Just before going on vacation, I had the opportunity to see The Dark Knight, the latest entry in the Batman franchise. To say the least, I was blown away. It is certainly the best of the Batman films, almost certainly the best movie ever based on a comic book, and very likely the best action movie ever (the only ones I can think of that’s in the same league are Aliens and Terminator 2). If you haven’t seen it yet, do so.

In making a connection between the Joker’s nihilistic violence and the terrorism that plagues the world, on the one hand, and the way that civilized societies respond, Raymond Keating draws an interesting parallel by looking at the three central characters of The Dark Knight. In a column reproduced at Orthodoxy Today, he offers this insight:

The Joker’s objective is to bring Gotham down to his own level of depravity. He tries to do so, for example, by murdering police officers, exploding a hospital, and testing two groups of people to see if one will kill the other in order to save themselves.

The Joker’s test for Harvey Dent involves both the murder of his love and the hideous scarring of half his face. Dent breaks, descending into madness and setting out to murder those he deems responsible for the death of the woman he loves.

But what about Batman? Does the Joker corrupt him?

Bruce Wayne is concerned about what he might have to become to stop the Joker. By the end of the movie, some might wonder if, or argue that the Batman actually does succumb. For example, he roughs up the Joker trying to get information on how to stop others from being murdered. He also sets up a spy system that can locate individuals through every cell phone in Gotham in order to find out where the Joker is, and again, to stop his destruction of innocent human life.

Is this going too far, or simply what’s necessary to stop this mad terrorist?

The difference between the Joker and Batman is clear. Everything Batman does is to protect others, while the Joker’s actions spring from nihilism. Batman has boundaries – not even willing to kill the Joker, the very personification of evil – while the Joker’s insanity knows absolutely no bounds. Batman’s actions have a just purpose.

In the end, the Joker declares Batman to be incorruptible.

Read the whole column. And by all means, see the movie.

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