Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Forces That Are Near

In contrast to the simplistic opposition of good guys and bad guys, spy thrilers with artistic pretensions display all the "realistic psychological complexity" of the characters from "our" side. Far from signaling a balanced view, however, this "honest" acknowledgement of our own "dark side" stands for its very opposite, for the hidden assertion of our supremacy: we are "psychologically compex," full of doubts, while the opponents are one dimensional fanatical killing machines.
~ Slavoj Zizek, In Defense of Lost Causes

The same, I think, could be said of superhero movies with artistic pretensions. Take The Dark Knight. Batman's psychological complexity, his struggle with the moral ambiguity related his own actions, and his status as a "Dark Knight", do not level the playing field between Batman and the evil he resists. For the Joker is, in his own words, "a dog chasing cars", he is evil and violent, simply for the sake of being evil and violent. He promotes chaos for the sake of chaos. The Joker has not psychological complexity, no internal moral struggle, he is a "fanatical killing machine". He is thus completely, and utterly, insane. Hence, Batman's inner turmoil functions as a sign of his supremacy over the forces he resists, personified in the Joker.

Of course, many people have noted that this moves Batman from the realm of the heroic, into the realm of the anti-hero, and that's all well and good (i.e. that's where Batman has always belonged), but it doesn't take us very far. {continue...}
[via poserorprophet]

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