When I walked into work “the morning after,” still shell-shocked by the sheer brilliance of what has become the year’s biggest Blockbuster hit (banking $66.4 million opening day,) a co-worker brought me back to earth saying he could go on for hours about the Christian references in The Dark Knight.
No shit, Sherlock. In fact, I would be surprised if you couldn’t, and rather happy if you didn’t.
Oh come on people, seriously?
It shouldn’t even come up as a point of contention that audiences find The Dark Knight parallels Christianity (or Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, fill in the blank with your choice of religion here) ….just as audiences and readers have done in the past for Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and a handful of other fictional works. I mean, don’t we obviously continue to enjoy these tales and look up to the miraculous qualities of our superheroes for a reason?
I completely acknowledge my co-worker’s reference to Batman’s bearing of Harvey Dent’s sins to be Christ-like, but whether god-like or simply too good to be true, the stories of our comic book super heroes and the princes in our fairy tales naturally share an underlying element with the stories of most organized religions– they continue to reaffirm our faith in not only good over evil, but the goodness of humanity.
My own religion has led me to believe the purpose of religion isn’t necessarily to be bound by rituals and practices, or sometimes, even dogmatic belief in a “higher power.” Perhaps it is there, or perhaps it isn’t, but one thing I do believe is that religion was set up to give us hope, to maintain (or in some cases, kindle) our faith in humanity, just when we think there isn’t a shred of goodness left.
In the movie, Harvey Dent is supported by Bruce Wayne as a ray of hope in the darkness that has fallen over Gotham. Dent of course ends up falling prey to the mind games of the Joker, which is why Batman offers to bear the crimes of Dent in the first place. Batman wants citizens of Gotham to continue to have faith in humanity and goodness, which is why he wants to leave Dent’s purity untarnished. But why, you ask yourself, is Batman covering up and misleading the people of Gotham? (I think as recent as two years ago I myself would have found this ending unsatisfactory, unfulfilling.) If Dent, God’s gift to Gotham (aside from Batman, obviously), fell prey to the hands of evil, is that not evidence that pure goodness can’t actually exist?
Well, no. Because that “goodness” does surface in the movie–when Batman (stupidly and) graciously decides to not finish off the Joker, and when the two boatfuls of hostages decide to not blow each other up. That is proof that true goodness does exist and that it isn’t just an impossible ideal.
Why do we continue to fall in love with superheroes, gods, wizards…in short, the good guys? And why is it that for a moment, when we see the good guys lose, we cannot bear it?
It’s because for a split-second, we lose our faith in the good guys, and hence, in goodness, in people’s purity of heart. We begin to question the existence of this characteristic, the plausibility of such a character.
That’s why we cringe when the Joker hangs a copy-cat Batman. It’s why we shudder when we see Superman squirming next to icebergs of Kryptonite, and why our hearts skip a beat when Voldemort raises his wand yelling “Avada Kadavra” at Potter.
The Dark Knight may have easily been one of the darkest movies I’ve seen, but I actually found it to be very hopeful in its portrayal of the human condition. Sure, the Joker (choose from: Satan, Sauron, Ravana…..) is one bad apple capable of taking down several with him, but similarly, all it takes is one example to show us that, just as we know for a fact daylight will appear even after the darkest portion of the night, so too can we believe in humanity.