scorn of the public and yet still stand at the end of the evening with his moral compass pointing North and code of honor intact. It is no easy task for anyone.

And who is the true hero? Is it the one who is perceived as such, the one whose real self is supplanted by and inferior to his iconic stature? Is it the one whose very being inspires goodness and heroics in others, or is it the one who sacrifices his own soul and self to save the others?

There are no clear lines in The Dark Knight (TDK). Blurred boundaries and fuzzy definitions infiltrate the grit and grime of TDK making the film a disturbing, discombobulating bit of storytelling. The chaotic nature of the Joker is disorienting and absolute, yet the goodness of Batman and Harvey Dent are delicate and fragile. Determined as they are, both are uncomfortable with the label of hero and mantle they must carry, each wishing the other would bear the brunt of the burden.

The Dark Knight is not easy to watch. It is not the fun-filled thrill ride of Iron Man or the sarcastic, pummel-happy film of Hellboy. TDK is unsettling and nasty. It is a reflective commentary of the sometimes destructive and dirty path of righteousness.

Who are our heroes? Have we chosen well? Has our society placed our faith in the righteous, courageous and good? Are we capable of even knowing? The verdict may well change from person to person. There are few Batman’s left. Too many of us enjoy the congratulations, the applause, the little rewards from our teachers, friends, and the public, for doing what is right and good. Batman gives us another path, if we chose to take it, when he repeatedly tells Lt. Gordon: “You don’t have to thank me.”

How many of those heroes are left in this world?

Our political leaders could learn a lot from Batman: The Dark Knight. If we allow ourselves to play by the rules of our metaphorical Jokers, the architects of chaos and destruction, allow them to define us, to control us, and more importantly to get us to change our moral code – our boundary lines of right and wrong – then we lose more than our freedom. We lose our identity and our souls.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For continued enlightenment