The Dark Knight Essay by hdmu096


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Julia Combs

Professor Combs

English 1010

February 5, 2010

                                          The Dark Knight

       “Gotham City needs a hero.” That’s the theme that keeps coming up over and over again

in the latest installment of the Batman movies, The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight sets itself up

to be the story about a hero. However, it is not a good movie because it sends the wrong

message about what a hero is. Batman is not a hero.

       The Dark Knight follows Batman as he tries to rid Gotham City of its villains. His goal is

to see that justice is served and that all of the bad guys are behind bars. At the beginning of the

movie, Batman is not a typical hero. Batman is an outsider, a vigilante hero. He’s a hero

fighting for justice outside of the traditional system, and he’s getting the job done better than the

police. Batman does not mind that many people in the city see him as a vigilante. He is more

concerned about justice and following his self-imposed moral code.

       The acting in The Dark Knight if phenomenal. Heath Ledger played the Joker. His

unforgettable performance is part of the reason that I claim the movie sends the wrong messages

about what a “hero” is. The Joker is a terrifying villain. Batman is the “hero” of the movie, but

that’s where the movie becomes really complex, and that’s one of the good things about the

movie. It is complex. It forces the audience to analyze characters and their motives, and that’s

good. Batman is an extremely complex character. He functions as a hero, even though he is a

vigilante hero. His role as a hero should be to take the Joker out, to make society safe from

insane criminals. That’s what a hero would do. Right? Right! He would do whatever needed
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to be done. He would sacrifice himself, anything. He would offer his life. That’s what heroes

do. He would put himself in danger. He would not think of himself. A hero would be the

ultimate moral character, and here’s where The Dark Knight movie gets complicated.

       Batman is an uneasy hero. As I understand it, Batman has imposed his own set of rules

on himself. He will not kill. He wants to make sure that justice is served in the proper way, so

he will never take justice into his own hands. This is an important idea in the movie. The Joker

keeps taunting Batman, trying to get Batman to violate his own moral code. In a way, I admire

Batman for setting such a noble standard for him own behavior. The Joker believes that if he can

make Batman angry enough, Batman will give in to his anger, kill him, and then Batman will

become as bad as the Joker. Batman’s intentions are noble. He shows moral fortitude by

maintaining his own high standards of behavior.

       Batman has several opportunities to kill the Joker, but he does not. For example, he

could have run over the Joker in that great scene where he is on his really cool motorcycle,

speeding down the road, and the Joker is right in the middle of the road, encouraging Batman to

bring it on! He WANTS Batman to plow into him. But Batman has a higher code of honor. So

instead, Batman swerves at the last moment, and Batman ends up in the street unconscious, while

the newly “undead” Commissioner Gordon arrests the Joker and takes him to jail. Batman also

has the chance to kill the Joker at the end of the movie, but after he knocks the Joker off of the

building, Batman saves the Joker and leaves him dangling upside-down so that the police can

take him back to jail. Batman has his own set of values, and he will not violate them.

       Batman’s set of moral codes prevent him from being an effective hero. Because he will

not kill the Joker, the Joker goes on killing people. This is even more complex than it sounds.

My point is that a hero is a hero often because he suspends rules for himself and for others for
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the benefit of the greater good of other people. Take, for example, the heroic man on the plane

that crashed into a field instead of into a building during the 9/11 hijackings. What if that man,

Todd Beamer, had given himself a higher sense of morals? What if he had decided that he

would never take another man’s life? The facts of that day speak for themselves. Todd Beamer

made a choice to kill a terrorist, to kill himself, AND to take a chance that his actions might lead

to the deaths of over one hundred innocent people on the plane that day. He made that choice in

an instant. Was Todd Beamer a hero? Yes. Did he inspire a nation? Yes. Was he a moral

man? Yes. Todd Beamer made difficult choices in which he had to suspend the moral codes

that he may have set for himself. That’s what Batman fails to do. I realize that I am comparing a

real man, a real hero, with a comic book superhero. I do not mean to disrespect real-life heroes.

My point is that a hero is often forced to make difficult choices, and if Batman fails to make

those kinds of choices, Batman is too rigid. He will not set aside his own code of honor for the

greater good. That is selfishness, not heroics.

       Here’s one more example to think about. What about the principal at a middle school. A

shooter is gunning down innocent students. The principal takes out his own gun, which he has a

right to carry, and shoots the shooter. The carnage is halted. Lives are saved. What if that

principal had imposed a higher set of morals on himself? What if he had vowed never to kill

anyone, no matter what happened? More innocent people might die because the Principal would

not set aside his self-imposed morals. In the movie, the Joker has already proven that he will kill

with blatant disregard of human life. He has already illustrated over and over again his ability to

thwart the proper channels of justice. If there is even the glimmer of a chance that Joker will

continue with his insanity, then it is the moral duty of Batman to kill him, the sooner the better. I

can excuse Batman for giving the Joker a chance the first time, in the motorcycle scene. Batman
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gives justice a chance to run its course. However, the second time, Batman should not have

taken that chance. It is selfishness on the part of Batman to continue to adhere to a moral code

that puts the rest of Gotham City in danger.

       But then again, The Dark Knight is a movie, and the plot of the movie is to get rid of the

Joker. If Batman gets rid of the Joker too soon, then the movie is over, and Batman needs to

leave the Joker dangling upside-down at the end. If the Joker were smashed to pieces at the end,

Gotham City might sleep better, but then the Joker could not come back in a sequel. And that’s

what the audience wants: a sequel. They want a sequel, even one with confusing scenes, more

than they want a hero. Well, have the sequel, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim

that Batman behaved as a hero AND have a sequel.

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