Getting subliminal messages to our kids

What our kids hear, day in and day out, is moral relativism.  It’s the top note to their lives, whether it comes on TV, in cheesy movies, on the news or, most commonly, at school.  That might not be the only lesson they’re learning, though.  The other lesson, the subliminal one, might be about good old fashioned values of good versus evil, and the need to save the former by fighting the latter.

As you may recall, two years ago I wrote a lengthy article about the moral lessons in the hugely popular Lord of the Ring, Harry Potter and Narnia books and movies.  Others have caught the strong whiff of Christianity in the last Harry Potter book, and I have noted that, while Rowling has announced that Dumbledore, an almost saintlike character is gay, the unhappy personal history she gave him is not an advertisement for the free and easy gay lifestyle.  In other words, each of these hugely popular literary and movie franchises advances profoundly conservative values.

In keeping with this theme, Andrew Klavan has now opined that the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, is a powerful moral tale supporting Bush’s often lonely battle against Islamism:

There seems to me no question that the Batman film “The Dark Knight,” currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society — in which people sometimes make the wrong choices — and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

“The Dark Knight,” then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year’s “300,” “The Dark Knight” is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that these conservative messages resonate so strongly with movie goers.  A good story is about tension, and the best stories are about moral tension.  In a completely relativistic world, where all people — no matter what they do — are accorded precisely the same level of moral respect, how the heck are you going to have a compelling story?  Batman — good.  The Joker — good.  Harry Potter — good.  Voldemort — good.  And if you concede that The Joker and Voldemort are doing bad things in this vapid world of moral relativism, you’re still obligated to explain their acts away by pointing to their genetics or their bad childhoods.  Really, under those circumstances, it’s downright cruel for Batman or Harry Potter to hunt and hound to death these poor victims of society.

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Comments

  1. Ozzie says

    The Dark Knight pays homage to George W. Bush? Was Sen. Pat Leahy given a role in the movie to throw the rest of us off?

    (While the “Bush or Batman” connection has been convincingly made, it’s been the campy TV Batman, not the Dark Knight version http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1676043261?bclid=1672079965&bctid=1681854593)

    And many Christians see Harry Potter as an agent of evil, not good. After watching the documentary “Jesus Camp,” I got a glimpse into how deeply this position is held by Evangelicals. In fact, when the minister tells the kids that in the Old Testament, Harry would have been put to death, they cheer.

  2. Ymarsakar says

    Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand.

    Like W, Batman imprisons the Joker instead of killing him, leading to about 4 more terrorist attacks that could have been avoided.

    In reality, that’s Clinton and Kerry, not Bush.

    Batman is vilified because people think he is above the law and thinks that the Joker is killing people because he wants Batman to step down into police custody.

    The reality is, Batman is vilified because even though he is a vigilante, he’s a vigilante that only arrests criminals. More like a peace officer than anything else. People don’t see the need for him because they’re not getting anything particularly more than they would from a faster reacting police force.

    In the end, normal criminals feared the Joker more than they feared Batman. And there’s a perfectly good reason why, to us an analogy, Arabs would fear terrorists and side with them against us, because they don’t particularly fear or respect us.

  3. Ymarsakar says

    http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/2008/07/22/batman-the-dark-knight/

    I posted my review link here before on another thread, but this seems a more appropriate place.

    There’s not too many connections, other than the superficial, that can be made between Bush’s War on Terrorism and Batman’s War on Crime.

    It’s not because Batman violates some people’s civil liberties or whatevers. It’s not because Bush believes he is fighting evil, same as Batman, in that one man with the plan is better than an entire police force of bureaucrats.

    No, the fundamental reason why there’s no real message connecting the two is because Bush’s ethics is diametrically opposite Batman’s ethics. The opposite duality is not one of good and evil, rather it is more of following laws rather than breaking them, it is more of killing enemies of humanity rather than imprisoning them in order that they will break free and kill more people.

    Batman is intensely interested in trying and perhaps even executing the criminals he finds. But he wants to do it in a legal way. He doesn’t want copy cats to follow in his outside the law actions.

    Bush, if you look at GitMo, tries purposefully to avoid trying the terrorists and Bush never ignores the Supreme Court orders protecting terrorists at GitMo.

    Bush always asks permission first. Batman almost never asks permission first.

  4. Ymarsakar says

    In case people hadn’t noticed, Ozzie and I are not in agreement. If only because, fundamentally, Ozzie values Batman the Dark Knight’s ethics while I value Bush’s ethics, regardless of whatever faults I may find with Bush.

    To repeat to Book what I said before, if you want to know what a “conservative” ending may look like for Batman The Dark Knight, read the spoiler section of my post.

  5. David Foster says

    Several years ago, I sat in on a philosophy course at a well-known college. Somewhat surprisingly, the professor developed a sophisticted critique of strong-form cultural relativism.

    What was interesting was the reaction of the other students. They had obviously been brought up in pure relativism from their earliest years, and really couldn’t imagine any serious alternative. I think many of them actually found the critique to be disorienting.

  6. Ozzie says

    In case people hadn’t noticed, Ozzie and I are not in agreement. If only because, fundamentally, Ozzie values Batman the Dark Knight’s ethics while I value Bush’s ethics, regardless of whatever faults I may find with Bush – Ymar

    Once again, Ymar, Thanks for telling me what I think!

    People see what they want to see in movies and the Dark Knight has provided fodder to psuedo experts everywhere.

    As one blogger put it:

    “If indeed Christopher Nolan had intended to prove that domestic spying, torture, and colonialism were all perfectly justifiable, then he sure did a bad job of it. The Dark Knight is a great work of art, and therefore is open to interpretation. Liberals crying that the film is propaganda are being hypersensitive, and conservatives applauding it as some kind of pat-on-the-back are simply deluding themselves and should probably stick to 24.”

    But why trust blogs when you can go directly to the source? This is what Christopher Nolan, the film’s writer/director had to say:

    “As we looked through the comics, there was this fascinating idea that Batman’s presence in Gotham actually attracts criminals to Gotham, attracts lunacy,” he says. “When you’re dealing with questionable notions like people taking the law into their own hands, you have to really ask, where does that lead?”

  7. Ozzie says

    Ozzie values Batman the Dark Knight’s ethics while I value Bush’s ethics, regardless of whatever faults I may find with Bush. – Ymar

    Actually, Ymar, the only time I even thought of the Bush Administration was when was Morgan Freeman’s character chided Batman for his elaborate survellience get-up. And even then, the message was not clear cut.

    (Survellience helped Batman fight the Joker, but at the end, Freeman’s character, who noted that “nobody should have that much power,” agreed to help Batman one last time but then shut down the system and left the building).

    In fact, the thing I valued MOST about the Dark Knight is that that nothing was clear cut/cartoonish and most things were pretty ambiguous and complex.

    While it’s true that Harvey Dent was described as the “White Knight” next to Batman’s “Dark Knight,”I found the easily blurred line between good and evil, which both “heroes” crossed, to be the most interesting of all.

    Harvey Dent was the good guy in this movie, which is why – as Batman told Commisioner Gordon — he was targetted by the Joker.

    There were constant references to how easily the good guy can become the bad guy, with the only “absolute”
    (as Christopher Nolan called him) being the Joker.

    Some examples:

    Playing to Christopher Nolan’s observation that men who take matters into their own hands invite chaos:

    Bruce Wayne: I knew the mob wouldn’t go down without a fight. But this is different. They crossed the line.
    Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed them, you hammered them. And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.

    ********

    On how easy it is for good guys to become bad guys:

    Batman: What did you do?
    The Joker: I took Gotham’s white knight, and lowered him to our level. It wasn’t hard. Y’see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little…push.

    ***********
    And finally, one of the movie’s tag lines:

    “You either die a hero… or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” – Harvey Dent

    It was the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen.

    It was smart, sophisticated and had layers not normally found in this genre.

  8. Ymarsakar says

    Actually, Ymar, the only time I even thought of the Bush Administration was when was Morgan Freeman’s character chided Batman for his elaborate survellience get-up.

    I did not make a statement about whether you thought about Bush or when you thought about him, in the comment you bolded.

    There is no “actually”, to it.

    Once again, Ymar, Thanks for telling me what I think!

    I see. Saying I don’t agree with Ozzie, regardless of what people may see superficially, is telling you what you think? Amazing, O.

    In fact, the thing I valued MOST about the Dark Knight is that that nothing was clear cut/cartoonish and most things were pretty ambiguous and complex.

    That means they were fake liberal, narcissistic, and obligingly sacrificing of other people’s lives for their own personal benefit.

    If the end had been different, then it would have been a masterpiece. So far, it’s flawed. Not flawed cause it was bad, flawed because they took great material and potential and turned it into Hollywood and fake liberal Leftist clap trap.

    Such a sad ending for such great characters.

    While it’s true that Harvey Dent was described as the “White Knight” next to Batman’s “Dark Knight,”I found the easily blurred line between good and evil, which both “heroes” crossed, to be the most interesting of all.

    You may like tragedy, seeing evil triumph while the good are ineffective and being dumb about it. I don’t.

    There were constant references to how easily the good guy can become the bad guy, with the only “absolute”
    (as Christopher Nolan called him) being the Joker.

    Which is about as stupid as you can get. Evil people change as well as the “good” guys. To focus all the noblesse oblige on the good prosecutor, is consistent with fake liberal entertainment: entertainment that consists of seeing the masses slaughtered while sitting on high and safe.

    Harvey would never have fallen if he had been a classical liberal and adopted US military philosophy about criminals and evil enemies. He would have been too dangerous to try to convert. They would have had to kill him, or see him kill them with their own eyes, assuming they still had eyes at that point in time.

    On how easy it is for good guys to become bad guys:

    To feel joy at the destruction the Joker and the Mob caused because it vindicates your personal amorality… is pretty sick, but to be expected from the fake liberals.

    Will you hoist a drink to disease as well, if it kills women and children of your enemies? Amazing.

    Spoiler after this part.

    *************************
    ************************

    The Joker: I took Gotham’s white knight, and lowered him to our level.

    The Joker lowered Harvey from fake liberal to mass murderer. Which is what has always happened, whether it is Communism, Nazism, or any other Leftist ideology.

    The ideology of the Left is notoriously convenient to be exploited by ruthless enemies of humanity.

  9. Ymarsakar says

    Batman: The Dark Knight is a very good movie if you like Greek tragedies and seeing what results from ideologies of moral relativism, clean hands, and people who believe enemies of humanity should be prosecuted rather than executed on demand.

  10. Ozzie says

    You may like tragedy, seeing evil triumph while the good are ineffective and being dumb about it. I don’t – Ymar

    I like it when things are complex. Even Star Wars acknowledged man’s duality, which is one of the reasons it remains popular to this day.

    Remember that scene where Harvey Dent was going to kill the Scarecrow and Batman stopped him? And said that the public would turn on him if they saw him killing a paranoid schitzophrenic?

    Batman knew that Gotham needed a hero and tried everything he could to make sure that Harvey Dent stayed one.

    In many ways, Dent’s observation that people either die heroes or live long enough to see themselves become villians is apt to all sorts of perspectives and situations. . . and it also paves the way for the next installment, which Aaron Eckhart has agreed to star in.

    I don’t think this the Dark Knight will be topped, but it will be interesting to see Nolan try.

  11. Ymarsakar says

    Even Star Wars acknowledged man’s duality

    When the Joker has that duality, then you can start talking. But until then, it’s called a rigged game.

    Ozzie

    The Dark Knight is a very good movie . .. ” Ymar

    It sure is.

    The Oscar buzz is well-warranted.

    I just love the way people who talk about “complexity, really only like lies, manipulations, and false realities. That’s the only complexity they want to push.

    The Dark Knight is a very good movie if you like Greek tragedies and seeing what results from ideologies of moral relativism, clean hands, and people who believe enemies of humanity should be prosecuted rather than executed on demand.

    In many ways, Dent’s observation that people either die heroes or live long enough to see themselves become villians is apt to all sorts of perspectives and situations

    Especially when we are talking about pacifists, fake pacifists, and anti-iraqi saboteurs and propagandists, usually all members of the Left in one fashion or another.

  12. Ozzie says

    just love the way people who talk about “complexity, really only like lies, manipulations, and false realities. That’s the only complexity they want to push. – Ymar

    Great art is open to interpretation.

    Liberals are upset with the Dark Knight because they think it’s Right Wing propagnada. Bookworm cited it as a means for instilling traditional morality. And you seem to think of it as some sort of left wing vehicle for “lies, manipulations and false realities.” (As a movie, the whole thing is a “false reality,” I suppose. Maybe you should stop going to the movies, Ymar?)

  13. Ymarsakar says

    And you seem to think of it as some sort of left wing vehicle for “lies, manipulations and false realities.”

    Actually, that’s my reaction to the arguments you have presented. So it would make much logical sense for me to decry manipulations when you have been speaking and conducting manipulations concerning certain themes in the movie.

    As for my view of the movie, you should read and respond to what I wrote about it on my blog, via the link I provided here.

    It would be counter-productive to mistake my view of the movie for my view of your statements, O.

    Also PETA doesn’t like the movie because it is cruel to dogs.

    http://bloggasm.com/peta-criticizes-the-dark-knight-for-its-treatment-of-animals

  14. Ozzie says

    So it would make much logical sense for me to decry manipulations when you have been speaking and conducting manipulations concerning certain themes in the movie. – Ymar

    Where you see “manipulations,” I see brilliant movie-making.

    Which brings me back to the original premise of this thread (i.e that kids might take the Dark Knight “as a powerful moral tale supporting Bush’s often lonely battle against Islamism”).

    This seems off the mark. But. . .

    PETA people watch the Dark Knight and see cruelty to animals,

    Liberals watch the Dark Knight and see Right Wing Propaganda,

    And pro-Bush die hards watch the Dark Knight and see Bush as a Batman-type crusader. (Maybe they have a point, After all, despite “We’re going to catch Obama, Dead or Alive” rhetoric, the bad guy got away in real life, just as in the movie).

    I see it as a morality play regarding the the fine line between being a hero and being a villian. (which is probably why the Wire is my favorite TV Show. The good guys and bad guy aren’t cartoon cutouts)..

    To each his or her own, as they say.

  15. Ymarsakar says

    Where you see “manipulations,” I see brilliant movie-making.

    That still means that what I wrote here to you was predominantly about what you thought and wrote, not about what I thought of the movie.

    And pro-Bush die hards watch the Dark Knight and see Bush as a Batman-type crusader.

    I did my best to convince Book that this wasn’t so, and I believe, unless she has a counter-argument for me, that she has now good reason to change her position.

    Just because she hasn’t posted anything here as an addendum, doesn’t mean you should go stereotyping people because of your own personal wishes and biases.

    I see it as a morality play regarding the the fine line between being a hero and being a villian.

    When villains become the heroes and heroes become the villains and they continually switch it up, then you can start talking about “morality plays”. But until then, this is just a one sided Greek tragedy about how people with good intentions can’t achieve them under the Aegis of Pacifism and Leftist Fake Liberal Hollywood ideology and philosophy.

    Iraq has more villains becoming heroes and almost none of heroes becoming villains, and that’s a conflict you yourself decry. If you committed even 10% of your “morality play” conceptions to Iraq, you would have a far more accurate sense of humanity there.

  16. Ozzie says

    I did my best to convince Book that this wasn’t so, and I believe, unless she has a counter-argument for me, that she has now good reason to change her position.– Ymar

    This morning I read an article on how the Dark Knight is poised to break Titanic’s record. Someone posted the article that likens George W. Bush to Batman and nobody commented whatsoever.

    Finally in response to the notion that The Dark Knight “is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war” a lone poster asked :

    What on earth are you smoking?

    http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/amazing-dark-knight-run-continues-stepbrothers-big-x-files-bombs/

    That was my initial reaction, too.

    But the Dark Knight can be viewed in several different ways. And everyone is entitled to his or her interpretation. Even if it sound ridiculous to everyone else.

  17. Ymarsakar says

    Given America’s ignorance about the victory in Iraq and our love affair with tragedies like Vietnam and Bay of Pigs, are you really that surprised that movies like the Titanic and Batman The Dark Knight would create such controversy, name recognition, and word of mouth that their box office numbers go through the roof?

    I’m not.

  18. Ymarsakar says

    This morning I read an article on how the Dark Knight is poised to break Titanic’s record. Someone posted the article that likens George W. Bush to Batman and nobody commented whatsoever.

    You do know that Yosemite plagiarized Andrew Klavan… right?

    That was my initial reaction, too.

    If you had actually read Book’s posts given the time you have been here, you wouldn’t have to have reactions to things you would already have read.

  19. Ozzie says

    You do know that Yosemite plagiarized Andrew Klavan… right?- Ymar

    Um, he posted the link to the article and said it was from the Wall Street Journal. He didnt say it was his.

    But, just for fun, I googled “Bush, Batman, the Wall Street Journal” and found that this article has been discussed widely all over the Net.

    I feel better about my fellow Americans reading the majority of responses — even if many thought the op-ed was from the Onion, and not the WSJ.

  20. Ymarsakar says

    It is interesting that people are posting his article all over, although I don’t particularly care for the mass adulations that come from knowing your “fellow Americans” support you in the majority of “responses”.

  21. Ymarsakar says

    People should feel better when they have the truth, not when it just strokes their egos about things.

    Moral relativism has an interesting fashion in way it works. It says everybody is entitled to their opinion and views, much like you just said O, but in reality, somebody’s opinions are always of a higher quality and nature than other’s.

    Another type of oligarchical rule from the top, O. Another imperial system for the strong to exploit the weak, for the many to exploit the few.

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