Sunday, July 27, 2008

Batman ... Bush ... and other principled leaders?

Both my kids saw the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," on opening night, and they loved it. On Friday, Rush was talking about the article by Andrew Klavan in the Wall Street Journal that compared Batman with George W. Bush, both going to the defense of a people in need.

I asked my kids if the movie seemed to be a conservative message and if they could see a comparison with the President. They both agreed with Mr. Klavan's conclusions:
There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.
Batman is a box office hit right out of the gate and is generating talk nationwide especially among the young 20- and 30-somethings. Hollywood flops when it makes anti-moral/anti-America movies ... conservatives flock to theaters when offered movies of hope and moral clarity with good winning over evil. Klavan asks:
Why is it then that left-wingers feel free to make their films direct and realistic, whereas Hollywood conservatives have to put on a mask in order to speak what they know to be the truth? Why is it, indeed, that the conservative values that power our defense -- values like morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right -- only appear in fantasy or comic-inspired films like "300," "Lord of the Rings," "Narnia," "Spiderman 3" and now "The Dark Knight"?
Doing what's right is hard, and speaking the truth is dangerous. Many have been abhorred for it, some killed, one crucified.
When we find someone, even within our ranks, who holds a moral compass that points to right over wrong, they are often vilified much as the President has been vilified for doing what he knows is right to preserve the freedoms and, indeed, the very lives of the citizens in the country he loves.
The true complexity arises when we must defend these values in a world that does not universally embrace them -- when we reach the place where we must be intolerant in order to defend tolerance, or unkind in order to defend kindness, or hateful in order to defend what we love.

When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness.
Mr. Klavan draws the following conclusion that closes his WSJ piece:
... when our artistic community is ready to show that sometimes men must kill in order to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values; and that while movie stars may strut in the bright light of our adulation for pretending to be heroes, true heroes often must slink in the shadows, slump-shouldered and despised -- then and only then will we be able to pay President Bush his due and make good and true films about the war on terror.
Maybe not heroes ... but we have knights amongst us who take up the pathway of morality and principles, and who face ridicule and contempt by those who do not understand....


CR UVa said...

Batman is anti-gun and does everything he can to avoid the death of his enemies. That being said, he is portrayed as a character who will confront evil, and actually follows through in self-sacrifice.

I know a lot of people deride President Bush for everything. But I think in terms of wanting our country to be safe, people need to back down. He's far from perfect, but he recognizes evil and is confronting it. I am hopeful that history will treat him better than people are right now.

SWAC Girl said...

I haven't seen the movie myself but if Batman is anti-gun, I guess he's not perfect either. But then no one is perfect.

President Bush has not always done everything I would like him to do ... but after 9/11 he took on a leadership role that is seldom seen ... he stood up to the enemy, he took responsibility for the safety of the American people. He has kept us safe through his administration and, for any faults we may find in him, that is something we should all be grateful for ... and I am.

It's great to hear from you. Hope all is going well.

Laurel Anne Hill said...

“Holy W, Batman! You’re like Bush?”

I read the Wall Street Journal’s piece comparing the trials and tribulations of Batman to those of President Bush. Wow! Was that a bat signal in the sky, or the letter “W?” I found the comparison interesting but have my own opinions about heroes and battles against evil.

On the rope of life, heroes climb above their weakest point, putting themselves at risk for the benefit of others. Love, compassion, duty and honor call them forth and they respond. Still, even heroes on a worthwhile quest against evil must search their own hearts for smoldering embers of hate or vengeance that could influence their actions and bring dishonor and disaster. We are only human. Heroes or not, we often fight our deadliest battles against ourselves and the best way to tame our dark, snarling inner desires is to flood those beasts with light.

We live in the real world, one with presidents and CEO’s but no superheroes of fantasy fame. Public awareness and debate about all sides of political and social issues must comprise the beams of light in our darkened skies. And we should all vote according to the signals in which we believe. That “W” stands for “We, the people,” if we let it.

Laurel Anne Hill
Author of “Heroes Arise,” a parable about the necessity and complexity of breaking the cycle of vengeance.

Aaron said...

How is Batman "anti-gun"? He doesn't use a gun when he fights because whenever possible he doesn't kill people. But in case you didn't notice, he has rocket launchers on the Batmobile and a Gatling gun on the motorcycle.

He also does not do everything he can to save his enemies - he sees a clear difference between action and inaction. In Batman Begins he leaves Ra's Al Ghul to die, declaring "I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you.

CR UVa said...

"How is Batman "anti-gun"? He doesn't use a gun when he fights because whenever possible he doesn't kill people. But in case you didn't notice, he has rocket launchers on the Batmobile and a Gatling gun on the motorcycle."

I stand corrected. Perhaps I should've been more specific. If you remember the origins of Batman, his parents were killed by an armed mugger. While a tool such as a grappling hook, or a rocket launcher being used to intimidate are not unusual, you can clearly see in The Dark Knight at least one scene where he disapproves of the use of a firearm to take down a criminal.

Considering his origins, it is understandable why a character such as Batman would be anti-gun, but you do see the conflict that exists many times with his views as well. Many stories confront the fact that the death of many of his foes may save many more lives.

SWAC Girl, thanks for the well wishes. Though I infrequently comment, I'm still following your blog. Keep fighting the good fight.