Words failed BarbinMD on the front page of Kos, but I have a few for this inane take on The Dark Knight.

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, 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. 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.

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. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.
The whole point of the movie is that the knight in question--Batman--is dark. He's not an example of moral courage and fortitude. He's an example of how vigilantism, no matter how well-meaning, goes wrong, and if the stakes are high enough, lots of innocent people either die or are put in grievous danger.

At this point, if you haven't seen the film and you worry about things like spoilers, you might want to stop reading.

Take, for instance, the Batman wannabees in the early part of the film. They're inspired by Batman's vigilantism, and it costs at least one of them his life (or at least we're led to believe that). On the one hand, it's easy to be inspired by their willingness to stand and fight for their city, but in the end, they're not heroes. They're chewed up and spit out by forces so big they can't even begin to comprehend them, and their efforts are wasted.

The best example of this is Rachel Dawes. The seminal scene for me was the conversation between her and Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. Dent invokes the example of the Roman tyrant, how in times of emergency, the city would suspend democracy and appoint a leader who would bring them through, and then would restore democracy. Dent is arguing that there's a place for the dictator--desperate times require desperate measures, in other words.

Dawes points out that there's a price to pay for that choice. Caesar became supreme ruler of Rome, and the Republic never existed again. That's the danger of elevating one person to ultimate power.

Andrew Klavan, the moron who wrote the piece quoted above, has faith that George W Bush will restore our civil liberties as soon as our crisis is past, even though there's no reason to expect that he would. Batman hopes for a day when Gotham won't need him, but one point of the movie is that there will always be a way Batman can justify his existence, just as Dubya, by proclaiming a war on a tactic, has ensured that there will always be a justification for stripping us of our civil liberties.

Klavan would like to have us believe that The Dark Knight offers us a simple dichotomy of good versus evil, and that Batman represents the good, the reality that one must be cruel to be kind at times. What the movie really shows is that sometimes all your choices are crap. Whether it chooses the golden-boy fascism represented by Harvey Dent, the working within the corrupt system that fails for Gordon, or the dark vigilantism of Batman, Gotham City is in a world of shit, and the movie doesn't exactly leave you thinking that anything is going to get better.

See, that's the real key to the Dark Knight--the possibility that Ras-al-Ghul had it right in the first movie, that Gotham may be beyond saving, or at the very least, beyond Batman's capability to save it. In fact, Batman may be the very thing that kills Gotham once and for all.

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