Saturday, July 19, 2008

Now Playing: The Dark Knight

Warning--- Spoilers ahead, if you've not seen the film, beware.

Believe the hype....The Dark Knight is quite possibly one of the best crafted films of the year. And Heath Ledger puts in an Oscar-Worthy performance that would posthumously mark him as one of the iconic greats, just like Giant did for James Dean.

You'll hear all about the violence....the depravity of the Joker character (a niezchiean figure who goes on the idea that all the "rules" are hypocrisy and he's called to be an agent of chaos).

I want to focus on the idea of storytelling and the hero. In many ways, this film is the anti-matter version of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. John Ford's 1962 classic has two hero characters faced off against an amoral villan. The scrupulous lawman hero, played by Jimmy Stewart, runs afowl of the evil Liberty Valance and winds up stuck in a gunfight with him. Two shots ring out, Liberty dies, and the lawman is hailed as a hero because of his toughness. He rides his fame to Washington as a senator. However, he returns home at the death of an impoverished cowboy, and the newspaper editor corners him and gets him to tell the true story. That cowboy was the tough frontiersman hero, played by John Wayne. He was the only one who Liberty Valance feared, but he never did anything about him, until the lawman arrived and started talking about law and order. Then, on the night of the shootout, John Wayne's character hid out in an alley and he's the one who shot Liberty Valance. But he couldn't take credit for it because it would ruin the lawman's chances at bringing order to the west. He took his story with him to the grave so that the legend of the Man who Shot Liberty Valance could inspire the rest of the people.

Get it ... tough hero kills an amoral villan.... scrupulous law hero takes the credit .... the story is false, but the myth that is told is important for securing order in the community.

Contrast the Dark Knight....scrupulous lawman hero Harvey Dent is corrupted by the amoral villan Joker....he commits several murders for vengance. In this scenario, the scrupulous lawman hero dies without anyone knowing he has been corrupted, so the tough guy hero, Batman, takes the blame so that the scrupulous lawman can remain an inspiring figure for the community. Joker, the amoral villan, lives on.

So in the 1960s, mythmaking was around being tough and eliminating the amoral villan.
In the 2000s, mythmaking is around being a symbol of goodness to inspire the community to resist the amoral villan.

However, in both scenarios, lies are told to bolster the myth. Both stories acknowledge that we need heroes to inspire, we need good stories to help the community continue to fight the amoral villans. However, by their very nature, but stories undercut the nature of those heroes.

Id' be interested in your thoughts.....