Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Random Observations

1. Greetings from Quebec. Ì`m at the ISI summer honors conference. I probably won`t be able to do much to spread my message of hope and love this week.

2. I saw STEP BROTHERS. I can`t recommend it to you. Occasionally funny, but the two adult step brothers are just too creepy and overly gross. I long for TALLEDGA NIGHTS...

3. Here`s a good TV show I recently discovered: MAD MEN (apparently that`s what advertising men called themselves in 1960). It`s sort of like the Sopranos without the upside of the family loyalty and the downside of the killings and all. The show is a bit too politically correct: It goes too far in highlighting the smoking and drinking of the time for our horror. We`re supposed to scream at the screen: Don`t you idiots know you`re killing yourselves! The show is less politically correct than realistic in reminding us that working women weren`t treated that well in those days.

Discussions - 4 Comments

I know I'm late to the party, but I just saw The Dark Knight. Some observations.

1. From what was shown, pre - Joker Gotham City was a nicer place to live than pre - Giuliani New York. Sure there was corruption, but most people didn't seem to have a minute by minute fear for their safety.

2. The Joker, as imagined by Heath Leager and the Nolans, is the greatest movie monster since Hannibal Lecter.

3. Like Lecter, the Joker mocks behaviorism. Lecter does it directly, the Joker by telling (probably) falase stories of the psychic wounds that caused him to become the Joker.

4. Like Lecter, the Joker is a radiacal relatavist. They both claim to see the falsity of all moral systems. Lecter deals with this knowledge by living as he chooses. The Joker (who is more of an evangelist)seeks to force everyone else to confront the basic truth of the falseness of all morals.

5. Superhero movies can tend to be antipolitical in the sense that they focus on resolving problems through individual and extralegal violence. The Dark Knight affirms the need for politics and the tragedy of the failure of politics. The character of Batman is shadowed by the feeling of futility. He knows that the city cannot be saved, in any lasting way by superheroics. The city can only be saved by statesmanship, which is why Batman invests so much hope in Harvey Dent. The point cannot be stressed enough. Rachel chose Harvey over Bruce, but at the crucial moment, Batman chose Harvey over Rachel.

Pete, #5: in this superhero movies are no different than westerns. In fact, the whole dichotomy between Batman/Harvey Dent almost mirrors that of John Wayne/Gregory Peck in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence" (even the love interest).

And I loved Stepbrothers, but I'm a pretty base man.

Andrew, you are right of course, but with the difference that The Dark Knight is ultimatly tragic, politcs fails and Gotham is forced back to relying on the vigilante (even though Gotham now despises him). Several other points.

1. The corruption and crime of pre - Joker Gotham is one dimensional and boring. Not just compared to comic book crime, but to real life crime. Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns does a much better job of creating the atmosphere of a city succumbing to crime. Miller's story is also one of the most effective satires of pre - Giuliani New York City.

2. The Joker forces people to make tragic choices that they hate themselves for making. He thinks he is making a mockery of their morals. This is stunning to the people involved because, in the movie, characters have to make the choices and take the consequences at the most personal level. But this problem is endemic to any politcs that seeks to deal with a radical and powerful evil. Its just not recognized because it is not personalized. Statesmanship often means taking the least bad course of action and even the least bad course of action often leads to the deaths of innocents. Could the allies have won WWII with policies that would have guaranteed zero casualties of innocent Germans and Japanese (I take it for granted that at the very least, the young children in those countries were in no meaningful sense guilty of their country's crimes)? Does the fact that many innocent people were killed as a result of allied actions utterly blur the distinctions between the US and the Third Reich? Would it have been better to have used only methods that were guaranteed to kill no innocents even if it gave the world over to Hitler? The choices of FDR and Truman certainly led to the deaths of innocents, more than are portrayed being killed by the Joker. Of course far more were saved from slavery and death by the allied victory. Its an irony that politics and prudent statesmanship can call for a degree of ruthlessness that comic books vigilantes would never stomach. Truman ordered the bombing of Hiroshima, and Batman would not even kill the Joker.

Peter, welcome on board the Mad Men fan-train.

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