Another week and The Dark Knight is still the number one movie in the country and in clear second on the all-time list of high grossing movies. You’ve probably seen it by now.
The balance between chaos and order was the main theme of the film, but the theme from Batman Begins continued to make its presence felt. The power of symbols to affect people was made clear and it’s an interesting point to consider in heroism.
“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
Unless you become a symbol. Harvey Dent’s statement is pessimistic but it certainly reflects a lot of what we see in the modern world. The intrusive nature of the media into anyone who receives any sort of fame increases the rate at which heroes start being seen as villains. In Australia we have the Tall Poppy Syndrome – when someone becomes admired (grows too tall) they are often cut down to size.
Very rarely someone is able to escape this villainization. Nelson Mandela is one example. He has had flaws pointed out repeatedly over the decades, but his overall reputation has been that of a hero. He’s a rarity. The list of the most famous heroes may as well be a list of people who died – perhaps before they became villains. Gandhi, MLK, Princess Diana, Lincoln…
There are plenty of examples of those who lived long enough for things (or perceptions) to change. Mother Teresa stands out for me here. She did some amazing work but she lived long enough for many stories to emerge about alleged character flaws.
Back to Batman. Harvey Dent showed the fragility of the human character. He was the White Knight, but the Joker “brought him down to our level”. Gordon explained why Batman was running; “because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now…and so we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not a hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector…a dark knight.” I disagree that he’s not a hero, obviously.
Batman is a symbol and as such, he can survive to continue being a hero. Alfred tells him, “Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They’ll hate you for it. But that’s the point of Batman, he can be the outcast. He can make the choice that no one else can make, the right choice.”
So what do we do? Become symbols or try to be Nelson Mandela? Comments welcome, of course.