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'The Dark Knight of the Soul,' C.I., Sept, p. 38.

I agree with Cale Clarke's summation that the character Harvey Dent/Two-Face in the new Barman movie represents the human battleground for good and evil. However, while I also agree that the Joker definitely personifies evil, I was at a loss to decipher in the Batman character any equally opposing force of true goodness. Goodness seemed to exist in a rather diffused and somewhat obscured sense in the people at large. This was evident from the fact that the people, despite their initial instinct, would not blow each other up "when the chips were down." No doubt the lack of moral clarity personified in a single character is why Harvey Dent eventually lost the battle of good and evil and turned to the dark side.


Batman did not appear to me to possess any such level of "greatness" that would put him in the same league as St. Paul. In his public life, he was something of a social playboy. How much of this was real and how much merely a cover for his clandestine activities was unclear. Nonetheless, by his choice, he succeeded in setting a bad example for others. In his guise as a crime fighter, Batman was a vigilante who resorted to violence, subscribing to the theory that the ends justify the means. In order to catch the Joker, for example, Barman used his technical assistant and reconnaissance expert Lucius Fox to manipulate his cellphone sonar technology into a device using every cellphone in Gotham to effectively spy on the entire city.

In many respects, Batman was not at all dissimilar to the diabolical Joker. When the Joker placed Batman in the position of having to save either his own love interest (Rachel) or the noble and inspirational crime-fighting D.A., Harvey Dent--he could only have saved one--Batman opted to save Rachel, unaware that the Joker had switched their addresses. Meaning to find and save Rachel, Batman actually found and saved Dent. Here, we saw Batman's selfish motives turn against him.

Toward the end of the movie, when Harvey Dent turned evil, Batman opted to construct a consequentialist lie in order to conceal from the people the truth behind Harvey Dent's corruption. He stated--and I feel this to be the soul of the movie-that "sometimes the truth isn't good enough." Batman was obviously separated from the Joker by his good intentions. However, it has been said that the path to hell is often paved with good intentions. If anything, I see in both the Batman and Joker a dual commentary on the social mores of a society lacking any clear moral compass. Perhaps this was the intent of director Christopher Nolan, who seems to revel in complex characters.

Strangely, it is the Joker and not Batman who illumines us as to the futility of human pride when he states:

"The mob has plans, the cops have plans, Gordon's [the police chief] got plans. You know, they're schemers; schemers trying to control their worlds. I'm not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are."

Batman sees himself as somewhat of a god-like figure bent on saving Gotham City from the evil Joker. Others watching the movie may also be convinced of Batman's saviour-like qualities, because he appears to have the citizens of Gotham's best interest in mind. In reality, his self-sacrifice is a sham because he acts through incorrect channels while convinced, like the Joker, that "his" decisions alone should rule. Come to think of it, there have been many dictators in the last century who also thought they were the answers to man's problems. Even the Catholic Church has its share of schemers. Like the cops and robbers in "The Dark Knight," one notices how both conservatives and liberals in the church use their disingenuous ingenuity to try and win converts: by using selective statistics that seem to support their own views, by interpreting Church documents in a way not consistent with the heart of the law and the mind of the Church, by entertaining attitudes that attenuate and minimize our dogmas under the pretence of explaining them, by using their powers as editors to promote their own biases and to always have the final word, by suppressing the truth out of fear of offending their corrupt superiors. Unfortunately, as the Batman discovered, such human scheming only leads to futility and chaos. Not all is what it seems. I think we can all learn a thing or two from the menacing Joker; i.e., that when we try to play God, the joke is on us.

From Paul Kokoski

Orleans, ON

Cale Clarke replies:

Thank you for your insightful letter. In comparing Barman to Saint Paul, inasmuch as their extreme nature and passionate commitment to their cause are similar, it was not meant to suggest that Batman shares the moral standing of Paul. Indeed, as you say, the methods of all TDK's characters are questionable at times (and perhaps this is director Nolan's comment on moral relativism).

The categories "liberal" and "conservative" are unhelpful when speaking of Church doctrine. These are political terms, and truth is not subject to a majority vote. Far better to speak of those who are "orthodox" and who are "heretical", those who think with Holy Mother Church and those who do not.

Again, thank you for your kind words.
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Author:Kokoski, Paul; Clarke, Cale
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
Previous Article:The October 2008 issue.
Next Article:British monarchy.

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