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Psychology and morals of The Dark Knight
I assume that there are a lot of people here who just can't wait for the new sequel of Christopher Nolan's Batman series which will bring us to conclusion. I praise those people who have seen something more in The Dark Knight then just special effects, use of gadgets, Ledger's (although brilliant!) acting and overall, those who have seen some morals in the story. So, let us remember once more on one of the best movies filmed in last five years, because the saga will end soon enough.
A lot of serious questions were risen up in The Dark Knight, like - is faith a good thing if it makes us do good stuff or do you prefer truth? How much do emotions take part in concieving our decision? Was Joker right all along? Why does Bruce have an alter ego that dresses in bat costume?
Why so serious?
When we watch a movie, we usually do no try to think that the events in the movie are purely fictional, that it has nothing to do with us. But, when you see The Dark Knight, and although it happens in some made-up Gotham City, you might start thinking that Gotham might be a metaphor for the whole world. Cops are corrupted, people are constantly afraid but have hope, some people are unaware of what's happening behind the scenes, people are not ready to sacrifice their own good for the common good. Generally, people are unaware that their single actions have an impact on the society as a whole, but Joker is well aware of that and he uses it. He is some kind of a force of chaos, unstoppable, while Batman is a force of order and justice, also unstoppable. They collide repeatedly, they are in a constant collision like yin and yang, and neither wins, really. In the sequel we will see an underground character, Bane, who will be leading masses of unsatisfied people, and I assume that this new movie will have something to say about the global economic crisis – that topic would make The Dark Knight Rises one of the most contemporary blockbusters in every sense of the word.
„Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.“
You all remember Christian Bale pronouncing that sentence to Gary Oldman while Michael Caine burns the letter and Morgan Freeman shuts down the system using a password. The question still remains: would Bruce Wayne be so devoted to save Gotham if he had read the letter from Rachel and found out that her heart truly belongs to Harvey, „the wrong guy“? But he didn't come to know. It might be that his faith in Rachel was the fuel for his good deeds. If he knew that she is in love with another guy, that she was in love with that guy until the hour of her death in explosion, Bruce might just abandoned the whole story. That subtle feeling of „she loves me in the depth of her heart but marries him for another reason“ would have perished, and that was the feeling that kept the story together. We see that motive in many other epic stories.
Batman chooses a girl over the district attorney.
After a good beating from Batman's side, Joker gives him a choice to either save Rachel, a generally unimportant girl who matters only to Harvey and Bruce, or a district attorney, Harvey Dent, who is town's most important figure. He chooses Rachel, therefore demonstrating that, besides he is a figure of unrequited justice processing and a superhero, he is also a simple man not immune to the affect and his decisions are not always simply and strictly rational. Like that one time when he jumped from the building to save Rachel while leaving a hall full of people to be (hypothetically) bullied by a lunatic criminal and his thugs.
Was Joker right all along?
No. But he might have been. He said that „when the chips are down, those civilized people will...eat each other“. We see that in that scene with two ships each containing a bomb, there was a great temptation to blow up the other ship just to save their own. That didn't happen, people of Gotham did prove to be moral after all. But, it could happen. And no one would know. When a bomb explodes, you go off not knowing what got you, it is just a moment of blast, and the moment could have destroyed all those past efforts, proving that The Joker was right. Although he was right about the cops, Harvey, etc, but not about the people, and that is the only thing that counts!
In alliance with his nightmare.
Here we come to the point where we leave Bruce alone with his greatest fear: bats! In Batman Begins, you have seen an important scene when young Bruce falls into a well and sees a lot of bats there, which leaves a mental scar for his life. Of course, guns did also leave him a trauma, and so he doesn't use them, but that trauma of bats has a greater significance, there Bruce starts following a maxim „if you can't win them join them“. Batman is resistant to guns, both physically and psychologically – he doesn't piss his pants when he sees a gun. But bats had a role in defining that „dark“ part of his personality. He uses stealth, moves during night, doesn't want to be seen, needless to say, recognized. If we employ mainstream psychology onto this, it cannot be said that it is emerging of some „dark desires“ but rather some Jungian archetype of „the shadow“. He merges with his shadow because he cannot win over it. So, the message is clear: use your own fears to advance, use you fears to serve you, and by doing that you might help others too. As it is said in the prequel: it doesn't matter who you are underneath, but what you do. That may seem like he didn't want to give his true identity, but the message is deeper: a person who is perfect underneath does not exist, we all have our issues, but if we use it to help, and not harm others, we are heroes. And that brings us only moral satisfaction and nothing more, but we must choose a side: to die as a hero or to presumably live longer, but as a villain and a scum.
But, Batman is a tragic hero, an antihero of some kind, and that is ok, considering the age that we live in. „Knight in a shining armor“ kind of hero does not truly appeal to us anymore. We came to know that no one is born as a morally perfect being, we all have our fears and disadvantages, we are all „dark“ to some extent and that's why a dark knight figure is so important! By following the example (but not copy-cating!) we will find a way to use our defects to serve our purpose, we do not need to suppress them, as Bruce does not suppress his fear, but rather makes an armor out of it! That way, the fear stays outside, and the inner consists of all knightly virtues. The story is tragic, as our human condition is because we might never get rewarded for the good deed we have done, we might even get accused for the ones we did not do. But that is what being a hero is all about!
At the end, I admit that I am also very anxious about the last of the series on 20th of July. It might discover something new, we might like the conclusion or not, but either way - it will be one hell of a movie! Stay true to yourself, and let's once again remember one of the strongest scenes in recent movies, and prepare for the end.