Louis Althusser, a French philosopher writes, “All stories work by doing two things: First, they make vivid some real social crisis (or conflict); and then they provide imaginary solutions to that crisis.” He believes that any story or movie can create an underlying crisis in our society and provide a solution to that problem by providing a solution within the movie. This is very evident in the movie The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is a chaos driven movie that shows how the true nature of humans react when pushed to their limits of order. The Joker represents the chaos that terrorism creates through merciless attacks against people and places. Batman, the protector of Gotham, represents the order that is enforced through our military and police force. Batman, dressed in all black, fights crime throughout Gotham and strikes fear into his enemies. The Joker, a crazed psychopath, pushes the people to their limits and forces them to make irrational decisions. The battle between the Joker and Batman is very similar to the United States’ War on Terror. These two battling directly correlates to the U.S. fighting terrorists and how the terrorists influence U.S. citizens. Now I want to pose two points about the movie. First, when all else fails who do the people of Gotham turn to in their time of need? The authoritarian, fascist Batman. Yes, Batman is a Fascist. He runs (and glides) around Gotham under no rules with no one to answer to and delivers “justice” to criminals in the city. The People would rather let an uncontrolled vigilante loose on the streets to protect them than let the men and women of the police force and military do their job. They would give up their rights if it meant they would be safer from all the chaos. The only way to bring order is not by fighting the bad forces with the good, but with other bad forces. And this is why I pose my next point: The Joker is the actual hero of Gotham. Before Joker, Gotham was a mess, the crime mobs ran freely in the streets, police officials were corrupt, and people had little hope. What happened after the presence of the Joker? Everything changed. People needed that chaos the Joker delivered to allow for the order they wanted and so needed. They were willing enough to give up their rights to have to security and social order they desired; sound familiar? (I’ll get to this later). This is because only through chaos can we have order in our society.
Now it may or may not surprise you for me to say that Batman is a Fascist. I mean just look at the guy’s actions. Sure he has one rule to not kill anyone, but that’s it. Is that really the only excuse he needs to do as he pleases? To have to most advanced technology at his disposal, to be one of, if not the most, skillful fighters in the world and not have to answer to anyone makes him a very dangerous person. He acts on his own wishes, does what he wants and does so through fear and intimidation. He has complete control over the city and protects its people by beating criminals to a pulp. And the people allow him. Why? Because they need someone/something that will claim dominance over them. They feel they need something above the law to protect them. The more chaotic it becomes the more power they give him.
October 26th, 2001, the PATRIOT Act was signed. The act, created because of the terrorist attack on 9/11, was made so the United States was able to fight terrorism domestically and around the world easier and stronger. The act was a tremendous accomplishment for the War on Terror and greatly enhanced the United States’ ability to fight terrorism and keep its citizens safe. But the act also violates many citizen’s constitutional rights. It infringes on their right to privacy, right to a trial, right to free speech and many more. People loved the act so much that they were willing to give up their sacred rights given to them that this nation was founded on. Some people say the politicians who signed the act didn’t even read it. They were so desperate to end terrorism that they didn’t care what the costs would be as long as it would make them safer. The act has authoritarianism written all over it. It gives the government complete control when dealing with terrorist attacks and pretty much says they can do whatever they want to stop them from happening. And it works. The country is much safer than it was before the 9/11 attacks. National defense has improved, flying on airplanes has become much safer, and the government is keeping a much closer eye on possible terrorist attacks. The more of a threat the terrorist seemed to be the more power the people gave to the government. This authoritarian piece of law keeps the United States’ and its citizens much safer from attacks and maintains order within the country. And what was the cause that created this document? The terrorist attacks. Without them, this document would’ve never been passed.
Now I’m not saying to thank the terrorists for killing over 3,000 people in one day. I’m simply saying that without that event the PATRIOT Act would’ve never been signed and we wouldn’t be as safe of a country. Without the terror that filled every American that day they would’ve never felt the need to improve their security and push for better defense. The terrorist created chaos in a country that was already having trouble. It is very similar to how the Joker’s chaos led to a safer Gotham.
Before Joker arrived, organized crime ran free, corrupt police infested the system, the city was in worse shape than ever, people didn’t feel great about living there. Now, you might say the Joker was a twisted, evil-minded psycho that killed for fun. He created chaos throughout the city and made the people do things they wouldn’t normally do like try to kill a man who knows the identity of batman so the Joker wouldn’t blow up a hospital. He killed plenty of people and seemed to have no motivation except to create chaos. But who was the majority of the people he killed? Mob bosses, bank robbers, corrupt city officials. He practically wiped out the city’s crime problem all by himself. He took out almost all head mob members, and the ones he didn’t kill he brought under his command. He both exposed and killed many of the corrupt police officers. And at the end of the day, the spirit of Gotham’s citizens was brightened. He did more in a few weeks than Batman was able to do the entire time he fought crime. Although he constantly said he didn’t have a plan, that he “just does things”, it’s a complete façade. He has a very calculated plan throughout the movie and executes that plan perfectly. From the first bank robbing scene to wanting to get caught by Commissioner Gordon. Everything he does is with purpose and it is with this purpose that he was able to accomplish all his goals. It was only with the Jokers chaos was Gotham able to have peace and order. So in this sense the Joker was much more successful in improving Gotham than Batman ever was and is, in some sense, a hero to Gotham. He was hero they needed, but not the one they deserved.
Going back to post 9/11 America, we see a very different America than we saw before the attacks. The attacks woke a sleeping giant. American military force woke up and deployed overseas to combat terrorists. Back home American pride grew and was much stronger before the attacks. The Bush administration took control of the country and gained power through the citizens to combat the War on Terror. They gave the government the power to do what was necessary to keep them safe. They pretty much gave the government unlimited power to do as it wants. Through this, the government was able to combat terrorism and a scale they weren’t able to do before and greatly increased the level of security in our country, which is still apparent today. It was because the terrorist creating chaos that America became a much safer place and a much prouder country for standing up to terrorism. The acts of those few terrorists on that one day, changed America forever. They were the ultimate reason for America being the way it is today.
So how did the Joker create so much good through such bad actions? It’s the same way Batman couldn’t create good through doing good; he, in some sense created bad. Batman was never a hero of Gotham; he was just whatever they needed him to be. Like Alfred said many times throughout the movie, he was able to make the decisions that no one else could. He tried to inspire a city by showing that common people can stand up and rise above the ordinary to make the city a better place. But the reason he failed was because you can’t fight bad with good; you have to get your hands dirty. This is why the Joker is so glorious in establishing order. He knows Batman’s technique will never work, he knows that the only way to stop the crime in Gotham is to plunge the city into chaos. He shows the city of Gotham what real anarchy looks like, they experienced the terror he brought on them, and they came out a better people and a better city. You have to fight fire with fire, chaos with chaos. And it is only through chaos that we can have established order.
When people are pushed to their limits, on the verge of death, or in the face of chaos, their true nature comes out. They show who they really are. In Joker’s ferry experiment, the people, and criminals, of Gotham show their true nature. When evacuating the city, the city loads two ferries to leave Gotham; one with criminals from jail, the other with civilians. As part of his plan the joker rigs the boats with explosives and gives them each the detonator to the other ship. He tells them if one boat switches the detonator to the other boat that boat will live (they only had about thirty minutes to decide). The movie switches between the two boats and shows how at first the passengers want to pull the trigger right away. But they can’t decide what to do. The boat with the civilians takes a vote, which ends up being an overwhelming amount in favor of detonating. But no one can do it. When finally, one man volunteers to do it, he gets up, walks over, takes the detonator out the box, holds it in his hand, puts his finger on the key…and freezes. When on the brink of taking hundreds of lives, putting his beliefs to the test, he couldn’t do. He showed that at his core, he wasn’t a killer. Even on the ferry of criminals, one man stood up, took the trigger and threw it out the window. This goes to show that even in the city’s darkest hour, when everyone thought all hope was lost, the people showed that they are better than who they show. That deep down, they are not all as ugly as the chaos they were thrown into. It was through Jokers actions and him pushing them to their limits that he was able to bring out the true nature within them, their good and belief in each other.
When the 9/11 attacks occurred heroes were born. In one of the darkest hours this generation has seen, the common people of America rose up and became part of something greater than themselves. The first responders showed the courage within themselves to help protect and rescue the civilians in harm’s way. Regular citizens too rose up to the call, and instead of running away, ran into the flames or chaos and helped those injured from the attacks. It is in these times of great duress, brought upon by an outside force, that humans show their true colors. It is only through chaos that people see who they really are. This chaos shows the flaws in systems, the injustices hidden, and the good within. The Dark Knight shows us that only through chaos is order able to be established in our society. It shows how the 9/11 attacks, though were a terrible event in our nation’s history, ended up creating good in our society and created a safer nation.