S-Space Researcher Institutes (연구소) American Studies Institute (미국학연구소) 미국학 미국학 Volume 34 Number 1/2 (2011)
Darker Than Night: The Joker as a Symptom of the War on Terror in The Dark Knight
- Choe, Youngjeen
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 미국학연구소
- 미국학, Vol.34 No.1, pp. 25-43
- This essay aims to discuss the symptomatic aspects of 9/11 in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008). Like its former sequel and other superhero films, The Dark Knight also deals with the superhero’s defeat of an evil that is beyond the control of police power. However, this film shows a tendency to define good and evil in terms of their relative values rather than absolute ones. Batman (Christian Bale) is a heroic character who fights crime for justice. But on the other hand, he is frequently confronted with an anxiety that is own exceptionality as a figure outside the law might lead to the destruction of the very society that he wants to save. This anxiety is problematized in the opening scenes where Batman finds some copycat vigilantes who try to imitate him on the street. The copycat vigilantes, appearing as they do at the film’s start, thus serve to frame the film in terms of the problem of extra-legal justice and force Batman to rethink his role as the defender of justice for the city. The Joker is also a problematic character. Indeed, he is the villain as well as the main cause of all the big troubles in the city. However, what differentiates him from other criminals in this film is that he does not seek an end in what he does. He enjoys burning piles of money and killing his own men without hesitation because he does not have a goal directing his criminal activity. His acts are lacking in any telos and he simply enjoys chaos. This characteristic of the Joker provides a clue to understanding him as a symptomatic character reflecting the Bush administration’s “war on terror” after 9/11. Since the heroism for both Batman and Harvey Dent is undermined by the Joker’s deconstruction of the hidden violence of law and justice, the Joker can be understood as a figure who symptomizes the collective paranoia of American society with respect to “the war on terror,” which was done in the name of justice.
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