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dark knight

da vinci vs. the dark knight

SPOILERS: If you haven't yet seen The Dark Knight, go watch it. I'll wait.

Have you ever participated in one of those theoretical Ethical Dilemmas like "Cruise Ship Explosion" or "Who Gets the Liver"? The ones where you're presented with an impossible decision--usually who lives and who dies and if you don't pick, everyone dies--and have to weigh all options in a matter of minutes and it all comes down to you? The new Batman movie The Dark Knight is, in many ways, one of those Ethical Dilemmas come to life. The Joker sets up ridiculously complex life-or-death situations for Batman, theoretically for him to solve but, realistically, to make him miserable. And it seems his entire reason for existence is to promote chaos and nihilism. He and the Batman are larger-than-life vessels for our daily struggles with good and evil; the Joker in his conviction must indeed hold our souls in his hands like a modern Satan. He single-handedly turns Gotham City upside-down and destroys what little good there is.

Or does he? Is it possible for one person to completely destroy the beliefs and emotions of a people? Is it possible for one event to undermine everything? To put it another way, will everyone really die if we don't choose someone to get the liver?

That is, of course, the premise of The Da Vinci Code. Before you stone me for bringing up a long beaten and dead horse, pause and reflect. The main thrust of The Da Vinci Code is that if certain secrets come to light--Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene, etc.--the entire Church will fall apart. Its main characters must work out an Ethical Dilemma of their own--do they let the world know about the secrets they've discovered? Do they share their experience of a vindictive and violent secret Catholic body, the knowledge of which could shake the Church Universal to its very core? Apparently, Dan Brown and the writers of his major resource Holy Blood, Holy Grail think very little of Christians. As though our faith or an institution as old and, to put it bluntly, powerful as the Church would fold because of a single challenge. Can that one fact destroy the Church? Considering the idea of Jesus as a married man has been around since the beginning, as well as an even more difficult idea that he wasn't resurrected at all but robbed from his grave by his disciples, I don't think this even counts as a Huge Secret or even an Ethical Dilemma. The fallacy of this genre of supposition is not in the facts or the supposition itself but in the assumption that the people as a whole can be destroyed.

The Joker and the villains of The Da Vinci Code try hard to be the single Anti-Hero who will annihilate good and beauty and truth and justice for all eternity. But it won't work.

Recall the climactic scene from The Dark Knight. Recall that neither of the two barges carrying, respectively, the average folks and the hardened criminals solve their Ethical Dilemma by blowing up the other boat. The Joker insists that all is chaos and without meaning beyond the struggle, yet behind him the people prove otherwise. They are the grace in the midst of trouble, they are the heroes.

A single person cannot destroy the world, but a single person can change the world.