Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Dark Knight

So I've now seen The Dark Knight three times, and while I can't say I've enjoyed the movie, I can say it is a good film--perhaps even an excellent one. And something stood out to me the first time I watched the movie that crystallized this evening as I read Spiritual Theology by Simon Chan. Chan writes:

"Even if the devil as a fallen spirit being were not to exist, there are enough candidates at the human level to fill his place. To recognize the reality of the demonic is to recognize at the same time the human capacity for superhuman evil. It is not just cruelty that human beings are capable of, but cruelty in the extreme. 'So artistically cruel' is how Dostoevsky puts it. The vastness of the human potential, whether for good or evil, is well captured in these words of CS Lewis:

'It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.'

Humans can become demonic."

That is what The Dark Knight communicated loud and clear--the human capacity for superhuman evil, our artistic, inventive potential cruelty in the extreme. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett write of this very idea in Good Omens when the demon Crowley tells the angel Aziraphale that the evil and cruelty humans come up with is beyond even what demons could conceive. The Joker proves this.

He seems to be a case study in the depths of evil possible for each and every one of us. He represents someone who is well on his way to becoming that horror and corruption Lewis wrote of. He became, at some point in his back-story, demonic, and what is most terrifying . . . he enjoys it. He is, as Alfred says, the kind of man who “just want[s] to watch the world burn.”

The movie begs us to acknowledge, “This is what we are capable of. This is who we can be.” If that strikes you as false, just consider this--people, just like you and me, wrote the screenplay for this film. They conceived of the immense and creative cruelty of the Joker. If they can imagine a character like him, he is a character we are capable of becoming.

I pray that God in His infinite mercy would graciously spare us from that fate. Because if there has ever been an irredeemable man, it's the Joker.

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