“The reactionary . . . is likely to start from a profound conviction of the evil of the natural man. Instead of worrying because people do not get enough freedom, he is obsessed by the need for police — authority, discipline, order. How else can you keep the Devil under control?”
Edmund Wilson on Joseph de Maistre, 1932
“The Dark Knight” is “Dirty Harry” stripped of Don Siegel’s ambivalence and ambiguity. Here again, one madman (Christian Bale’s Batman/Clint Eastwood’s Harry) is posited as the only effective way of combating another (Heath Ledger’s Joker/Andy Robinson’s Scorpio). The two figures are identified as morally equivalent (“You complete me,” says Ledger to Bale, nastily referencing “Jerry Maguire”), but where Siegel’s camera literally recoils in horror at the moment Harry leaps into madness (when he steps on Scorpio’s wound in the football stadium), Nolan seems to embrace, and even romanticize, his hero’s obsessive, abusive behavior. Is the Dark Knight just George Bush with a better outfit, demanding that he be allowed all of the available “tools” to combat terrorism, even if they include torture and eavesdropping? Like Bush, Batman has his own warantless wiretapping program, but Nolan is kind enough to assure us that, once his goal is accomplished, the superhero will blow it up. Is he suggesting that we can count on the Dark President to do the same?
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal concurs, and is down with it: “A paen of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war.”