Posted by: Allyson | July 23, 2008

Some Thoughts About “Dark Knight”

I finally got around to seeing The Dark Knight yesterday.  Batman is pretty much the only superhero that interests me.  The movie had me thinking a lot about the dearth of female superheroes and the status of superhero love interests, but what it got me thinking about most was masculinitiy.  So I’ll post my thoughts on it under a jump to spare you any spoilers.

But, a little food for thought before that.  My partner and I were trying to decide who might be the next Batman, assuming there’s another movie.  Of course, Christian Bale might have the part again, but you never know.  Anyway, I got to wondering . . . does Batman have to be played by a white guy every time?  I know that ever since Batman existed as a comic book character, he has been a white guy, but does that really matter?  It’s not like the character has been played by the same actor throughout history.  Heck, he’s had a consistent love interest between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and she was played by a different actress each time! 

Anyway, my thoughts on the film . . .

Probably because I just recently finished Susan Faludi’s Stiffed, masculinity has been on my mind a lot lately.  Specifically, I’m interested in this idea that a really masculine man is solitary, isolated.  The Dark Knight, of course, portrays Batman as brooding and alone.  He can’t be with the woman he loves because his night job as a vigilante gets in the way of their relationship.  He brushes off wanna-be Batman impersonators who want to help him.  He of course has to hide his identity.  But when you get right down to it, Batman doesn’t work alone.  For example, he has Lucius Fox on hand to help him create a new suit as well as high-tech gadgets and plans.  For all the money that Bruce Wayne has, he needs someone to help him out.  He may work alone, but his partnership with Commissioner Gordon affords him a bit of protection from the police who are instructed to arrest him if caught.  He also is able to make use of police forces when trying to save Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent.  Even the most masculine, solitary superhero can’t do it entirely alone. 

And it’s the same with the Joker.  The Dark Knight tries to show two solitary men, one hero and one villian, pitted against each other.  But even the Joker doesn’t work in complete isolation.  He works with members of the mob to help him get what he wants.  He hires henchmen.  Even he needs help to pull of his sociopathic killing spree.  And, as the Joker points out, he needs Batman.  And Batman needs him.  Without villians, Batman can’t exist to exact vigilante justice (although Bruce Wayne would probably like it that way).  But the Joker really does need Batman in order to exist.  Sure, the police could go after him.  But he really can’t be a villian without a hero (even a misunderstood hero) for an arch-enemy.

So while The Dark Knight attempts to present the struggles of the solitary, masculine hero, it also deconstructs the idea.  Neither Batman nor the Joker work entirely alone.  And when you get right down to it, their identities are dependent on each other’s existence.  These two solitary men in fact need each other.  The isolated, brooding man doesn’t really exist anywhere, not in real life, and not even in the movies.



  1. […] on the subject of Batman: I blog about The Dark Knight over at Feminocracy, and Kacie raises some questions about it over at Dirty Rotten […]

  2. I felt conflicted about the Rachel character, and also about Bruce Wayne. I felt that she was strong and knew what she wanted, and wasn’t content to wait for Bruce to stop playing cops and robbers every night–they didn’t give her much else to do. They posed her as an object almost the both Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne tried to win. Bruce was excited by the possibility of Dent as a named warrior for justice but it felt that he was more excited about turning over the mantle so that Rachel would reject Dent and accept him. Once Rachel was out of the picture, the tenuous connection between Dent and Wayne was severed and all the male characters turned brooding.

    At the same time, Rachel reveals the farce of the solitary male hero. Bruce Wayne doesn’t need to be Batman–he chooses to be. At the same time, as you pointed out, he can’t do it by himself. I get the feeling that he doesn’t even want to–he wants Rachel to join in, which is why he made her privy to his secret, and she refused.

    In order to create the typical singular hero/villain dynamic, one would have to ignore all of the other people that make this relationship possible.

  3. In a way, Batman is supposed to be a solitary character, in that he’s the one that’s supposed to take most of the risks. There are other people helping him, but he doesn’t want them on the streets, except the police officers, and even then he’s not too happy about them risking their lives either. I think he WANTS to be a solitary vigilante, so that no one else gets hurt, but it doesn’t really work.

    It’s fairly obvious that even if Rachel was alive, and Harvey didn’t turn, Batman would still not be able to stop doing what he does. Batman wouldn’t have the same restrictions that a DA would have, so even if Harvey was ‘fighting the good fight’, Batman would have been able to give up. He was fooling himself with a pipedream, and I think it’s obvious that part of him realizes this in how easily he dismisses most help offered in actual combat.

  4. Nice analysis!

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