On a tip from commentor ying.
VERY MINOR SPOILERS for the film The Dark Knight.
Taken in whole from Wall Street Journal:
What Bush and Batman Have in Common
By ANDREW KLAVAN
A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .
Oh, wait a minute. That’s not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a “W.”
There seems to me no question that the Batman film “The Dark Knight,” currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.
And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society — in which people sometimes make the wrong choices — and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.
“The Dark Knight,” then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year’s “300,” “The Dark Knight” is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.
Conversely, time after time, left-wing films about the war on terror — films like “In The Valley of Elah,” “Rendition” and “Redacted” — which preach moral equivalence and advocate surrender, that disrespect the military and their mission, that seem unable to distinguish the difference between America and Islamo-fascism, have bombed more spectacularly than Operation Shock and Awe.
Why is it then that left-wingers feel free to make their films direct and realistic, whereas Hollywood conservatives have to put on a mask in order to speak what they know to be the truth? Why is it, indeed, that the conservative values that power our defense — values like morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right — only appear in fantasy or comic-inspired films like “300,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Narnia,” “Spiderman 3” and now “The Dark Knight”?
The moment filmmakers take on the problem of Islamic terrorism in realistic films, suddenly those values vanish. The good guys become indistinguishable from the bad guys, and we end up denigrating the very heroes who defend us. Why should this be?
The answers to these questions seem to me to be embedded in the story of “The Dark Knight” itself: Doing what’s right is hard, and speaking the truth is dangerous. Many have been abhorred for it, some killed, one crucified.
Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic. Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex. They’re wrong, of course, even on their own terms.
Left and right, all Americans know that freedom is better than slavery, that love is better than hate, kindness better than cruelty, tolerance better than bigotry. We don’t always know how we know these things, and yet mysteriously we know them nonetheless.
The true complexity arises when we must defend these values in a world that does not universally embrace them — when we reach the place where we must be intolerant in order to defend tolerance, or unkind in order to defend kindness, or hateful in order to defend what we love.
When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness. We prosecute and execrate the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve. As Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon says of the hated and hunted Batman, “He has to run away — because we have to chase him.”
That’s real moral complexity. And when our artistic community is ready to show that sometimes men must kill in order to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values; and that while movie stars may strut in the bright light of our adulation for pretending to be heroes, true heroes often must slink in the shadows, slump-shouldered and despised — then and only then will we be able to pay President Bush his due and make good and true films about the war on terror.
Perhaps that’s when Hollywood conservatives will be able to take off their masks and speak plainly in the light of day.
Mr. Klavan has won two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America. His new novel, “Empire of Lies” (An Otto Penzler Book, Harcourt), is about an ordinary man confronting the war on terror.
Some people like Batman for his uncompromising stance against crime. Some people like Bush for his uncompromising stance against terrorism.
Many people hate Batman for his vigilantism. Many people hate Bush for his unilateral actions.
The criminal underworld of Gotham hate and fear Batman for his effectiveness in crushing their unlawful operations. The terrorists of the world hate (and fear, though they would never admit it) Bush for his effectiveness in killing more than 20,000 of their fighters sent to Iraq.
Batman’s campaign caused a temporary increase in casualties, as the mob and the Joker struck back with a vengeance. Bush’s crusade caused a temporary increase in casualties, as the terrorists and their supporters struck back in the name of jihad.
But after the darkest hour, Batman’s victory brings Gotham into a new dawn of peace and order. Bush has brought peace and order to Iraq, but we are still in the darkest hour as Bush’s victory may yet be snatched away by the defeatist rhetoric and intentions of a potential successor.
In the end, Batman is outcast and hunted for pushing against the status quo – which was to let crime run along as usual while the populace cowers in submission. At the end of his two terms, Bush is one of the least popular Presidents for pushing against the status quo – which was to appease terrorist demands while they blow up the cowering populace.
See also how another box office winning superhero show, Iron Man, featured an unrepentant crusade against terrorists in Iron Man Review at Townhall.com: No Apologies in Killing Terrorists.
And compare to the terrorist-pandering, self-defeatist antics of Redacted, Stop Loss and other films which flopped spectacularly in Brian De Palma’s Redacted Rejected by Audiences.
Finally, a lesser-known factoid: Conservative Republican strongman Leahy Coburn who bravely fights against Democrat bullying in Congress had a guest appearance in The Dark Knight! How’s that for prophetic?
Hey, did the South Park guys read the same article? To wit:
Actually, we had this one storyline where Bush was going to show up at the end and take the blame – like Batman does in Dark Knight. Because people need someone to hate. And we’d make him this heroic figure who takes the blame, because that would just f*** with people.”
PS See also The Sacrificial Presidency of George W. Bush.