In light of the horrific shooting in Aurora, Colorado last week, I decided it was time to watch the earlier Batman movie, “The Dark Knight,” which just happened to be running on TNT over the weekend. I’m glad I did, because I hadn’t realized before how Batman was a Christ figure, bearing the guilt of Harvey Dent and returning to heaven (aka Wayne’s Enterprises), where God was played, to no one’s surprise, by Morgan Freeman. The illegal eavesdropping that was necessary to catch the Joker caused Freeman to resign his post in Bruce Wayne’s company, which I took as a metaphor for the Father abandoning his Son. I think I need to watch more movies, for these sermons almost write themselves.
I want to be clear that the guilt for last week’s tragedy lie entirely on the deranged shooter, James Holmes. Our prayers and grief are with those whose lives were so shockingly and completely destroyed in the early hours of Friday morning. But after watching “The Dark Knight,” I have one observation and a question.
1. Observation: James Holmes reportedly told the arresting police, “I am the Joker,” and his actions were consistent with Heath Ledger’s Oscar winning performance in “The Dark Knight.” Ledger’s Joker terrorized two locations—putting Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent in separate locations so that Batman must choose who to save (and end up saving the wrong one because the Joker lied about which was where) and putting bombs on two ferries so each must choose whether to save their own boat or the other. I think I know where Holmes got his deranged idea to booby trap his apartment while he was shooting people in the theater.
The Joker of “The Dark Knight” was partially a sympathetic figure. Besides the widespread appreciation which poured in after Heath Ledger’s untimely death, the Joker doesn’t die in the end. He seems to have won in his own mind, for he is able to sway Harvey Dent into becoming Two Face and tells Batman that they are morally the same. I’m not being critical of Ledger’s acting. If anything it was too convincing. What are the odds that there might be at least one crazy person out there, down on his luck—say because he had recently dropped out of grad school—who takes the accolades flowing to Ledger to heart and thinks being the Joker might not be a bad way to go out?
In these turbulent times, as more young people become saddled with debt and are unable to find jobs, might it be too risky to continue to make darkly violent movies such as these? I’m not blaming “The Dark Knight” for what James Holmes did. I’m just saying it’s obvious—because he told us—where he got the idea.
2. Question: “The Dark Knight” is an important movie because of its social commentary, but who would watch a movie like this for entertainment? My wife and I fast forwarded through the Joker’s scenes of stylized violence, for we didn’t think we’d enjoy the drama of watching him push his knife against the throats of Rachel Dawes, mob bosses, and policemen. We didn’t want to endure the anguish of Mr. Two Face brandishing a pistol against the forehead of a wife and child while their father, Commissioner Gordon, looked on.
So here’s my question: what society are we living in when parents take their six year old children to a midnight premier of movies like this? Is it possible that we are callously raising the next generation of James Holmeses? Last week a ten year old girl freed herself from a kidnapper on the streets of Philadelphia. I was relieved to hear she got away, but chagrined to hear her parents say she learned her escape from watching “Law and Order: SVU.” How many of our children are having television or movie induced nightmares, and how many of these may grow up to become ours?