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.
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.