Sunday, July 27, 2008


My previous post sparked a little spat between myself and my wife, who thought The Dark Knight’s maniacal antagonist proved too powerful for the story’s good. She has a point. Heath Ledger’s Joker is always a step or two ahead of authorities, always able to turn the best-laid plans upside down. His criminal competence makes civilization seem overly fragile, on the cusp of ruin. Such perceptions -- and the inspiration they could provide the twisted -- disturb her.

It’s tempting to dismiss such concerns out of hand, especially since Christopher Nolan obviously intends the film to honor those who stand strong against wrongdoers. But a story is a seamless thing; you can’t pluck out a theme and ignore the means used in its telling. And experience teaches that viewers (or readers) can miss the obvious message while latching onto some tertiary point like a bulldog. I’ll admit to some discomfort when a gaggle of teenagers at our showing laughed uproariously at all the most menacing parts.

This leaves the storyteller in the position of navigating between the responsibility-be-damned auteur and the inoffensive-as-melba-toast scribbler. That seems daunting, yet it’s a challenge worthy of the work. Storytellers not only have the privilege of teaching, but of delighting, too.

(Picture: CC 2008 by

1 comment:

Loren Eaton said...

For one of the more interesting riffs on The Dark Knight, read thriller-writer Andrew Klavan's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

Hat Tip: Brandywine Books