Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More Batman Studies

I have to say that I’m stunned by the astuteness and moral depth of the political analyses of the new movie by Clint and Ralph below. And so I interrupt that thread with very great hesitation. But I have to post another political philosophical approach to THE DARK NIGHT by Dr. Schaff of South Dakota. (Scroll down to July 18.) In his view, good is at least as interesting as evil in this film: Bruce Wayne (Batman) and DA Dent respond with prudence and integrity to tough political dilemmas, and the seriousness of their choices, as well as their searching inquiry into their own motives, trump any deficiency (such as excessive earnestness) in their dialogue. The film, in Jon’s view, also makes it quite clear that evil is really evil; the Joker is too cruel and sadistic really to be funny. So when the audience laughs, it is in error.
The Joker, Jon adds, is a Nietzschean; he’s a anti-bourgeois and anti-moral man of action for deep theoretical reasons. And he certainly shows that if you have the "why" (even if the why is chaotic) you can get by with almost any "how." The best class of criminals don’t care about money, the Joker says. The film displays at least two kinds of men who aren’t moved at all by money. I’ve been led to see they’re both very interesting and worthy of a second viewing--despite its excessive length and some boring action scenes. (Is it true that only the woman--the girl friend of both the good guys--isn’t very interesting?)

Discussions - 40 Comments

Both characters are anti-bourgeois in a very general sense that they disdain the conventional--Batman hates law breakers but not out of love of the law---he breaks it all the time. For him, the law is only as good as those who enforce it and Gotham's PD is almost entirely corrupt. Like his father he has no interest in money, but can afford to be disinterested--like philosophy, vigilantism requires some leisure apparently. For me, much of what is intersting about Batman is his internal conflict between justice and thymos---his angry vengeance is directed in the service of creating a peaceful, safe, and law abiding Gotham but Batman himself craves danger, risk, and an opportunity for heroic nobility....deep down he knows Gotham will always be corrupt---in the comic it never gets cleaned up really....he understands this because he grasps a tragic view of man's fallenness and the way this gets a full expression in a failing city....Batman is not so much driven by honor because he keeps his identity concealed and because he doesn't seek affirmation from a city he is devoted to but has some underlying contempt for---after all, it ungratefully killed his father despite a life devoted to it....

I plan to see Dark Knight soon. As to this film and the previous one (which I have seen), I suspect that an interesting comparison would be with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Like many an influential Western story going all the way back to Fenimore Cooper's "Leatherstocking" books, Valance explores the dramatic tensions and ironies inherent in the uneasy situation of the man (John Wayne's character of Tom Doniphan in John Ford's ironically titled 1962 film) who is needed to defend civilization against savagery, but who cannot fit comfortably into civilization and who might not even want to, having that much extra admixture of the savage in him (think of Wayne's similar character of Ethan in The Searchers, a quasi-accidental defender of the civilized order so rough-hewn that he is constantly and self-consciously interrupting every civilized ritual he comes across, and who shares enough of the Indians' beliefs that he stops to mutilate one of their corpses in a twisted little ritual of his own).

I've always thought that the Bat Man character is to a large extent an urban, 20th-century reimagining of this originally more rural, 19th-century archetype from the world of the frontier (or at least literary versions of same).

The new Bat Man film seems very much in this "conflicted hero, defending civilization without being quite of it" vein, with some differences. For one, Bat Man's (or at least Bruce Wayne's) situation may be redeemed at least in part by the love of a good woman, whereas in Ford's film John Wayne loses the girl once and for all to Jimmy Stewart's Rance Stoddard, a man who belongs completely to civilization, which the film suggests is why he's unequal to dealing adequately with the cruel, chaotic outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), that film's equivalent of the Joker.

Ford's film suggests that there is a good public outcome (Valance gets what he deserves and civilization is adequately defended, with Jimmy Stewart ultimately becoming a senator to help consolidate the achievement), but that this defense can only be bought at the cost of private tragedy and disappointment for the man (Doniphan/John Wayne) who is most crucial to that defense. Ford may even have foreshadowed the urbanization of this story by shooting his movie as an "urban" Western--much of the action takes place indoors in town buildings, and a good deal of what goes on outside occurs at night in the relatively closed-in, chiaroscuro ambiguity of the town's streets and building exteriors--a little taste of Gotham on the frontier, if you will.

Race, well said.

I can't believe that they featured so subpar looking a woman as Rachel. Of all the brunettes out there to pick from, Kate Beckinsale for instance, they picked a girl horribly miscast. She lets that movie down big time.

IVAN, recall that Batman makes the key distinction that there are things wrong in themselves, {malum in se}, but there are other things that society deems wrong, but for all their labeling, are still nothing more than things prohibited, {malum prohibitum, non malum in se}. That key distinction is something that modern society is close to losing. And it is that distinction that guides the hero through the valley of the shadow, and through the valley of moral murk.

RACE, the theme you've developed was pursued too in The Seven Samurai, which was Americanized in The Magnificient Seven. It's not the money that beckoned the Seven, though some hoped for it to materialize. What truly called them was the opportunity to display what they could do with their skill and their weapons, and do so in a cause worthy of them. In The Magnificient Seven, none of them gets the girl, except the one villager, who for a moment leaves his rural lifestyle to try to emulate that of the gunfighter, but in the end he returns to type, settles down and lives with the girl, the girl who says nothing really, but who professes her devotion with her eyes. The gunfighters leave, and the movie hints that other battles beckon them, --------------- but that wealth and rest will be forever denied them, at least on this earth.

Why? Because they've tasted of illicit fruit. They've known the rare rush of action, of killing, and of staying alive by quickness and nerve. This IS, {as fighter pilots well attest} something of a narcotic. And because they've tasted of that apple, other delights are denied them, such as those simple joys that belong to those who love and are loved, who have children and see them grow strong about them.

They're modern Templars, not simply enduring hardships, but embracing them, so that innocent pilgrims might travel in peace, to offer worship, to receive graces and to have their honest prayers heard. They clutch a sword, and wield it well, so that others might clutch their rosaries, and wield them well. The profession of arms is as much a vocation as that of any religious calling.

That's a fair point about Maggie Gyllenhaal (sp?)--I can't for the life of me understand why she's considered leading-lady material at all, as I find her kind of odd-looking, and with an offputting voice and manner to boot. But maybe that's just me. I can't figure out why her vacant-eyed moon-calf of a brother is considered a big-time actor, either.

We should also keep in mind that "the girl in the picture" is a hoary scenarist's cliche driven largely by commercial considerations--i.e., the fear of studio execs that female viewers will reject a film which lacks a romance angle.

Like in the Western, the leading woman, Rachel, played a subtle yet crucial role—choosing the winner. Every viewer intuitively realizes that the family and perpetuation is the foundation of politics. A nation of either sex by nature only lasts one generation. Rachel gets to choose which route society will take, and while critics may question her passive role, she makes the decision that gives credence to Harvey Dent, the average man of laws. In too many epics, the god and hero transcends law and still gets the girl. But how can a society be perpetuated by a god that admits he cannot follow its laws? Rachel realizes that Batman will always be Batman, a god who can only enforce justice by virtue of his heroic will and power. Once Batman dies, beasts will fill the void. Batman himself admits that Gotham needs laws to perpetuate its society after he is no longer able to be Batman, and Batman wisely stops Harvey from taking the law into his own hands. Rachel knows that for her children and grandchildren to enjoy justice, she must choose a man who seeks justice by law rather than enforces justice by will. She makes the right choice for society, as only a woman can.

RACE, No, it's not just you, ----------- that girl is, to be very charitable, average looking at best. This isn't in any way a comment on her acting skills; it's just about her appearance, and she doesn't have what it takes for that role. I'm sure that there are other roles where she'd be fine. But not this one.

CLINT, I think you stretched your point. Batman isn't a "God," for God DEFINES what's moral. Batman isn't defining anything. For Batman functions WITHIN a pre-existing moral structure. Which is suffocating because of the sinfulness of man, and because of the pervasive corruption of the society around him. Batman's task is to breath new life into a society that is dying, and dying because its moral sense is dying. He's a hero, but not a "Godlike" hero.

He's a servant, or rather a steward, but NOT a lawgiver. He holds in TEMPORARY stewardship the moral sense of a corrupt, decadent, thus dying society. He himself admits that his role is but of a day.

Clint, Great on the realism of the woman vs. batmanliness run amok. I think that's the best batpost so far.

And as for the role of women, which Peter praises, there too I think CLINT may have stretched the point.

Do women point out the winners? But that overlooks that women make blunders all the time, in temporary dalliances and their marital decisions. And are stricken by remorse and regret thereafter. Not all the time of course, but not infrequently either.

Dan-I wrote "god" not "God." Batman is a "god" in the Aristotelean sense in that he is capable of an existence outside of political society. These are men with beast or god like qualities depending on whether they are bad or good. Batman is a god, the Joker is a beast. Both are self-sufficient, neither needing society.

As for women erring, how does that effect the movie or even real life? In the movie she makes the right choice, and in society women generally do to.

What's with the criticism of Rachel's looks? IF anyone on this blog is married to a prettier woman, please link pictures. It was strange that Batman actually still loved her given his other more beautiful tastes, but whatever.

Peter, far too kind.

Sorry, Clint, but with movie tickets now 11 bucks a pop (I think I heard my wallet just yell "Ouch!"), I feel that Hollywood has a sacred and bounden duty to show us the best-looking women they've got. By THOSE highly relevant standards, Maggie G. just doesn't cut it. And it's not like she's some brilliant actress or anything. (What Mrs. Average Jane Somebody or Other looks like is neither here nor there, and let's please leave people's better halves out of this anyway.)

Caveat: I admit that my perspective has probably been warped by watching too many male-audience-targeted comedies (by Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, etc.) where the guys are average to downright shlubby in appearance but the actresses are super hotties. It's interesting how comedy is the one genre where funny-looking men can be stars; people don't expect their clowns to be pretty. But as the films are aimed at younger men, the "girls in the picture" all have to be very easy on the eye indeed.

Race, that first sentence is a bullseye. But even if the tickets were chump change, Hollywood has a reputation to uphold, and putting average appearing women out there, as THE MAJOR female lead, commanding the devotion of two high powered men, ------------------ it just doesn't cut it. SHE doesn't cut it.

Maggie G. has a face that would be perfectly suited for a Victorian era period piece, where she's the all observing maid with a good heart, and growing suspicions about the Master of the estate. I can't believe they picked her for this flick. She had to know somebody. Kind of like Eva Marie Saint in Exodus, where she was badly miscast, but she "knew" a certain guy putting the flick together. Maggie G. was as miscast for the role of Rachel as was Ali McGraw for the role of Natalie Jastrow in The Winds of War. Whereas in War and Rememberance, Jane Seymour handled that same role with aplomb.

Angelina Jolie would have pulled off the role of Rachel well, as would Kate Beckinsale, -------- and there are others. It's just that Maggie G. doesn't have it.

When you drop that much money on a project, you don't overlook a detail like the looks of the female lead. Hollywood back in the day wouldn't have done such a thing.

I'd bet my left nut that "Race" and Dan would give their left nuts for a chance to sleep with Maggie Gyllenhaal. You geeks are pathetic. Female leads (and not just in comedies) have ALWAYS been held to a higher standard in the looks department. You two pounce on one movie that supposedly doesn't deliver on this? And while Gyllenhaal's looks may not be to your taste, remember that this is a subjective thing we're talking about here. It's not like you can somehow PROVE that she's not pretty enough to star in this movie.

Also, "Race," doncha think maybe you should see the movie before you spout off about it at length? Maybe then you'd know it's Batman and not "Bat Man."

That's a good one. But you'd be mistaken.

Nor did I "pounce" on "one movie," all I said was that she let this movie down, because she was sadly miscast. I'm sure she's an excellent actress, it's just that she couldn't pull off this particular role.

Compare her being featured in this movie to Kate Beckinsale in Pearl Harbour.

Personally, I think Maggie Gyllenhal is pretty attractive and I had no problem with her in the role. She is not only supposed to be Bruce Wayne's love interest, she is also the Assistant DA of Gotham...Katie Holmes was the one miscast for that part originally in Batman Begins. Trying to imagine Katie Holmes as an assitant DA for a major U.S. city is absurd...she looks about 24 in the movie. Gyllenhal is much more believable in that role, and she is plenty pretty enough to play Bruce Wayne's love interest.

I actually didn't think Gyllenhal had a great performance acting-wise, but it had nothing to do with her looks.

Clint, I haven't seen the Batman movie yet (and, until I read your posts, I had no inclination to see it) but what you say about "Rachel" has me intrigued. It is an interpretation that is very obviously true of the woman in Liberty Valance and true in the highest sense of true as well. It may be the case in this movie but I'll wait to see it before I comment. Nevertheless, very nice post. I think, too, that what you say probably has something to do with her good but not stunning looks. If she were a goddess then she would need a god to be her equal and she would have had to choose Batman over the man of laws and work. Stunningly good looking people do not have to practice virtue (of either an Aristotelian or a Machiavellian sort) to maintain their appearance--at least not until age sets in. Regular people have to work at maintaining laws and appearances. Both can be overdone, of course, and almost always to bad effect. Fortune has to play a role in the looks of woman and in the capacities of a man but, if Fortune has the starring role, then civilization is not possible. It is always an accident and usually not a happy one. So, in short, I think it is fitting that this "Rachel" is good looking but not a knock out. It probably says more about the audience than the girl that she is considered boring . . .

I wouldn't recommend such a rash wager, "Crance." You would not like the outcome.

Clint and Julie, thinking about Liberty Valance, it strikes me that perhaps Vera Miles almost HAS TO choose Jimmy Stewart's Rance over John Wayne's Doniphan, because Wayne is not a good prospect to become a consolidator/progenitor of civilization, and for the same reason that he's so effective against Valance: He has a big wild, violent streak in him.

This points to the question of what separates Doniphan from Valance, or the Bat-Man (to give one early spelling variant) from the Joker. One would have to say it's that one has a certain respect for justice and humanity that the other does not. But why? Is it simply a mysterious free choice, an uncaused act of volition? Or does one intuit or otherwise recognize (however ambivalently at times) a moral order that the other cannot grasp (or willfully rejects)?

To go back to Vera Miles for a second, I wonder if a good alternative version of the movie could be made in which she does pick against the civilization-securing odds and opts for John Wayne. After all, is not "civilizing the savage" within man something that woman often does, and that lies near the basis of any civilization worthy of the name?

After all, is not "civilizing the savage" within man something that woman often does, and that lies near the basis of any civilization worthy of the name? This is a noble lie.

Julie, I didn't say Rachel was "boring." I said she didn't cut it, and rationalizing her selection after the fact isn't enough to enable her to cut it. Rationalizations can't be offered now, {nunc pro tunc} for her being featured in the film. Her role was minor, but she motivated two of the foremost characters in the film. Which means her appearance wasn't something marginal to the men involved.

And RACE, easy about being lured into some situation where you're required to boast about your conquests on the Internet. That's NOT the best way to answer some of those that criticized us for making the perfectly reasonable observation that Gyllenhal couldn't cut it. Far better to let such challenges pass on by, like musket fire that can't find the mark.

I'm not sure that I would characterize Doniphan as having a "big wild, violent streak." He was certainly willing to avoid conflict and was not that wild.

What Doniphan shares with Valence is naked self-interest. Most men are weak enough that we all at least pretend to care about others. Society is all about putting the common above the individual. Most pretend to follow that, perhaps some do.

Giants like Doniphan and Valence are physically and mentally so great that they can thumb their nose at this common good. They don't need the approval of society because they are fully capable of satisfying all their self-interests. For some reason Doniphan has a better understanding of what man's interests should be. That is probably inexplicable. God gives to some great talents.

Julie, your lesson on looks, virtue and women is wise, although I'll be forgetting it (as i think Race, Dan, and all other guys do) soon.

Clint: Sadly, it is also this kind of forgetfulness that leads so many women to consider that the Batmans and the Doniphans(as well as the Jokers and the Valances) of this world are a better bargain (even if a short-lived one) than a steady and honorable (though possibly boring) man. The difference is that forgetful men probably have more power to effect restraint than forgetful women (whose vanity is even stronger than a man's attraction to beauty) . . . and men should recur frequently to the noble lie mentioned above (though never believing it) as well as the nobler one about a good wife's long-lasting and over-powering beauty. In short, there would be a lot more happiness (and civilization) all around if men were better liars.

Julie, the DA folded when personal torment got too much. The only thing that prevented the DA from wasting the kid in the end of the movie was the guy that Rachel rejected.

Yet we're supposed to believe that Rachel made the right choice????????????

Bruce Wayne stood between her beau and out and out murder. She chose a murderer to be her husband and the father of her children. Some might offer in defense that when she chose him, he was not yet the criminal. But the murderer was always there, simply waiting to be revealed. The Joker could easily paraphrase Michaelangelo, and say he didn't create Harvey Two-Face, he brushed the various chips away, revealing what existed in the depths of District Attorney Dent.

Thus Dent didn't BECOME Harvey Two-Face. Rather at the end of the encounter, the test, District Attorney Dent stood REVEALED as Harvey Two-Face.

Dent was fine so long as fighting crime was something of an adrenalin rush. And he was fine so long as fighting crime didn't exact too great a toll upon himself. But when HE deemed torment and loss too much, WHEN HE decided that he was being asked to endure more than anyone had a right to expect, --------------- that's when he rejected crime fighting, rejected everything that Rachel thought he epitomized and embraced criminality.

Batman went through similar psychic trauma, but whereas Dent went under, Bruce Wayne emerged stronger than ever. So strong that he was capable of going it alone, and against all.

CLINT'S wrong when he said that Rachel made the best choice. In a superficial manner, she may have. BUT and character can only be tested when all is going against you, in that TRUE test of character, Dent failed, whereas Bruce Wayne endured. Rachel saw Dent when he was the fair-haired boy of Gotham, flying high, powerful and parting the crowds, capturing the media limelight. But Bruce Wayne saw the real Dent, which emerged when the metal was placed in the fire for testing. And in that test, brutal as it was, {but aren't they all...} the baser alloys in Dent's character came to the fore.

Rachel didn't prove how perceptive she was, her decision only revealed the shallowness of her understanding, and how much she dramatically underestimated the TRUE character of her childhood friend.

Sorry to be a Johnny-Come-Lately, but I gotta go back to Race's remark on Liberty Valence: "Ford's film suggests that there is a good public outcome (Valance gets what he deserves and civilization is adequately defended, with Jimmy Stewart ultimately becoming a senator to help consolidate the achievement), but that this defense can only be bought at the cost of private tragedy and disappointment for the man (Doniphan/John Wayne) who is most crucial to that defense."

One thing that I've always been confused about is, as far as Shinbone's people acknowledge (or want to acknowledge -- "...print the legend!"), Stoddard shot Liberty Valence. That is, the town is founded and perpetuated on the double honor it bestows on Stoddard: recognizing him not only for distributing the fruits of civilization (law, education, politics) but also for forging the conditions for civilization, by executing the tyrant/outlaw/predator Valence.

Somehow, the town embraces Stoddard as both savior-demigod and the civic equal of all the other ordinary Shinbonians. Similarly, Shinbone wishes to call attention to to its lawless, violent past even as celebrates its life as a peaceful, lawful community. Isn't a major lesson from political philosophy that, while the founding of cities or the establishment of justice lies in violence (if not crime), the continuance of cities requires concealing or forgetting that great or savage violence? Cf. The Oresteia, or Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Dan, I still haven’t seen the movie but, if it’s like Liberty Valance as Clint describes (and it sounds like it is), then Rachel made the only choice that she could make. What could she add to Batman? Could she be anything other than a temporary reward and eventual millstone around his neck? Could Batman still be Batman if he had all the joys (and the burdens) of a wife and family?

That’s the tragedy of the story--less for Doniphan and Batman than for Vera Miles and Rachel. Perhaps this Rachel is a different sort of character than Vera . . . but Vera knows her loss. She knows she has to choose the lesser man and she has to swallow a hard pill to live with it. Her head and her heart will always be at odds. She knows Stoddard is living a noble lie and, the trouble is, she is too smart to believe the lie--yet she must approve of it. She believes in the reasons for the lie and is willing to do her part to sacrifice what is necessary for something larger than her personal happiness. So, no, neither Vera (nor probably, Rachel) chooses the better man--but they both probably chose the best man for the job that needed doing. And both pay a heavy personal price for that choice. Men sometimes have to risk their lives in danger for the city; women sometimes have to risk the deepest part of their personal happiness and satisfaction for the city. Those are the sad breaks of life sometimes.

JQA’s makes a good observation about the town of Shinbone not seeking to conceal its beginnings in lawlessness and, indeed, accepting a lie about a man who did not shoot Valance but is celebrated as having shot him. Why doesn’t Shinbone have to conceal their beginnings in violence and, indeed, how is it that those beginnings are celebrated (in a lie, no less)? Let me try to offer a possible explanation.

Shinbone is a Western town. Lawlessness is all around Shinbone. Shinbone is not coming out of lawlessness in order to become a part of a community of peaceful nations but, rather, to forge peace in a part of a nation that already has been founded. Shinbone has to become worthy of that nation but, in the meantime, they’ve also got to get on in the midst of all sorts of wild characters and shenanigans in their uncivilized surroundings. They cannot simply imitate the real Stoddard and try to reason with their dangerous neighbors . . . these wild neighbors need to understand that an "appeal to heaven" is a real possibility with precedent. Their need to recur to violence is hardly past just because Liberty Valance is dead. A future appeal to heaven may not need to be as dramatic as the last but, at least part of the reason for that has to do with how firmly bad actors believe that Shinbone is not of a mind to tolerate their bad behavior.

On the other hand, because the citizens of Shinbone labor under a lie about who actually killed Liberty Valance, they honor the necessity of killing such men without, actually and truly, honoring the killer or the real killing. There are some in Shinbone, wiser than others, who do know the truth and will hold it in their hearts. That truth may out when the time is right and its power to do mischief is past. But for now, the lie is useful and in the service of the good. A new lie will come when the people can safely forget that they needed their Doniphan. The tragedy of that is that once that time comes and the people do forget, they are likely going to need a Doniphan again.

Dan,

Batman choose Harvey over himself too--both for enforcing the law and for the people. Does that mean that Batman made the wrong choice? No, that just means that eventually people need to rely on an imperfect but perpetual system rather than a monarchy that has one great reign and 10 tyrannical ones. Moderation please. This is why democracy--and Harvey Dent--is the worst kind of government...except all others. So Batman is nearly as perfect as you think, what happens after he's done being Batman unless his role is replaced by known, settled, manmade, and --gasp--imperfect laws.

If you want utopia, keep pretending that men are angels, but if you want political society, rewatch Dark Knight.

First off CLINT, I should confess, {because that confession is DUE} that I've pondered for quite some time your observations about Rachel. Gotham Knight is a movie to get one thinking, if only because its so unlike typical Hollywood fare. But your comments about the movie, especially about Rachel's choice, intensified that.

There were two main points you made, Rachel gets both to choose about "family," but also "which direction society will take." If you think about it, your comment flows in logical order, Rachel's marital decision will throw light on which direction wider society will take. She made the wrong decision, and THAT'S REFLECTED in the movie, for SOCIETY TOO makes the wrong decision, which is to hunt Batman, while revering the memory of Harvey Dent, {unaware that his life ended while he was holding a gun to a kid's head}.

Now just think about that imagery for a moment.

You said that Rachel made the right decision for "family," which is child rearing, but the scene we're left with of Harvey is him unhinged, holding a gun to who, ...................... NOT a criminal, NOT the Joker, not to one of the Joker's henchmen, or any mobster's henchmen, --------------- none of that. Harvey held a gun to an innocent, and not just any innocent, but a kid. You said that Rachel made the right choice for "family," yet the final scene of Harvey is him threating what -------------------------------- a family?

It can't be the case then that she made the right decision. Her decision was as flawed as that of Gotham itself, which will now revere Harvey Two-Face, while ecoriating Batman/Bruce Wayne

Harvey couldn't go beyond HIS pain, couldn't go beyond HIS grief, couldn't travel past his torment. Whereas Bruce Wayne did.

No woman, beforehand, knows for a certainty how her spouse will turn out. It's NOT a decision wholly of the head, or the heart, it must be a decision in tandem, the FULL woman must be involved. In the first movie she rejects Bruce because she says that Batman is his "true face." Yet Harvey Dent, how did he stand revealed at the end of the flick? Harvey Dent STOOD revealed, as who? Harvey TWO-FACED. You forgot what happened at the end of the first film! Rachel had to choose between two men, somewhat torn inside them, and she made the wrong choice. We can't say she made the right choice, because then we have to defend her choice as a spouse a man who held a gun to a family, and as you said earlier, family is the FOUNDATION of ordered society.

The confrontation between the forces of the good, and those of evil, intensified, and the casualties started racking up. Again, so long as the casualties were something of an abstraction to the DA, he could handle it. But when the battle exacted a toll of him personally, {a completely BRUTAL toll} ------------- he couldn't handle it.

Rachel chose a man who couldn't withstand a horrific test of character. And Rachel rejected a man who not just withstood a similar test, BUT TOOK SOCIETY'S burdens upon himself. She then rejected the stronger character.

Which then brings us back to family? How can we justify Rachel's choice of the weaker man?

NOT JUST CHARACTER is involved here. Remember when Harvey Dent whisked off the suspect, and started to torture him. WHO WAS IT that prevented him from torturing the suspect? It wasn't Alfred, it wasn't Rachel, it wasn't Gordon. The man Rachel rejected had to explain the difference between what a Batman could do and what a DA is prevented from doing. So not just in character was Dent deficient in relation to Batman, BUT HIS JUDGEMENT was as well. Dent didn't represent reasoned society. Wayne encompasses everything, society's reason, and society's craving for immediate action. Rachel got EVERYTHING wrong. Bruce Wayne wasn't the lesser intellect in the film, for only Alfred embodies more WISDOM.

In terms of character, Wayne is better than Dent.

In terms of JUDGEMENT, again Wayne exceeds Dent.

And simply as a matter of strength, not courage, for Dent didn't lack that. BUT ENDURANCE, a true test of strength, again, Wayne exceeds Dent.

A woman's choice of a man has to include a statement that THIS is a man that will stand by her, come what may. Dent failed, because when it got too painful, too much, he couuldn't handle it, ------------------------ and then his heart listened to the Prince of Darkness, whose ways he then embraced.

Bruce too heard that voice, but he rejected entirely.

The question ceases to be why Rachel rejected Bruce in lieu of Dent. The question becomes why did Bruce Wayne offer his heart to a woman who clearly lacked the eyes to peer inside, and lacked the heart to discern what lies within.

HOWEVER, having said all that about Dent, we must at this point recall the wisdom of Solzhenitsyn, who remarked about such men, broken by pain, crushed by circumstance, and the decisions that they make, --------------------- LET GOD JUDGE THEM, for men cannot.

You know, there are reasons why the 2d person of the Trinity included within the Our Father the line: "lead us not into temptation...."

Dent's story is evocative of those encountered in The Gulag Archipelago. Successful men, powerful men, accomplished men, proven men, --------------- but when the fire is turned on, ----------- they fail. Not all mind you, but enough.

In that true test, neither rank, nor wealth, nor education or social standing will empower you.

What's within is going to come to the fore. Your mind will look within and see a blasted heath, a desolation, scorched and barren. And NOTHING will stand between you and the gale winds that will howl.

We have a man amongst us who frequented that valley of the shadow, and emerged.

His name is McCain. But that's a subject quite apart from this movie.

Julie, I've seen many a Western, but not Liberty Valance.

What could Rachel "add" to Batman? That's not the man she was asked to marry. It was Bruce Wayne that proposed, not his alter ego, an alter ego he was willing to put aside for her.

Dent cannot be said to have finally represented "law," and not because he took a gun into his hand. It was because of the head he held his gun up to, the innocent, a family, those he was SWORN to protect and defend.

You're asking us to believe that Rachel made the right choice in asking Dent to swear an oath to her, when he revealed himself as an oath breaker! Think about that.

CLINT tells us that Rachel made the choice for family, and her choice ended up threatening what, ------------- a family.

HARVEY broke faith COMPLETELY, comprehensively, with EVERYTHING. Not so Bruce Wayne.

Wayne chose a path of violence like Dent, but he never threatened the innocent, never sought to sow death within a family, never sought to sever parents from a child.

You're both overlooking the DEPTH and the FINALITY of Dent's fall.

And JULIE, as a Catholic, you have to see that Dent ended his life in the thralldom of Satan,{not just the Joker} committing a deed entirely sinful, and mortally so.

MORTALLY so.

How then can Rachel have picked a "winner" as CLINT remarked earlier, when we know that Dent closed out his life rejecting life, rejecting the good, and embracing death, espousing himself to evil and to the prince thereof

We can't. We just can't. CLINT'S view has us think of Dent as "a winner," when in fact we're left with no other thought than he's likely burning in hell for trying to kill a kid.

Dent screwed up big time. So did Rachel before him. But Alfred however didn't screw up, he didn't protect Bruce's understanding of himself, he protected Rachel's memory, by shielding Bruce from the truth, that for all the time she spent with him, she lacked the soul to perceive within.

It's Rachel's decision making in the dock here. And rightfully so.

Dan: Clearly, we both need to see the movie we haven't seen before we comment further! I'll go see Batman (sometime) but you absolutely must see Liberty Valance which may be the greatest Western of all time. What is the "first" Batman movie, btw? I don't think I've seen either. (Unless we're talking about the old ones from the 80s and early 90s.)

Yet another interesting review of the Batman movie . . . this time from a Catholic priest. He says that superheros, despite all of their amazing powers, turn out to be insufficient. To combat darkness, we don't need these gods among men but, rather, mere human saints. And, of course--it goes almost without saying--their proper recognition of God.

32 comments on Batman. What brilliance. What depth of insight. We should publish these musings. I can't wait until we fully discuss the deep meanings of the Minstrel, the Archer, Ma Parker, Mr. Freeze, Minerva, and of course the feminist Nora Clavicle. When Bush went to beg the Saudis for oil, I wonder if he felt he was facing False Face, or the Sandman, or King Tut, each of whom have middle eastern tropes.

Much thanks, Julie, for the reply on Liberty Valence.

If I might rephrase or expand or your words, this is how it now seems to me: Shinbone promotes the noble lie of Stottard's having executed Liberty Valence for two reasons: one, the recurrent necessity of the city's employing (or credibly threatening) some degree of violence or force; two, given this unpleasant reality, its better for the city to personify this use of violence in Stottard than in Tom Doniphan.

That is, Stottard is otherwise law-abiding, peaceful, moderate, yet public spirited about Shinbone. Plus, the town's noble lie can say that Stottard shot Liberty Valence in a clear case of self-defense, a use of private violence that the community can safely excuse or pardon.

Doniphan is not particularly or reliably attached to Shinbone or its public concerns, as he's practically self-sufficient (though he needs his servant Pompey and has eros for Hallie). One gets the sense that he considers himself, not the laws, the measure of when and why and how much to use violence (or threaten it). His standoff with Liberty in the restaurant, his willingness to risk upsetting the place, was not really for Stottard's sake, but was over Doniphan's ruined steak. And, of course, Doniphan's killing of Liberty was not self-defense. The city might have accepted that it was in defense of Stottard, but then, Stottard did have a gun, and an expert shot like Doniphan surely could have gotten the job done with less-than-lethal force.

Perhaps the perpetuation of Shinbone's noble lie (by those that know the truth) reflects the basic opinion that, for all his value in pacifying Shinbone, Doniphan is not really citizen material, or a civic model. His spiritedness is not reliably for the city (his wildness shown, e.g., in his burning down his homestead). He might become Will Kane, but he might also become The Man-With-No-Name from High Plains Drifter.

Not that the whole city comprehends all this, but the film does.

Bravo, JQA! An excellent addition to what has been said above on Liberty Valance. Now I need to go see Batman. (But I'd rather re-watch Liberty.)

The unnamed Clint Eastwood character in High Plains Drifter is not a Doniphan (a man with the resources to live and thrive apart from society), he is an avenging angel (actually he is strongly hinted as being a ghost). He loathes the town - which is portrayed as an abyss of evil, poorly hidden by hypocrisy and lies. the townspeople are the ultimate villains in High Plains Drifter and the Drifter comes (in fact only exists) in order to destroy them. as the town is a satire of the United States, High Plains Drifter is a kind of New Left wish fullfillment.

Pete, I think you mean Pale Rider??

Nope, High Plains Drifter. I've never seen Pale Rider. The town is an obvious stand in for the US. Their religion is a fraud. They are racist (treatment of the Indians). They are conformist (they mistreat the midget). Their marriages are devoid of all love. They are greedy (the town's wealth is based on theft). They are even worse than the bandits (who were hired to kill the town's lawman, the one's honest man). No punishment is too terrible for them. The avenging drifter even rapes a townswoman, but its shown as being... not as evil as you would think, a kind of understandable thing (Soul on Ice anyone?). I've always thought of High Plains Drifter as being the High Noon of the extreme left. Where High Noon was a western that was critical of American middle class society (rather than reaffirming it against its enemies), High Plains Drifter is a total condemnation of American society in its every aspect, and contains a monstrous hatefulness.

Julie, I did see Gotham Knight. I went again after CLINT'S comments, which were somewhat seconded by PETER.

I've watched a good many Westerns, but I've always passed on Liberty Valance, just as I've passed on The Shootist.

But because you suggest it, I'll rent Liberty Valance, but in a couple of weeks. I'm watching my nephews for the next ten days or so.

And STERTINIUS, what's your prob with discussing the Gotham Knight? It's the Left that has politicized everything from art to sex, yet here we are discussing a movie, and you're complaining that some find traces of other meaning therein.

Across the fruited plain, at just about every major college, there are professors sifting verse for arcane sexual references, the more strange and abstruse the interpretation, the more they seem to be preferred. That's not news to you.

So what's your beef that we're discussing The Gotham Knight?

You need to lighten up, and stop taking the politics of the Left so damn seriously.

The 20th century resulted in a verdict being cast against the Left. Capitalism won, Socialism lost.

That being the case, ---------- what's with your attitude? It doesn't make any sense, just like your handle from antiquity.

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