Warning: This article discusses THEMES of The Dark Knight, but there are NO actual plot SPOILERS
On the weekend I saw The Dark Knight, the new Batman movie, which is an amazing film and not just because it manages to be an action extravaganza with real plot, clever dialogue and some nail-biting suspense. What I really liked about The Dark Knight was that it was intelligent enough to have Musicman and I still talking and thinking about it hours later.
I don’t want to spoil the film too much for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but essentially The Dark Knight is about the fight for Gotham City’s soul. One one side you have Batman and his White Knight, Harvey Dent, the crusading district attorney Bruce Wayne hopes will make his altar ego obsolete. On the other, you have The Joker, a psychotic killer who wants to see Gotham City fall into chaos.
This might sound all very standard super hero fare, but The Dark Knight really examines the notion of evil and the idea that maybe we can all turn to the Dark Side if we are just given a big enough push.
Now I find this a fascinating discussion because…
I believe human beings are inherently good.
I also believe in the power of redemption and the idea that people can change and try to make amends for their wrong doings, even if they are never forgiven or able to undo them.
Does that mean I am oblivious to the bad things people do?
Not at all. I have had first hand experience with human brutality and am familiar with the long and painful process that victims of crime must go through to move on, and in my case, forgive the perpetrators. I do not believe we forgive for the sake of others; to release them from guilt. That is their cross to bear. We forgive to release ourselves and claim the freedom and peace of mind we all deserve to have.
So yes, I agree humans are capable of great evil. It’s like a switch waiting to turn on. The more disconnected you are from the people around you and the innate goodness, love and empathy within, the closer you get to that tipping point.
We are born with a natural capacity for love, a craving for connection. But if we are surrounded by hatred and violence and neglect rather than love, we may learn that our humanity and empathy is a weakness. One that will only be used against us if we let it. This is the fertile breeding ground for evil.
Isolation / Disconnection
Us versus Them.
When love is replaced by fear, evil is let in and we we all lose.
Even vengeance, a reason many of us might entertain violence given the right circumstances, is really fear. Fear that there is no justice.
I am a warm hearted, peaceful person, but I think I could turn murderous if someone harmed my child. And I am not talking self defence here because that is not an evil act. But I believe vengeful retribution is, and I can see how I could be pushed to this state. I wouldn’t necessarily think I deserved to get away with my crime, maybe I’d never be able to forgive myself, but it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it. What does that say about me?
Some interesting quotes from The Dark Knight on man’s capacity for evil are:
“when the chips are down, these uh… civilized people, they’ll eat each other.” – THE JOKER
“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.” – ALFRED, Batman’s loyal butler
And another classic I have always liked is:
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – EDMUND BURKE, Irish orator, philosopher and politician (1729 – 1797)
So, what do you think? Are humans inherently good? How thick is the veneer of cvilization? Are some people hard wired for violence? Do you believe you are immune to murderous impulses?
I’ve admitted I’m not.