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The Dark Knight

3,650 words

French translation here

In my review of Christoper Nolan’s Batman Begins, I argued that the movie generates a dramatic conflict around the highest of stakes: the destruction of the modern world (epitomized by Gotham City) by the Traditionalist “League of Shadows” versus its preservation and “progressive” improvement by Batman.

I also argued that Batman’s transformation into a Nietzschean Übermensch was incomplete, for he still accepted the reigning egalitarian-humanistic ethics that devalued his superhuman striving and achievements even as he placed them in the service of the little people of Gotham.

This latent conflict between an aristocratic and an egalitarian ethic becomes explicit in Nolan’s breath-taking sequel The Dark Knight (2008), which is surely the greatest supervillain movie ever. (The greatest superhero movie has to be Zack Snyder’s Watchmen [2009].)

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the movie yet, stop now.

Philosophizing with Dynamite

The true star of The Dark Knight is Heath Ledger as the Joker. The Joker is a Nietzschean philosopher. In the opening scene, he borrows Nietzsche’s aphorism, “Whatever doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger,” giving it a twist: “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you . . . stranger.” Following Nietzsche, who philosophized with a hammer, the Joker philosophizes with knives as well as “dynamite, gunpowder, and . . . . gasoline!”

Yes, he is a criminal. A ruthless and casual mass murderer, in fact. But he believes that “Gotham deserves a better class of criminal, and I’m going to give it to them. . . . It’s not about money. It’s about sending a message. Everything burns.” In this, the Joker is not unlike another Nietzschean philosopher, the Unabomber, who philosophized with bombs because he too wanted to send a message.

The Joker’s message is the emptiness of the reigning values. His goal is the transvaluation of values. Although he initially wants to kill Batman, he comes to see him as a kindred spirit, an alter ego: a fellow superhuman, a fellow freak, who is still tragically tied to a humanistic morality. Consider this dialogue:

Batman: Then why do you want to kill me?

The Joker: I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You . . . you . . . complete me.

Batman: You’re garbage who kills for money.

The Joker: Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these . . . these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.

The Joker may want to free Batman, but he is a practitioner of tough love. His therapy involves killing random innocents, then targeting somebody Batman loves.

Death, Authenticity, and Freedom

The basis of the kinship the Joker perceives between himself and Batman is not merely a matter of eccentric garb. It is their relationship to death. The Joker is a bit of an existentialist when it comes to death: “in their last moments, people show you who they really are.” Most people fear death more than anything. Thus they flee from it by picturing their death as somewhere “out there,” in the future, waiting for them. But if you only have one death, and it is somewhere in the future, then right now, one is immortal. And immortal beings can afford to live foolishly and inauthentically. People only become real when they face death, and they usually put that off to the very last minute.

The Joker realizes that there is something scarier than death, and that is a life without freedom or authenticity.

The Joker realizes that mortality is not something waiting for him out there in the future. It is something that he carries around inside him at all times. He does not need a memento mori. He feels his own heart beating.

Because he knows he can die at any moment, he lives every moment.

He is ready to die at any moment. He accepts Harvey Dent’s proposal to kill him based on a coin toss. He indicates he is willing to blow himself up to deter the black gangster Gambol—and everybody believes him. He challenges Batman to run him down just to teach him a lesson.

In his mind, the Joker’s readiness to die at any moment may be his license to kill at any moment.

The Joker can face his mortality, because he has learned not to fear it. Indeed, he has come to love it, for it is the basis of his inner freedom. When Batman tries to beat information out of the Joker, he simply laughs: “You have nothing, nothing to threaten me with. Nothing to do with all your strength.” Batman is powerless against him, because the Joker is prepared to die.

The Joker senses, perhaps mistakenly, that Batman could attain a similar freedom.

What might be holding Batman back? Could it be his conviction of the sanctity of life? In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne breaks with the League of Shadows because he refuses the final initiation: taking another man’s life. Later in the movie, he refuses to kill Ra’s al Ghul (although he hypocritically lets him die). In The Dark Knight, Batman refuses to kill the Joker. If that is Batman’s hangup, the Joker will teach him that one can only live a more-than-human life if one replaces the love of mere life with the love of liberating death.

Lessons in Transvaluation

Many of the Joker’s crimes can be understood as moral experiments and lessons.

1. When the Joker breaks a pool cue and tosses it to Gambol’s three surviving henchmen, telling them that he is having “tryouts” and that only one of them (meaning the survivor) can “join our team,” he is opposing their moral scruples to their survival instincts. The one with the fewest scruples or the strongest will to survive has the advantage.

2. The joker rigs two boats to explode, one filled with criminals and the other with the good little people of Gotham. He gives each boat the detonator switch to the other one, and tells them that unless one group chooses to blow up the other by midnight, he will blow up both boats. Again, he is opposing moral scruples to survival instincts.

The results are disappointing. The good people cannot act without a vote, and when they vote to blow up the other ship, not one of them has the guts to follow through. They would rather die than take the lives of others, and it is clearly not because they have conquered their fear of death, but simply from a lack of sheer animal vitality, of will to power. Their morality has made them sick. They don’t think they have the right to live at the expense of others. Or, worse still, they all live at the expense of others. This whole System is about eating one another. But none of them will own up to that fact in front of others.

Batman interprets this as a sign that people “are ready to believe in goodness,” i.e., that the Joker was wrong to claim that, “When the chips are down, these . . . these civilized people, they’ll eat each other.” The Joker hoped to put oversocialized people back in touch with animal vitality, and he failed. From a biological point of view, eating one another is surely healthier than going passively to one’s death en masse.

3. The Joker goes on a killing spree to force Batman to take off his mask and turn himself in. Thus Batman must choose between giving up his mission or carrying on at the cost of individual lives. If he chooses to continue, he has to regard the Joker’s victims as necessary sacrifices to serve the greater good, which means that humans don’t have absolute rights that trump their sacrifice for society.

4. The Joker forces Batman to choose between saving the life of Rachel Dawes, the woman he loves, or Harvey Dent, an idealistic public servant. If Batman’s true aim is to serve the common good, then he should choose Dent. But he chooses Dawes because he loves her. But the joke is on him. The Joker told him that Dawes was at Dent’s location, so Batman ends up saving Dent anyway. When Batman tells the Joker he has “one rule” (presumably not to kill) the Joker responds that he is going to have to break that one rule if he is going to save one of them, because he can save one only by letting the other die.

5. As Batman races toward the Joker on the Batcycle, the Joker taunts him: “Hit me, hit me, come on, I want you to hit me.” The Joker is free and ready to die at that very moment. Batman, however, cannot bring himself to kill him. He veers off and crashes. The Joker is willing to die to teach Batman simply to kill out of healthy animal anger, without any cant about rights or due process and other moralistic claptrap.

6. Later in the film, Batman saves the Joker from falling to his death. He could have just let him die, as he did Ra’s al Ghul. The Joker says: “Oh, you. You just couldn’t let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You are truly incorruptible, aren’t you? . . . You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” Again, one has the sense that the Joker would have been glad to die simply to shake Batman out of his “misplaced sense of self-righteousness.”

At the risk of sounding like The Riddler:

Q: What do you call a man who is willing to die to make a philosophical point?

A: A philosopher.

Materialistic versus Aristocratic Morals

Modern materialistic society is based on two basic principles: that nothing is worse than death and nothing is better than wealth. Aristocratic society is based on the principles that there are things worse than death and better than wealth. Dishonor and slavery are worse than death. And honor and freedom are better than wealth.

We have already seen that the Joker fears death less than an inauthentic and unfree life. In one of the movie’s most memorable scenes, he shows his view of wealth. The setting is the hold of a ship. A vast mountain of money is piled up. The Joker has just recovered a trove of the mob’s money—for which he will receive half. Tied up on top of the pile is Mr. Lau, the money launderer who tried to abscond with it.

One of the gangsters asks the Joker what he will do with all his money. He replies: “I’m a man of simple tastes. I like dynamite, and gunpowder, and . . . gasoline.” At which point his henchmen douse the money with gasoline. The Joker continues: “And you know what they all have in common? They’re cheap.” He then lights the pyre and addresses the gangster: “All you care about is money. Gotham deserves a better class of criminal, and I’m going to give it to them.”

Aristocratic morality makes a virtue of transforming wealth into something spiritual: into honor, prestige, or beautiful and useless things. Trading wealth for spiritual goods demonstrates one’s freedom from material necessity. But the ultimate demonstration of one’s freedom from material goods is the simple destruction of them.

The Indians of the Pacific Northwest practice a ceremony called the “Potlatch.” In a Potlatch, tribal leaders gain prestige by giving away material wealth. However, when there was intense rivalry between individuals, they would vie for honor not by giving away wealth but by destroying it.

The Joker is practicing Potlatch. Perhaps the ultimate put down, though, is when he mentions that he is only burning his share of the money.

The Man with the Plan

Gotham’s District Attorney Harvey Dent (played by Nordic archetype Aaron Eckhart) is a genuinely noble man. He is also a man with a plan. He leaves nothing up to chance, although he pretends to. He makes decisions by flipping a coin, but the coin is rigged. It has two heads.

The Joker kidnaps Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes and rigs them to blow up. He gives Batman the choice of saving one. He races off to save Dawes but finds Dent instead. Dawes is killed, and Dent is horribly burned. Half his face is disfigured, and one side of his coin (which was in Rachel’s possession) is blackened as well. Harvey Dent has become “Two Face.”

The Joker, of course, is a man with a plan too. Truth be told, he is a criminal mastermind, the ultimate schemer. (Indeed, one of the few faults of this movie is that his elaborate schemes seem to spring up without any time for preparation.) When the Joker visits Dent in the hospital, however, he makes the following speech in answer to Dent’s accusation that Rachel’s death was part of the Joker’s plan.

Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. You know, I just . . . do things.

The mob has plans, the cops have plans . . . . You know, they’re schemers. Schemers trying to control their little worlds. I’m not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are. . . . It’s the schemers that put you where you are. You were a schemer, you had plans, and look where that got you. I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hmmm?

You know . . . You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan.” But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!

Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair!

The Joker’s immediate agenda is to gaslight Harvey Dent, to turn Gotham’s White Knight into a crazed killer. “Madness,” he says, “is like gravity. All you need is a little push.” This speech is his push, and what he says has to be interpreted with this specific aim in mind. For instance, the claim that chaos is “fair” is clearly apropos of Dent’s use of a two-headed coin because he refuses to leave anything up to chance. (Chaos here is equivalent to chance.) Dent’s reply is to propose to decide whether the Joker lives or dies based on a coin toss. The Joker agrees, and the coin comes up in the Joker’s favor. We do not see what happens, but the Joker emerges unscathed and Harvey Dent is transformed into Two Face.

The Contingency Plan

But the Joker’s speech is not merely a lie to send Dent over the edge. In the end, the Joker really isn’t a man with a plan, and the clearest proof of that is that he stakes his life on a coin toss. Yes, the Joker plans for all sorts of contingencies, but he knows that the best laid plans cannot eliminate contingency as such. But that’s all right, for the Joker embraces contingency as he embraces death: it is a principle of freedom.

The Joker is in revolt not only against the morals of modernity, but also its metaphysics, the reigning interpretation of Being, namely that the world is ultimately transparent to reason and susceptible to planning and control. Heidegger called this interpretation of Being the “Gestell,” a term which connotes classification and arrangement to maximize availability, like a book in a well-ordered library, numbered and shelved so it can be located and retrieved at will. For modern man, “to be” is to be susceptible to being classified, labeled, shelved, and available in this fashion.

Heidegger regarded such a world as an inhuman hell, and the Joker agrees. When the Joker is arrested, we find that he has no DNA or fingerprints or dental records on file. He has no name, no address, no identification of any kind. His clothes are custom made, with no labels. As Commissioner Gordon says, there’s “nothing in his pockets but knives and lint.” Yes, the system has him, but it knows nothing about him. When he escapes, they have no idea where to look. He is a book without a barcode: unclassified, unshelved, unavailable . . . free.

For Heidegger, the way to freedom is to meditate on the origins of the Gestell, which he claims are ultimately mysterious. Why did people start thinking that everything can be understood and controlled? Was the idea cooked up by a few individuals and then propagated according to a plan? Heidegger thinks not. The Gestell is a transformation of the Zeitgeist that cannot be traced back to individual thoughts and actions, but instead conditions and leads them. Its origins and power thus remain inscrutable. The Gestell is an “Ereignis,” an event, a contingency.

Heidegger suggests that etymologically “Ereignis” also has the sense of “taking hold” and “captivating.” Some translators render it “appropriation” or “enowning.” I like to render it “enthrallment”:  The modern interpretation of Being happened, we know not why. It is a dumb contingency. It just emerged. Now it enthralls us. We can’t understand it. We can’t control it. How do we break free?

The spell is broken as soon as we realize that the idea of the Gestell–the idea that we can understand and control everything–cannot itself be understood or controlled. The origin of idea that all things can be understood cannot be understood. The sway of the idea that all things can be planned and controlled cannot be planned or controlled. The reign of the idea that everything is necessary, that everything has a reason, came about as sheer, irrational contingency.

The Joker seeks to break the power of the Gestell not merely by meditating on contingency, but by acting from it, i.e., by being an irrational contingency, by being an agent of chaos.

He introduces chaos into his own life by acting on whim, by just “doing things” that don’t make sense, like “a dog chasing cars”: staking his life on a coin toss, playing chicken with Batman, etc. When Batman tries to beat information out of the Joker, he tells him that “The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.”

Alfred the butler understands the Joker’s freedom: “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

The Joker introduces chaos into society by breaking the grip of the System and its plans.

He is capable of being an agent of chaos because of his relationship to death. He does not fear it. He embraces it as a permanent possibility. He is, therefore, free. His freedom raises him above the Gestell, allowing him to look down on it . . . and laugh. That’s why they call him the Joker.

In All Seriousness

I like the Joker’s philosophy. I think he is right. “But wait,” some of you might say, “the Joker is a monster!” Heath Ledger claimed that the Joker was ‘a psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.’ Surely you don’t like someone like that!”

But remember, we are dealing with Hollywood here. In a “free” society we can’t suppress dangerous truths altogether. So we have to be immunized against them. That’s why Hollywood lets dangerous truths appear on screen, but only in the mouths of monsters: Derek Vinyard in American History X, Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York, Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins, the Joker in The Dark Knight, etc.

We need to learn to separate the message from the messenger, and we need to teach the millions of people who have seen this movie (the seventh biggest film of all time) to do so as well. Once we do that, the film ceases to reinforce the system’s message and reinforces ours instead. That’s what I do best. I take their propaganda and turn it on itself.

What lessons can we learn from The Dark Knight?

Batman Begins reveals a deep understanding of the fundamental opposition between the Traditional cyclical view of history and modern progressivism, envisioning a weaponized Traditionalism (The League of Shadows) as the ultimate enemy of Batman and the forces of progress.

The Dark Knight reveals a deep understanding of the moral and metaphysical antipodes of the modern world: the Nietzschean concept of master morality and critique of egalitarian slave morality, allied with the Heideggerian concept of the Gestell and the power of sheer irrational contingency to break it.

The Joker weaponizes these ideas, and he exploits Batman’s latent moral conflict between Nietzschean self-overcoming and his devotion to human rights and equality.

In short, somebody in Hollywood understands who the System’s most radical and fundamental enemy is. They know what ideas can destroy their world. It is time we learn them too.

Let’s show these schemers how pathetic their attempts to control us really are.

 

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18 Comments

  1. Will
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    A very interesting and thorough argument for the Joker as the real hero of the film. Or rather, he is an anti-hero in an anti-heroic world, which almost makes him into a hero.

    But it seems to me that one problem with this, from the perspective of the Right, is that the Joker is an “agent of chaos,” whereas the Right stands for order and hierarchy (“sacred order.”) The Joker fights against the modern world, but does so merely in the name of chaos, and not for the sake of any higher principles. As Evola said, in distinguishing between left-wing anarchists and right-wing anarchists, “One must know in whose name one says no.”

    One has the sense that even if the League of Shadows were running the world according to Traditional principles, the Joker would still seek to subvert their order.

    I very much liked your exposition of Nietzsche and Heidegger in relation to the Joker. As for Batman, I think you could interpret him in light of Plato’s concept of the Guardian in The Republic. The Guardian undergoes rigorous physical, mental, and spiritual training, which makes him far superior to the average man, but his motivation is always the greater good of the whole society.

    • Trevor Lynch
      Posted September 27, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Good points all. I think Traditionalism has a place for people like the Joker, namely as an agent of the dissolution of the Dark Age. Indeed, Traditionalism of the Hindu variety deifies the destructive principle: Shiva, Kali. More remarkably, Kalki, the destroyer/avenger is the final avatar of Vishnu, the god of Order. Chaos is part of the Order of things, seen from the most encompassing perspective. The Joker is a Kalki figure.

      That said, although Traditionalism has a place for the Joker at the end of the Kali Yuga, I don’t think the Joker would have a place for Traditionalism. It seems unlikely that at the dawn of the new Golden Age, under the New Order, he would just retire like Diocletian and grow cabbages.

  2. Posted September 27, 2010 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    This is a very thoughtful and interesting review. One of the important things about comics or graphic novels is the amount of censorship to which they have been subjugated. Why? The primary reason is that this relatively simple form goes straight onto the nervous system of the masses. Like cinema, a relatively poor educational level or intelligence is no bar to receiving the message therein. Two other points rear up afterwards. The first is the suppression of heroic teleology down into the “depths” of culture or beneath one’s critical radar. The second relates to the fact that in contemporary norms (dominated by dualism) only the villains can be allowed to speak the truth. In nearly all popular culture we see ferocious heroes battling for liberal values; this leaves the villains to compensate for them as a sort of internal pressure, valency or consciousness. It is a complicated set of tropes, but the “system” understands its nemesis in the mouths of its chosen outsiders — by which it remains fascinated. — JB.

    • Trevor Lynch
      Posted September 27, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for your kind words. I agree with your take on this. Would you be interested in reviewing graphic novels for us or writing more about the genre?

      • Peter
        Posted September 29, 2010 at 5:22 am | Permalink

        I would love to read what JB has to say about certain graphic novels. I find it to be a very powerful and magical medium which takes its place somewhere between literature and cinema. I would even settle on some insight into Alan Moore’s imagination (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell).

    • Posted September 28, 2010 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      Yes, I would be interested in doing reviews of graphic novels — especially since they are really films on paper. The inner truth is that they are the story boards that film directors create prior to shooting. They prepare them either in their mind, as comics or serial paintings/drawings, or using photography. Traditionally, Japanese directors painted them on bamboo. By virtue of their ‘lowness’ as a form, they have escaped from certain liberal norms only to replicate others. Another interesting side-light is how they parallel the Hollywood industry which has now purchased both Marvel and DC. There is even an ethnic synergy — given the Askenazic status of Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Will Eisner, the creators of Batman and Superman, and many others. Do you mind if I range over the whole area? What about older comics going back to the ‘twenties (all of these are available as reprints)? What about British comics like Dan Dare, Modesty Blaise, and Judge Dredd, for example? Do you care if I do what I like? — JB

      • Greg Johnson
        Posted September 28, 2010 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        It all sounds great. Write what you like.

  3. Morgan
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant! After reading your Batman Begins review I was hoping you would come to this, and you exceeded my expectations. Really, it’s not just a film review but a crash course in Nietzsche, Heidegger and Traditionalism—the core of those philosophies, what professors are wont to skip when ‘teaching’ undergrads.

    Q: What do you call a man who is willing to die to make a philosophical point? A: A philosopher.

    Can we use this for Hobbes? “What do you call a man who is willing to be the first of all to flee to make a philosophical point?”

    Man, I still need to give you my Fritz Lang essay…

    • Trevor Lynch
      Posted September 27, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      RE Hobbes: The answer is: A bourgeois philosopher.

  4. Peter
    Posted September 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Will makes a good point about Batman being similar to Plato’s Guardian. Batman is educated, disciplined, devout, and selfless; but despite these virtues he is a politically-correct distortion of the Guardian archetype. It must be encouraging to all of the local and federal law enforcement officers who see Batman and come away under the impression that what they do for a paycheck might actually be good for society.

    In the case of Batman no excuse can be made for his loathsome behavior because he was born of a family of exceptional wealth and reputation, he was brought up to appreciate European high culture (his parents were shot leaving the opera early), not being corrupted by money, he rejected a conventional American life for a chance to truly explore the world (both physically and metaphysically) and seek spiritual enlightenment, and ultimately he became an initiate of the League of Shadows under Ra’s al Ghul. This sounds more like the path of a Radical Traditionalist! Anyone who could follow this path and still somehow manage to become a run of the mill goofy liberal — to whom all life is equal (so long as they strictly obey Local, State and Federal laws) — would truly be an anomaly. However many people don’t see the non-sequitur.

    To use Pentti Linokla’s illustration: When a ship at sea founders and the lifeboat is lowered, the humanitarian will pile in as many people as possible and sink the boat, dooming everyone. Those who truly love life, however, will only want the finest few to escape, and they will take an axe to the clinging hands of the people who will sink the boat and kill everyone with them. In this sense, Batman is the ultimate hater of Life and an enemy of civilization. The Joker at least seems to live life to a more full extent (although I’m not convinced that he loves life).

    In the movie, Joker certainly seemed to have a higher IQ than Batman. Perhaps that’s why he’s so mischievous, bored with life, and he sees the modern world as a sick joke. Despite his many admirable traits, he’s not all that charming; for he has become a monster. Perhaps if one of Plato’s Guardians stepped into a time-machine and was whisked forward into present day, he would become more of a Joker than a Batman.

    These Guardians probably wouldn’t be out saving ferries full of convicted Negroes from doom.

    Batman isn’t Gotham’s savior; he’s only delaying the inevitable fall of such a decadent society. The Joker, like Ra’s seems to be all for shoving civilization off the cliff, but unlike Ra’s, wouldn’t know how to bring in a Golden Age.

    The joker isn’t my first choice for a Champion, but considering my alternatives he’s looking pretty good.

  5. Posted October 1, 2010 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    These are some mind-blowing, jaw-droppingly brilliant reviews, Mr. Lynch.

    Your discussion of the Joker fits in with a current discussion over at Gornahoor.net regarding the Traditionalist notion of The True Man; surely he would be more like the Joker than some paragon of Judeo-Christian social morality [eg, the Batman].

    I’ve also commented on this as well as your astute remarks on detourning pop culture at greater length over at my blog.

    Do you take requests? I’ve long suspected similar Traditionalist themes in M. Mann’s Manhunter [I won’t acknowledge the Red Dragon remake] and Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects, but lack the cinematic knowledge to expound at length, but I think you would do a great job with them.

    Do you take requests?

    • Trevor Lynch
      Posted October 1, 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much.

      I do take requests, but they go on a towering stack of material that I hope to get round to.

      I reviewed Red Dragon once. I will put it on Counter-Currents.

      • Posted October 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, I look forward to seeing it. I assume the Traditionalist elements are the same.

        Apart from not wanting to contribute to lining Hopkins and Harris’s pockets with a cinematic double dip, my personal aesthetic [the Eighties as the last peak of White Culture] inclines me to Manhunter. If you haven’t seen it, imagine Silence of the Lambs done as a Miami Vice episode [sort of like the first version of Casino Royale, a 1/2 hour CBS TV drama starring Barry Morse as “Jimmy Bond of the CIA”].

        It’s also a much “whiter” film, literally; the mental hospital [the Atlanta Museum of Art!] is entirely white, including Lektor’s [that’s how they spell it] cell; the Tooth Fairy is a 7 foot albino [no tattoo], Graham’s blonde family, etc. The only negro I recall is, oddly enough, a cop right at the end, played by the same actor who plays Barney the orderly in the other films.

        It’s odd, because in his other work, Crime Story, Ali, the MV film, etc., he seems to be a real negrophile.

        Another PC connection; it’s not called “Red Dragon” because Dino di Laurentis had earlier produced Year of the Dragon, with Mickey Roarke as a very “bigoted” cop, which bombed with critics both for that and for being Michael Cimino’s first film after the mega0bomb Heaven’s Gate.

      • Posted October 1, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        BTW, I see that my clumsy editing repeats the last question in what seems a rather childish way, like asking over and over for ice cream!

  6. Posted October 1, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Some cinephile must have linked the Joker to Dr. Mabuse by now. I wonder if, in the light of your take on themes of the superman so submerged even their creators may not notice them, that explains why, when Lang was called in to see Goebbels, expecting to be arrested or at least yelled at, he was greeting with praise and a job offer?

    • Trevor Lynch
      Posted October 1, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      I think Goebbels saw something else in Dr. Mabuse: psychotherapist, stock exchange speculator, revolutionary, . . . .crime lord. Mabuse was an epitome of Judeo-Bolshevism. I am hoping for a couple of articles on Lang from a couple contributors. But I might just break down and write something myself on unser Lang. He is a very important figure for “us.”

  7. Posted October 24, 2010 at 3:01 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this brilliant article. I have one area that I would interpret in a different way, which is in point 2, the scene where the detonators of the other boats are given to the citizens and the criminals. I agree with your interpretation that the citizen’s morality has made them ill and weakened their will, to the point that even when they make a decision they can’t follow it through. What’s interesting though is that I’m fairly sure that on the criminal’s boat one of the toughest looking ones goes over and unplugs the detonator with no agreement from the others. What does this add to the scene? Well it provides a perfect mirror image of what has happened on the other boat — on that boat they’ve all agreed to blow the other one up, but no-one has the guts to do it, while on the criminal boat no agreement has been reached, but the will to power of the strongest there actually delivers what is unexpected — a refusal to take lives. For me this strengthens a case for saying that the Joker’s disappointment was not just that he hadn’t awoken the people’s animal vitality, but that he may have missed something about the power of a moral decision coming from a free individual (i.e., one that accepts the reality of their own death — the Dasein of Heidegger), it also surely gives more credence to Batman’s upholding of conventional morality, as it means that we can always be surprised by the decisions that are made by people who aren’t meant to be ‘good’.

    • Trevor Lynch
      Posted October 24, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      In the scene you describe, a hulking black criminal actually persuades a guard to give him the detonator. He argues that since he has taken a life, he can do what is necessary, i.e., kill the people on the other boat. Once the guard hands over the detonator, the criminal tosses it out the window and sits down with a smug look on his face.

      1. I am sure we are supposed to see this as another “magic negro” moment, i.e., just as Lucius Fox (played by Morgan Freeman, aka God) is the moral compass for young Bruce Wayne, this criminal has a lesson to teach us all.

      2. Unfortunately, even though most people see that as the intended message, they also recognize that the movie fails to sell it. Not that it is a message that can’t be sold: The Green Mile manages to sell the idea of a hulking negro criminal as a magic being. But The Dark Knight fails, and I think it is because the criminal is so menacing and creepy that his act could be just a whim of criminal perversity.

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