As many of you know, I am a big fan of movies. As many of you know, I am an incredible nerd when it comes to movies that I like or that intrigue me.
Wednesday night the HIstory Channel ran one of the coolest shows I have seen in a long time. It was entitled, “Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight”
In fascinating fashion it plumbed the depths of the psychology, philosophy, and mythology of Batman (which, did you know, debuted in 1939?).
As I somehow stumble through work this afternoon in preparation for viewing “The Dark Knight” tonight, and as I know many of you will be going to see the movie tonight (if you didn’t catch the midnight showing) here are a few intriguing thoughts from the history channel’s special.
Each of these are my own summations of some the info from the special.
- Christopher Nolan, director of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight says the key to understanding Batman is to understand Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt’s dad was a wealthy NYC philanthropist. Teddy’s mom and wife died on the same day and after this tragedy he fled to the Dakota wilderness, many think his intention was to kill himself. He did return from the wilderness and became the NYC Police chief in a time of corruption and turned the city around and made it safe again. Of course, we know his history as a Rough rider as well.
- The Joker is the ultimate arch nemesis of Batman. Batman sees the ills of society and the need to bring reform outside of social norms; but, he still sees the need and good in social norms and society as a whole. The Joker sees presence of random injustice means there is no justice. The fact that innocence can be destroyed means there is no innocence. Therefore your life, pretending these things exist, are a joke. When someone says your life is a joke, there is a challenge, a physical challenge, a moral challenge, an intellectual challenge. Therefore the Joker isn’t just threatening Batman physically, He’s threatening the premise of Batman’s existence. THat’s why it’s such an epic discussion they are having through their physical confrontations, mental games, punches, and gunshots. Ultimately it’s a philosophical conflict, and one that’s not easy to resolve.
There is much good stuff here. Batman and his adversaries (Two-face, Joker, Riddler, Penguin, etc) are all victims of tragedy and respond to tragedy differently. For the villains, it fractures their phsyche and they feel the world owes them something and they are going to take it. For Batman, his tragedy causes him to work to make sure as few as possible experience the same.
Is Batman merely working through his childhood issues? Is he a hero or a mere vigilante?
There is much humanist thought in this mythology: We are a product of our choices. We can choose (to some degree) our destiny. We have the freedom of response to our circumstances. There is also much grace and redemption here as well.
You may have no interest in all this, but thoughts like these greatly enhance my movie viewing experience.
This special will show again Monday at 9 pm and Tuesday at 1 am. I recommend it highly.