The Dark Knight And Defining Evil

1843 words - 8 pages

Based on the excerpt from Evil: A Primer, William Hart goes through a painstaking process in trying to pin down the definition of evil. “Despite five thousand years of recorded human wrong doing, despite all that out prophets and scholars and poets and undead homicidal maniacs have told us, the origin and definition of evil remain impossible to pin down” (Hart 2). Hart tries to define evil and in the end he is able to boil the root of evil to a lengthy list of criteria and an empty definition. This inability to define evil manifests itself in out literature, politics and especially our entertainment. Films like The Dark Knight portray how evil can range from a true hero that is seen as a ...view middle of the document...

Hart’s difficulty in defining evil portrays how evil can be seen in many different ways.
This question of how evil should be defined creates a blurred line as to what is good and what is bad. This can be seen in how heroes are portrayed in literature and films. The question that it raises is why are those who are trying to create good, such as heroes, seen as evil? The reason that many heroes can be viewed by society as evil is because they live outside the law; they are, as Todd McGowan puts it, “exceptional.” The laws created by government, in most societies, represent the social norms and moral codes and by heroes deciding to live outside the law they have attacked the moral order that drives society, despite what they are doing is for the betterment of society. McGowan describes this complex view of masked heroes by distinguishing how they differ from other heroes such as police officers, they differ because “ordinary police officers can avow their identity publicly, and this is what separates them from criminals” (McGowan).
This complex idea of how masked and unmasked heroes are portrayed in society is incredibly apparent in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, the film illustrates how “the true form of appearance of heroism is evil” (McGowan). In the recent recreation of Batman by Christopher Nolan it is shown from the outset that Batman’s actions are seen as criminal or evil. This is seen in Batman Begins after Batman turned Falconi over to the police. Despite taking down a mob leader those who enforce the law still seek out Batman’s punishment because according to Commissioner Loeb, “no one takes the law into their own hands.” For most of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight the police in Gotham ignore Batman’s actions because they knew, especially Gordon, that Batman’s actions were good. However the problem with Batman’s exceptionality is seen when Batman realizes that he sparked the creation of vigilantes that are trying to imitate his actions. This creates a problem because while Batman himself is similar to these imitators in motive, he is different mainly because as Batman puts it “I’m not wearing hockey pads.” McGowan explains this draw to exceptionality by others and points out the “self-multiplying exceptionality portends the destruction of social order” (McGowan). The exceptional or masked hero, despite the good that they can create, falls into Hart’s simple definition of evil because of the destruction to social order that they can create. This is one of the reasons that the masked hero inevitably also takes on the mask of evil.
It isn’t until Batman takes the blame for Harvey Dent’s murders that you see how the true hero is seen as evil. The fact that Batman is willing to taint his own image by taking the responsibility for Harvey Dent’s murders shows that for social order to stay intact, the true good, the heroes in society, must not actually be seen as good, they must be seen as outcasts or villains. What does this...

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