Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dark Brilliance - Part 2 "the Truth"

Picking up where I left off previously, I'm contending that the great story, which resounds in our hearts and reverberates throughout creation is not the violent overthrow of evil by good, but the redemption of evil (individuals, communities, the world) by that which is good. If this is truly the story, it is actually a safe story, maybe the only safe story that exists. And if it is safe, than I contend that it is actually a viable option as a meta-narrative, that overarching story which our lives can be lead by. I recognize that this is a pretty big thing to say, and I'm sure that there are scholars of social theory and culture that would have a heyday with it, but that's not my concern at this time.

I want to leave that where it is for a moment and transition back to the Dark Knight via a quick comment on the Church's use, or misuse of film. There's a great article on my friends Lars & Rhett's new website Relevant Pew by a Jacob Youmans entitled Death of a Video Clip, all about how we need to stop using video clips in sermons, taking pieces of culture out of the whole, and instead infuse faith and Christ into those doors and windows that films leave open. Instead of extracting them as tools for our own use, we need to recognize what is already there and the invitation which is offered by them to have conversations and discussions in their midst. So, with that as a guide, I won't try to extract something out of this film but instead relay what I saw as the huge gaping door into a faith-filled discussion.

First, let me warn anyone who hasn't seen the movie, (seriously though, I think I was the last person on earth who hadn't already seen it) - *I'M GOING TO SPOIL THE MOVIE* - So if you want to see it, and haven't yet, don't read on until you've seen the movie.

With that out of the way, I have to critique some of the reviews that I've found perusing the internet on the movie. One such review, by Jonathan Dodson at Creation Project. While I enjoyed Dodson's faith-filled review, I thought he, and others miss a bit of the point when it comes to some of the dialog at the end, particularly references to truth. And this is actually more of a critique of what I find among a lot of us Christians when we look at culture and the world around us. Instead of looking at what exists, and seeing how it reflects the story, often we try to nitpick at those parts that don't fit. We're so scared that people will miss the point, come to the wrong conclusion, that we spent as much, if not more time clarifying the differences between what is out there in the culture, than those points of contact which resonate.

The line of dialog I'm referring to here comes from Bale's Batman. It's within the last few minutes of the film, where he says "sometimes truth isn’t good enough, sometimes people deserve more." Dodson, in his review, makes reference to the fact that Batman is sustained by the lie that Rachel would have married him, had she not died. While this is the case, I think the statement that Batman makes concerning truth is much greater than his simple experience with Rachel. It's not that people build their hopes and dreams on lies which are sometimes necessary. If concepts were enough to ward off evil, Batman's existence wouldn't be necessary. In fact, he could have just as easily retired and allowed the mystique of Batman to scare Gotham straight. But the lie, the lie that Batman was the villain that slew Harvey Dent, that Batman was the truly evil one, THAT lie only works in the presence of a real person, a real Batman. If the lie is all that is left, if Batman were actually caught and killed - it would not be the lie that redeems but the truth, the recognition that Batman had been the hero after all.

In the end, a conceptual truth is not enough. Batman is dead on. The idea of truth lives only as long as it is embodied in a real person. And that is the more that people need. People need their truth to be embodied - even if it's a lie. And while Batman as the villain is a lie, it is embodied in the actions of Batman (running away) and Gotham chasing him and, in this situation, it becomes the "more" than truth that is necessary. But just like the story, the embodiment of the lie in the person of the scapegoat is eventually redeemed by the sacrifice, and the truth that exists in it. Without the lie, there is no sacrifice and without the sacrifice, there is no redemption. In this way, the lie is a necessary component of the true story...

Part 1 - Dark Brilliance - "Postmodern Story"


Jonathan Dodson said...

Very good critique of my interpretation. I'll ponder it more...just wonder if such a strong affirmation of truth is consistent with the rest of the story line, when Nolan plays dualims off each other to relativize all kinds of philosophical questions..good vs. evil, chance vs. fate, human nature as good versus evil, and so on.

Don said...

Jonathan - I appreciate your comments. And you may be right. It's certainly possible that the statement Batman makes regarding truth is, in a sense, his fall. That while he has kept his integrity (no killing), he recognizes that the knowledge of what is, the truth of the situation, isn't enough to hold the people together.

However, as I pan back, I can't help but see the scapegoat motif at work and the eventual redemption of Batman (a la Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi) - where the hope of a people is embodied in the hero who seems unable to rise. Maybe that's me looking beyond this chapter, and if so, I'm guilty of doing the thing I criticized others for - extrapolating something out into another message.

Thanks for provoking further thought...

Lars Rood said...

First, thank you for the shoutout. Second, please let me know if you want to write with us as we'd love to have your voice. Third, youare spot on in your thoughts on this. One of the best posts you have written in a while. Fourth, remember when we had that tough time toghether at Bel Air years ago. I have to do something hard with a staff person this week and asking for your prayer that I do it right.

somekindarobot said...

would it have been more accurate to say, instead of truth, that sometimes justice isn't enough? It seems like it would fit that the "truth" which is inadequate is the factuality of harvey dent's descent and death, which is the just result of his actions. But that justice is totally inadequate to bring about the healing of the city. It would tear it apart, everything that everyone fought for throughout the course of the movie would be undone. Probably the most telling point (about the philosophical implications of the film anyway) is that the Joker's prophecy came true. Batman did have to break his one rule.