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…