The Dark Knight: WSJ Says “Yay,” UK Guardian Says “Nay”


While commenters had a field day with my admittedly rambling post describing the troubling pro-Bush Administration subtext in Batman: The Dark Knight, there have been a few heavyweight additions to the fight over the last few days. First of all, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece on Friday called “What Bush and Batman Have in Common” which looks at things from, well, the dark side:

There seems to me no question that the Batman film “The Dark Knight,” currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past. … When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness. We prosecute and execrate the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve.

While I found The Dark Knight‘s simplistic implications deeply troubling, they make Mr. Klavan want to touch himself. I guess churning out piles of 3rd-rate mysteries and Christian adventure stories, you may start to see things a little differently.

On the other side of the Atlantic, UK Guardian writer David Cox does what I couldn’t, connecting The Dark Knight‘s sloppy neocon message to its failure as a film, saying that its ambitious subject matter could have made it “a fable for our times”:

Unfortunately, the potential elements of any such message are lost in a welter of Hollywood clichés that may or may not be relevant. Thus, the Joker’s nihilism turns out to have less to do with Bin-Laden’s boringly purposeful agenda than with the gothic playfulness of the traditional movie mega-villain. Naturally, weaker players in the good guys’ teams are turned by the enemy. After all, that’s what happens in the movies, whether or not it does in the war on terror. … Hang on, you may say. We’re talking allegory here, not dramadoc. No need to get too literal about all this. Yet the confusion matters. It provides a smokescreen behind which the task of weaving all of those casual allusions into some kind of coherent whole can be persistently ducked.

Like I said, looking at gigantic projections of nighttime cityscapes is always neat, but the more I think about it, the less happy I am that I gave these people my $17. And it’s not like they need it: The Dark Knight is on track to become the biggest-grossing film of all time. Kind of makes 1997 seem like a million years ago, doesn’t it.


In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.