I admit that I’m not very good at watching movies. I watched Gladiator for the first time just a few months ago. I still haven’t seen Braveheart and the only Star Wars I watched was #3. (Though I did see Inception 3 times in theaters.) Today, I finally got around to watching the Dark Knight (and yes, I didn’t even pay attention to Batman Begins, but at least I sorta watched it). But yes - wow! How I wish I had seen it 4 years ago when it came out so I could partake in the morality conversations that must have been sparked afterwards!
Since everyone and their mom has seen the Dark Knight, I won’t spend time summarizing what happened in the movie.
I honestly identified with the Joker in this movie - maybe even more with Batman. I was also tense the whole movie and was mad that no one would just kill the Joker or Harvey Dent, even if it was preemptive (in my mind, that would have solved everything! Why didn’t Batman just kill them? I don’t know if this is Biblical, as David also refused to kill Saul or his eldest son Absalom, even though they were trying to kill him).
The Joker said that who a person really was could be found in the moments before their death. And while I don’t think that we should be initiating anyone’s death, I think we really do have a hard time knowing who we are because we let so many different things move and define us. We build our lives on our accomplishments and our positions in life and we find identity and value in these things.
There was the juxtaposition and tension of two views on human nature - one is innately evil and the other innately good. The Joker believed that everyone is, at the core, uncivil and maniacal and self-obsessed - he sought to expose just how selfish and cowardly and incapable they really are. They all trusted in their money (hence, the Joker burned his half of the money) or their plans (be it for safety or prosperity). So the Joker wanted to disrupt the entire system so that nobody could continue living in their convoluted worlds and pursuing their own gains (whether by ill or noble means).
I find this strangely consistent with my view on human nature - though I find it entirely necessary to state the difference in our paradigms. The Joker believed that people were evil and that the result of this should be to turn to chaos, as this would be a more proper reflection of life: there would be nothing but chaos if people actually and unreservedly did whatever they wanted, without reservation. In a sense, his “gospel” was to be selflessly, carelessly destructive, because there was ultimately nothing worth fighting for. The Joker didn’t care if he died. He didn’t care if he beat Batman. He simply wanted to incite chaos in Gotham. In a sense - the Joker wanted to save the people from their own pointless disillusionment. He saved them from something, but he saved them to chaos.
As for me - I’m all for the revelation of human insufficiency and selfishness. Watching the Dark Knight helped me, at least a little bit, to recognize my own inability and need to be saved from myself - if I’m not saved from myself, I could easily turn into a Harvey Two Face, driven by anger and resentment and failing to realize that I’ve become the person that I hate, the hero who lived long enough to see himself become the villain. I agree with our need to be humbled and freed, but the distinction in my opinion is that we are not freed into chaos were everyone is just as messed up as anyone else. I think we can be saved to something greater - there is redemption to be found in Christ (or, to stick with the movie parallel, Batman - who is the superhero we don’t deserve and yet need, and yet still condemn and despise).