Jason Todd (the second Robin) makes a great point: How many graveyards has The Joker filled? How many people have to die before Batman does what needs to be done? At some point, isn’t it the morally correct thing to snap The Joker’s neck?

The Dark Knight was a great movie.  Even without viewing it through a political prism, it’s one of the best superhero flicks of all time.  However, its direct metaphors to The War on Terror were timely, and the way that it treated conservatism with intellectual respect was a pleasant surprise.  When conservatism is given a fair shake on the big screen it’s always a winner.  The debate as to why it’s not seen more often is fodder for many other blogs, but today I’d like to talk about Batman: Under the Red Hood.

Like The Dark Knight, it’s not afraid to tackle tough issues.  It’s made for a completely different audience, and the dialogue isn’t as polished as something Christopher Nolan would dish up, but it’s worth a watch.

For those unfamiliar with the story line, Jason Todd, the second Robin, died at the hands of The Joker.  In this story, Jason has returned from the dead under the moniker The Red Hood (one previously held by The Joker).  While it’s clear as the story unfolds that the process by which Jason was brought back to life has warped his mind, the climatic scene between Jason and Bruce is another springboard for discussing how we deal with a world filled with terrorists, dictators, and despots—men with no fear of reprisal and a complete disregard for the pillars of Western Civilization:

Jason Todd: Bruce, I forgive you for not saving me.  But why…why on God’s earth is he still alive?…Ignoring what he’s done in the past. Blindly, stupidly, disregarding the entire graveyards he’s filled, the thousands who have suffered, the friends he’s crippled.  You know, I thought I’d be the last person you’d ever let him hurt. If it had been you he had beaten to a bloody pulp, if he had taken you from this world, I would have done nothing but search the plant for this pathetic pile of evil, death-worshipping garbage and sent him off to hell!

Batman: You don’t understand. I don’t think you ever understood.

Jason Todd: What? What, your moral code won’t allow for that? It’s too hard to cross that line?

Batman: No. God Almighty, no! It would be too damn easy. All I ever wanted to do is kill him. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about subjecting him to every horrendous torture he’s dealt out to others—and then end him.  But if I do that. If I allow myself to go down into that place…I’ll never come back.

Jason Todd: Why? I’m not talking about killing Penguin, or Scarecrow, or Dent. I’m talking about him.

Jason makes an incredibly lucid point, here. There is a distinct difference between your average criminal—even super criminal—who still is connected by a few thin threads of decency towards his fellow man, and someone completely detached from reality. There’s a chivalry amongst liars with many of Batman’s villains. But The Joker is, essentially, evil incarnate. His loyalty is only to whatever madness his mind cooks up in the moment. Even worse, when The Joker is locked behind bars he’s still often able to plot and plan and execute (figuratively and literally) his twisted machinations. He exists completely outside the Rule of Law. And yet Batman still can not bring himself to pull the trigger, which, in this case, is a moral failing.

As Jason points out, The Joker has filled graveyards. He will continue to do so. And, just like the “death-worshipping garbage” operating around the world in lawless regions of Pakistan, Somalia and Afghanistan…and just like the “death-worshipping garbage” that plots and plans from inside the borders of civilized nations—using free societies to raise money and recruit foot soldiers for their cause—they are different. And should be treated as such. Not every illiterate, gun toting member of the Taliban is akin the The Joker. I’m not saying that. But when we’re having a debate about how to confront our nation’s enemies, we should accurately define them—and that’s a process that the moral relativism of today’s liberalism has muddied. We need clarity as we move forward, and we need politicians who aren’t afraid to articulate hard truths.

How sad is it that today’s liberal politicians would be better off if they just watched more animated Batman movies instead of listening to their handlers…

I love Batman, but I can’t help but think that ultimately he’s going to die at the hands of The Joker. Sort of like…countries that adopt moral relativism when it comes to jihadist ambitions around the globe.
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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

13 comments

  1. Boy are you singing my song, I love your exposition of Batmangina’s dereliction of duty, it’s pretty much perfect. As you already know, the Dark Knight ranks near the bottom in my movie pantheon because real life is hard enough without seeing a Hollywood depiction of “evil incarnate” getting away with it over and over again. It’s just too painful.

    As you also know, there exists now the perfect antipode to Batman, and her name is Hit Girl. If she faced the joker she’d stab him twice (chest and neck) and then finish the job with a point-blank 9 mm round to the head, all in the space of two seconds. Finished, no questions asked, and on to the next menace.

    Moral clarity, in other words.

  2. Ha! Well, I was definitely thinking of you when I was watching the movie last night. I can’t go as hard on old Bruce, though. In the DC comics universe he’s the closest thing there is to a voice of reason. That’s probably why I’m a Marvel guy…

  3. I re-watched Batman: Under the Red Hood today and when this part came up I first got mad that they were having Batman swear (& profane God’s name) and secondly questioned why hadn’t the writers have Joker executed by Government officials yet (he makes a good villian, I know)?

    I can understand why Bruce did not want to go down that road being a vigilante still under the law but some Gotham official should have noted the many time Joker has escaped and had him put down already.
    I understand the context that it’s a cartoon a needs its villains but to constantly use the same character in major films throughout the years show lack of creativity on DC’s directors and writers part. How about Creeper? Why hasn’t anyone used the crazier than Joker, Creeper?

    In the real world, set in America, I’m pretty sure Joker would still, time after time, go into the “Arkham” Asylum instead of being executed because of the rampant pacifism here. There’s “a time to kill and a time to heal,” (Ecclesiastes 3:3) and if we can’t trust our government with the job of protecting us from people who won’t live under/by the law who can we trust with the job?

  4. You’re right, Tempress. The government’s #1 responsibility is to protect us. It’s not to monitor how much sodium you consume. It’s not to tell you what kind of light bulbs you should buy. It’ not to force you to buy health care. It’s to protect you.

    And some people prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can not abide by the laws of civilized society and the laws of this world. Taking a life should always be a last option – but it should ALWAYS be on the table. This rule applies to dictators, despots, and violent criminals, yet for some reason liberals don’t get it. When you constantly make excuses for evil men you will constantly be tortured by them.

  5. He exists completely outside the Rule of Law. And yet Batman still can not bring himself to pull the trigger, which, in this case, is a moral failing.

    How does he exist outside the Rule of Law?

    Well, ok excluding the obvious, the question a lot of these raise (other than, “because these villains sell comic books”) the question is never, “Why hasn’t Batman killed the Joker” but “why hasn’t the Law?” Let’s face it, in real life if something like the Joker ever happened, it’s hard to imagine even the most death-penalty adverse state would let him walk free. And if it did, it would happen only ONCE because the 2nd time he would be executed. If he somehow wasn’t condemned that time, I guarantee an arkham guard would have him dead before he got to his cell.

    Why doesn’t Batman kill him? Because the citizenry have declared they don’t want Joker dead, and who is Batman to go against the will of the people.

    (looks over at large “Killing Joke” shadow – then there’s…)

    1. “Well, ok excluding the obvious…”

      I must break you of your habit of linking to something that forces me to allocate roughly 10 minutes of extra time to figure out your point. Sorry, bud. I’m not listening to the podcast (although I think you’ve sent me that before and I did listen to it, so I should say that I’m not listening…again).

      “Let’s face it, in real life if something like the Joker ever happened, it’s hard to imagine even the most death-penalty adverse state would let him walk free.”

      I mentioned this in another blog post. In short, and probably in an interaction with sasoc since he really doesn’t like Batman. I blame Gotham’s justice system more than I blame Batman for countless deaths linked the Joker’s recidivism. Actually, you can’t really call it “recidivism” in the legal sense because he keeps killing innocents even when he is behind bars and then breaks out.

      I often use these blog posts as a segue to talk about real-world issues, so I cover them differently than if it was only a question about why [insert strange occurrence here] happens in the comics. My commentary is often geared towards getting people to think about public policy in their own lives, as opposed to the public policy of Gotham or Metropolis. It’s the “spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down” approach.

    2. I must break you of your habit of linking to something that forces me to allocate roughly 10 minutes of extra time to figure out your point. Sorry, bud. I’m not listening to the podcast before and I did listen to it, so I should say that I’m not listening…again).

      If you’ve listened to it before then you know they go over (in a joking manner) all the ways that “innocent until proven guilty” wouldn’t ever be a workable court system in a world with shapeshifters, mind-influencers and time travel. Heck it could be argued even “guilty until proven innocent” wouldn’t work there. Or perhaps even civilization. At some point it becomes the “cannot work this far, suspension of disbelief must take over” line.

      And it’s not always for you (who should realize the context from past conversations) but for the peanut gallery interested in further study.

      And yes I think they also went over a story once where the Joker was caught an executed, only to then revive (somehow? Lazarus pit maybe?) and then claim he was off scott free having served his sentence.

      Under the Red Hood should probably have been like Kingdom Come – an elseworlds tale (DC’s version of “what if”) because it’s issues are ones where the real enemy isn’t political views or systems or philosophys, but the need to sell ongoing artwork involving these characters. In other words it needs to be examined in a place where Status quo is not God.

      (one wonders if had Ledger not died, would Nolan’s Batman trilogy – apparently meant to be stand alone – would have examined this question with Joker being executed by the state perhaps or something else)

    3. “And it’s not always for you (who should realize the context from past conversations) but for the peanut gallery interested in further study.”

      A good comment explains your point of view and then may link to another website that further elucidates your point — as you did with the “status quo is not God” comment.

      A frustrating comment is one where myself or others don’t know your point but instead must click on some podcast and listen to two jokers (no pun intended) giggle about the price of the now-defunct Wizard magazine for five minutes before we understand what you meant.

      Side note: I have a decent memory, but I do not remember all the specific conversations I had with people (including yourself) over the course of this blog’s 1,229 posts. Heck, my memory needs to be jogged for entire blog posts at this point.

    4. You could, but that would be the day known as “The Fall of the House of NateWinchester” at douglasernstblog.com. 😉

      Carl has an incredible memory (perhaps his superhero name should be “Chronicle”), and at times I am confident we would wistfully discuss your time here.

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