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The Dark Knight and post-modernism

by Brad A. Greenberg

July 22, 2008 | 9:23 pm

I’ve been waiting for tonight for about six months. In fact, three months ago when I first saw a trailer for the long-awaited “Dark Knight,” I no longer had much interest in the movie I had paid $10.75 for a midnight showing of. “Batman Begins” has been my favorite comic-book movie since it came out, surpassing “X2” and “Spider-Man 2.” And “The Dark Knight” looked so much, um, darker. Some friends have said they left the theaters feeling shaken or a bit sick to their stomach, and ready to see the movie again.

It’s difficult to imagine a film living up to this much hype. But everything I’ve read and heard says “The Dark Knight” does. And one of the comments I’ve heard over and over is that director Christopher Nolan really forces you to think. Not like watching an arthouse movie, but to think about the nature of man and the distinctions between good and evil, which is exactly where Hollywood Jesus picks up this “war of worldviews.”

The Dark Knight is a battle between the post-modern world view and that world view of absolutes. In fact, the Joker is the poster boy for post-modernism. He absolutely believes (and yes, I understand the irony of using that emphatic to express a post-modern viewpoint) that everything is relative, that the world would be better off if it let go of its delusions of order and a civilized society governed by laws. What’s more, the Joker believes that all it takes is some nudging and people will naturally embrace his style of relativistic thinking. When the circumstances are extreme enough, people will see there are no absolutes beyond what they believe is right for themselves. The Joker embraces this way of thinking so completely, that he has multiple realities to explain his scars and his creation, all equally plausible and real in his own relativistic mind.

The Dark Knight also demonstrates what happens when one completely embraces the post modern belief of relativisim: it destroys everything. Everything descends into chaos, fear, uncertaintly, hopelessness, and darkness. Of course standing against this is Batman, the Dark Knight. He believes that order and law are necessary, and he’ll do whatever it takes to enforce that belief… even if it means breaking the very laws that he believes are necessary. If that sounds contradictory to you, then you’re beginning to understand what makes Batman such a fascinating and complex character.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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