Saturday, October 22, 2016

Dark Nights

Batman gave me nightmares and brainstorms about reality.

Last week I finally saw The Dark Knight, the Christopher Nolan film about Batman starring Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger. The murderer and terrorist played by Ledger reminded me more of ISIS or Ted Bundy than of any comic book character.

Yes, the Joker as the villain robbed banks while wearing a clown suit, but his henchmen shot people in the head and the back--including their own partners-- and on-screen. And the Joker's monologue about preferring to kill or injure people with knives rather than guns was bone chilling.

So Gotham City turned to a vigilante to save them: a billionaire dressing up in a superhero costume with the mind of Sherlock Holmes and physical skill which is also barely human, and wealth to afford tech that even the police don't have. But the outlandishness of this premise was toned down in favor of the question: is a vigilante who, by definition, ignores laws, the answer? Is it justice?

A Wall Street Journal article compared Batman to Bush's War on Terror: a brave man saving us, ignoring a few civil liberties for the greater good.

Take away the few comic book conventions the film has left and the story could be reshot with ISIS or a real serial killer. Fewer explosions, smaller scale, but core issues the same:

*do people who murder and terrorize do it without regard for money or power? Where does that leave deterrence and negotiation? Should someone who only commits a crime in a heat of passion, or in desperation, be treated the same as one who does so from psychosis or lack of empathy?

*if the police are corrupt, does that open the door to a vigilante?
(in the film a police officer abets a kidnapping for cash to pay for health care for an uncovered loved one. In real life, what is happening to police salaries?)

*more than once, the evil-doer revels in forcing victims to fight amongst themselves: "either you all die, or one of you picks who lives." That is disturbing! Does it really happen?

*In the movie, a good guy gives up and becomes a bad guy. Do you hear about police officers being asked, or ordered, to work overtime?  So they are less alert when asked to make a split second decision on civil liberty versus safety? Is it a wonder that some cops drink, or even commit suicide?

*In the Dark Knight, there is panic after terrorism in Gotham, which has a limited number of exit bridges & boats. Thankfully, we don't have any cities like that in real life. #sarcasm.

Yes, The Dark Knight is Hollywood. But some of the issues it raises are anything but. It's not for nothing that I slept poorly that night, reminded of when I was mugged, worried about terrorism.

Have you ever seen seemingly unrealistic fiction that spoke to real issues?

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