Last week when the box office reports came back and said that Batman: The Dark Knight not only had the largest grossing opening weekend of all time (just over $158 million) but had also been the fastest movie to $300 million (beating out Pirates of the Caribean: Dead Man’s Chest), I have to say, being the superhero fan that I am, I was pleased and surprised. This week much of the same story continues. Batman is literally rewriting the record books, leaving the movie industry in ecstatic and joyful disarray wondering why this movie is doing so well. When the numbers come in tomorrow, this movie will have made it to $400 million in just eighteen days, beating the previous record holder, Shrek 2, by over two weeks! And there are only seven other movies that have ever made over $400 million! Many are predicting that this movie will beat Titanic as the highest grossing movie of all time. Granted, there are ticket inflation prices that need to be taken into consideration, but its success is leaving a lot of people scratching their heads, including me.

Why is Batman making so much money?

At first, we could say that there was a lot of hype about Heath Ledger. As you know, his portrayal of the Joker was his last film before his tragic death. But this, many analysts are saying, could only account for the first weeks numbers. That Batman continues to break records demonstrates that there is something more going on.

Being in ministry, I look intently at culture. Being a bearer of the Gospel requires that we keep our finger on the pulse of the world to see what is going on, how people are thinking, and why people do what they do—including going to the movies.

I go to see superhero movies because they, when done well, inspire me. They send messages of self-sacrifice, goodness in the face of evil, change, and endurance. With a lack of heroes in today’s world, it is nice to escape to a make believe world and let the idealist in me become drunk with a reality that is too often hard to find.

But I don’t think this is why The Dark Knight is doing so well.

While I discounted the theory that says this movie is simply serving as a Heath Ledger memorial service, I do believe that the character he played is what is bringing people in—The Joker. The Dark Knight was an extremely well written movie from beginning to end. The Batman was tremendous and represented all the characteristics we like to see in a superhero. But the movie was not really about him. It was about the Batman and the Joker, and the focus to understand Batman was ployed by The Joker. In this, he became the central character of the movie. The focus of our attention.

The Joker was everything a villain is supposed to be. Evil, sadistic, ruthless, and cold. But there was something else. He had something that no other villain has. A characteristic which is an anti-characteristic. In fact, the point of the Joker was that who he was made no sense. Why did he kill? Why was he bent on destruction? Why did he hate? What did he hate? Did he even hate? What is his motivation? We know why Batman is who he is (the death of his parents at the hand of a thief), but we don’t have a history on file for The Joker. The movie leads you. It tricks you. It turns you into the Worlds Greatest Detective in that you are seeking, along with Batman, to know why The Joker does what he does. Once you think you have him figured out, once you have answered the “why?” question, you, along with Batman, find out that you took a wrong turn. The Joker was not in the game for money, power, women, fame, or any other hope, good or bad, that you could pin on him. He was not seeking to “win.” There was no “deep down inside . . .” to figure out with him. Each time death presented itself to him, he laughed as if it was simply a continuation of some adventure. In the end, the gruesome realization is that there is no reason why The Joker was who he was. And that was the point of the movie.

Fascinating. Dark. Frightening. A horror movie unlike any other. Some might even call this movie prophetic. Not prophetic in the sense that we are seeing what our future holds, but prophetic in the sense that this movie reveals with the most vivid illustration ever put on film what utter nothingness looks like.

In the character of The Joker, our culture looks into the mirror and sees what it is becoming. Nihilism is what it is sometimes called. Nihilism is the anti-philosophy of a world that has no hope, no motives, no standards, and no values. The Joker is the Nihilist who believes in nothing, cares for nothing, and pursues nothing. At one point The Jokers says, “I have no plans. I am like a dog chasing a car. I would not know what to do if I caught it.” There is no rationalism because there is no such thing as order, reason, or ends that create purpose. It is just the moment, and the moment is ruled by randomness.

Our postmodern culture may see itself in the character of The Joker. Like a person who has not seen his face in many years, we are going to the mirror to take a look.

Is our culture nihilistic like The Joker? This is a good question that I cannot answer. What I can say is that we have been heading in that direction for quite some time. John Hannah calls this age the “age of despair.” The Joker is the next step. It is when the despair turns to apathy and we are what we are and we don’t care what we become. With the deconstruction of morals, truth, knowledge, revelation, and the like, is it any surprise that so many people are going to look in the mirror?

That is my two cents.

Why do you think Batman is making so much money?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    34 replies to "Why is Batman Making So Much Money?"

    • […] postmodernism, culture, depravity, evil, etc…  C Michael Patton over at Parchment and Pen provides one example of someone examining it for its cultural and/or theological […]

    • Sam

      Great post, Michael; TDK both entertains and engages you. The movie going public deserved a better class of blockbuster and Nolan & Co. gave it to us in spades, or, more accurately, in jokers. I think there is definitely something to say in regards to the depiction of total depravity in this film. Human sinfulness in the best of us (Dent) and the worst of us (Joker) is on full display. I think it can be argued that this film provides one of the most accurate portrayals of human nature in cinematic history. Be on the look out for a Theologica blog post on “The Theology of TDK” from me.

      You are correct that the Joker is only a philosophically consistent nihilist, which is why he is so frightening. People think that theological or philosophical foundations can be sacrificed for the sake of unity and peace. Ultimately, when Truth is abandoned, chaos insues. After all, the Joker is an “agent of chaos.”

    • rick

      1- Familiar characters
      2- Well produced
      3- Well acted (not just The Joker)
      4- Deconstruction message- “chaos”. It simmers just under the surface of society (some people are concerned that it might, and some actually think it does), so this movie just brought it up to street level for all to see.
      Is there something disturbing about that? Yes.

    • Tim

      Brilliant piece of writing. Keep it up.

    • Michael

      Great review.

      I really like this last line, which comes at the climax of the review, as though a crescendo:

      “Our postmodern culture may see itself in the character of The Joker. Like a person who has not seen his face in many years, we are going to the mirror to take a look.”

      Although, I thought there was plenty of exposition explaining why the Joker was devilish and nihilistic.

    • John Walters

      I agree that The Dark Knight’s appeal stems largely from the character of the Joker. There seems to be a fascination with nihilistic villains in contemporary cinema: witness the adoration heaped upon Javier Bardem for his portrayal of mysterious assassin Anton Chigurh, or earlier the cult status attained by Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of cannibal psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. These creatures seem to appear as if from nowhere, with no clearly defined past or sensible motivation, other than to serve as messengers of chaos. These villains are not just IM-moral, but A-moral: they are not bound by conventional standards of right and wrong, and on the contrary often defy and desecrate those standards. They seem, in fact, to come from another world. I found the following comment by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum to be very enlightening:

      “I was especially bemused by the ready acceptance of Hannibal Lecter’s supernatural powers—his ability to convince a hostile prisoner in an adjoining cell to swallow his own tongue, for instance, or to know precisely when and where to reach Clarice, the movie’s heroine, on the phone. Anthony Hopkins’s Oscar-winning performance may be stark and commanding, but it wouldn’t have counted for beans if the audience hadn’t already been predisposed to accept this murderer as some sort of divine presence.”

      Now THAT is truly the scariest part of it. In a world where people increasingly doubt the foundations of human moral order in the face of an apparently purposeless Universe revealed by the natural sciences, monsters like the Joker, Chigurh and Lecter become divine messengers, with knowledge of the Truth (that there is no ultimate purpose or moral structure to the Universe, friendly to human beings anyway) which they reveal to us in their trail of bodies.

    • JohnT3

      Hi Michael,

      Part of the sucess to “The Dark Knight” is that a lot of people were drawn to the fact that Heath Ledger died and that his last completed film role was probably the best work he did. This generated a free publicity buzz for the studio and producers and spread the word.

      Glad the site is backup and running.

    • Bryant

      This seems to me, under the surface of all the cosmeticrie’s, if this is a word to use, an allusion to the theme of light and dark. Peeling all the layers away from the hype of the story, we still have the “good guy & bad guy” scenario played out, (the good guy always wins, most of the time) to its climatic ending and more than not leaving us hanging in for the next sequel.
      Though I am not sure this addresses your question you ask, about Nihilism directly speaking. But I would say that do not the dark and the light repel each other? This would lead me to believe that there is some thought process rolling around in the mind of dark character as represented by the joker, he may not care about anything or believe there is nothing, but it will conclude that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. The dark Knight responds to the Joker’s bidding albeit in the sense of good overcoming evil, righting a wrong, and justice prevails or better stated justice served, of course the latter depends on a societies’ view of right and wrong.
      But that reminds me of an old Vernon McGee story he told, it goes something like this, a traveling salesman had gotten a flat tire on the highway in front of an insane asylum. The salesman got out and proceeded to change the tire, only to find out that he was missing all the lug nuts. Distraught and seeing the situation hopeless, there on the other side of the fence to the insane asylum one of the inductees had been observing the whole thing, seeing the salesman’s frustration play out, he said (the man inside the fence), hey mister why don’t you take a lug nut off each wheel and put them on the spare tire and that’ll get ya down the road to a filling station. The salesman thought to him self why didn’t I think of that, the institutionalized man say “I might be crazy, but I’m not stupid”
      That poses another question, would Satan in all that he is be a representation of Nihilism from a Christian view point and not necessarily Christian but of the objective of good & evil?

    • Jugulum

      Michael (commenter, not CMP),

      Although, I thought there was plenty of exposition explaining why the Joker was devilish and nihilistic.

      I want to reply, but it requires a very minor spoiler. To hide the spoiler, I’ll mask my reply so that it’s hard to read. (That way, you can skip over it without seeing it accidentally.) Just read the lower-case letters, and ignore the capitals.

      /**** VERY MINOR SPOILER. ***/

      Are you thiinking of the Joker’s AsGtEoSrEiHeOsA HaGbDoSuAtQ AhDiHsD RfTaYcUeM? Those YwEeGrMeDnA’tT ErMeZaXlH. He WmAaWdQeB AtWhMeKmL QuWpH. mHoErHYeU FgAaFmKeFsA.

    • Michael

      Yes, I was referring to those stories, although they were changing through the movie and it’s hard to know if the Joker was telling the truth. But Batman also did an investigation on the Joker which seemed to tell the story.

    • John B. Richardson

      What I wonder is whether this sort of review is why Christianity is diminishing in secular culture and why people cannot relate to evangelical Christians.

      Sit back and re-read this review from the perspective of someone that actually finds joy in life. Not simple hedonistic self-indulgent happiness, but the joy that comes with being part of community, family, and being fulfilled by the work that you do. Joy.

      Now go back and read those prophets of postmodern culture, the existentialists. Read Neitzsche. Read Kierkegaard. Read Sartre. They were the enemies, which may seem ironic because of blatant popular misunderstanding, of the philosophical nihilism – spiritual or materialistic. Neitzsche saw the religions of Christianity and Buddhism as ultimately nihilistic. Kierkegaard lamented the modern Christianity that had become empty of experience. Sartre was confounded by the lack of joy in the lives of contemporary Christians.

      Neitzsche once, accurately in my opinion, stated that the Christian penchant to see the world as an evil place has, in turn, made the world an evil place. As this review of The Dark Knight has perpetuated, Christians have always been obsessed with darkness. They need to see darkness everywhere in order to fulfill a meaningless messiah complex.

      Yes, people do like to see dark, raw films for all sorts of reasons. They also like to see happy go-lucky films. Film is a propagator and a reflector of society. It shows us what we want to see, what we are, what we want to be, what we don’t want to become. The reason people love Batman is because he is real. He is a filthy-rich version of us. He has no real superpowers. He has a dark side to him, an internal torment that is in each individual, but he also has the capability to overcome it – as we all do.
      But there are also the external torments, as well as the external positives. The Joker is the mystery we find in unfathomable evil. Why did Hitler do what he did and why did the German people follow him? Why did that 40 year old man repeatedly stab and behead another on Manitoba bus ride, then taunt the other passengers with the gruesome spectacle? We want to understand senseless violence. We want to know if we are capable of it or if it is relegated to sociopaths.

      It is not until Christianity can re-find its joy and stop darkening the world that people will once again find it relevant (whether truthful or not). Stop presenting the world in the dichotomy of black and white and see it for what it is: a multiplicity of personalities of varying moralities and ignorance.

    • Bryant

      Doesn’t this really show our true nature as it is revealed on the big screen? Take our Christian influence and indwellingness off the table and what is left, raw humanistic animalistic survivalist mode of self preservation. It is what it is, without God mediating the affairs of men thru Christ; we would have no hope absolutely any at all. Survival of the fittest a Darwinian metaphor I believe.
      I have not watched the movie as of it, but I got to believe that the joker of the past movie attempts (Jim Carrey) and the old Adam west satire of Joker seems some what childish in comparison to Ledger’s version of an entity of pure mindless evil.
      John B. Richardson’s comment does ring truth; ever so subtle this darkness of reality does permeate our culture, especially the youth that follow without a Christian Biblical perspective. I am not suggesting a situational relative scenario in the sense if it is a viewable movie for Christians, but rather without any foundational base, what is the outcome? Evil begets Evil I believe

    • John B. Richardson


      It is what it is, without God mediating the affairs of men thru Christ; we would have no hope absolutely any at all.

      Prove it.
      What is it about Christianity that gives hope?
      Can a Christian actually pronounce such despair on something he or she does not understand?

    • C Michael Patton

      John, this is obviously going to come from the perspective of those who are Christians. I don’t think we need to move into a debate about whether Christianity gives hope. It is the belief and assumption of many of us. Therefore, let’s not more the subject in such a way. Save it for another post if that is ok.

      Nonetheless, we do appreciate your imput and are glad you are here.

    • John Walters

      “Sit back and re-read this review from the perspective of someone that actually finds joy in life. Not simple hedonistic self-indulgent happiness, but the joy that comes with being part of community, family, and being fulfilled by the work that you do. Joy.”

      I don’t think anyone here would argue that your idea of joy isn’t Godly or Christian. On the contrary. Living in joyful communion with God and others is what the Christian vision is all about. But you cannot deny that corruption runs deep through every human scheme to achieve happiness. Communities create petty rivalries, families fall apart even when they seem to have everything going for them and all work, even work you love doing, can become a burden to the soul. And of course even the most idyllic communities can and often are shattered by the ravages of war, famine, disease and other ills.

      Contrary to your opinion, I don’t think this is deliberately painting the world with an evil slant out of some perverse desire to fulfill a messiah complex. I think it is facing the world as it really is. Your brand of optimism seems perilously close to those crucified criminals in Monty Python’s Life of Brian who absurdly counsel Brian to “always look on the bright side of life”, even as they writhe in torment under the weight of Roman oppression.

      Or think of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. He is immensely fond of the hobbits’ idyllic existence, their simple, pastoral way of life, enjoyment of hard labor and good food. But that doesn’t mean he is blind to the forces which could destroy all that the hobbits stand for.

      There is a certain satisfaction to the detection of sin and corruption in our world, as it affords a measure of confirmation for the Christian worldview. I certainly grant that it can be pushed to extremes, and that it is unhealthy to indulge in too much morbid thinking. But we here believe that it is just intellectual honesty to acknowledge the forces that can frustrate human aspirations, as a prelude to recognizing the only solution: the triumphant death and resurrection of Jesus.

    • John B. Richardson

      My apologize for the perceived tangent and confrontation to the orthodox assumptions. I had believed it was relevant to the topic of how one adjudges the world. My response was merely a defense, albeit unwanted, of a rather ignorant view of any non-Christian philosophy. This is usually not something addressed in the theistic blogosphere and the unquestioned presumptions continue to perpetuate themselves with little critical thought.

    • C Michael Patton

      John, it would seem that we are not the only one who is approaching this with assumptions. We love to have you here, but we just need to remain on topic.

    • John B. Richardson

      I am more than willing to converse in a middle ground, but lets be fair here. Let’s not slander non-believers and than ridicule them for not staying on topic after a believer had already deviated from the thread.

      -John Richardson considering the issue dropped

    • Bryant

      John B. Richardson , I apologize if I have struck a chord that is not to your liking, I do apologize, sincerely, not everyone agrees with the same view, I suppose we can agree to disagree, as I disagree with your link’s to your site, (I’m not sure how that finds itself on a biblical theological site, so be it). My fault for not reading deeper into your world view perspective. What I find ironic, is the fallacy that we can be good some how and earn our way to a perfect utopia, I believe Tolstoy, the Russian novelist and latter in life, social reformer, believed if we literally obeyed the Sermon on the Mount (that is resolved it into five commandments [suppression of all anger, chastity, no oaths, nonresistance and unreserved love of enemies] if obeyed). We would do away with the existing evils and usher in a Utopian kingdom. Well I’m still waiting. I really sleep well at night knowing at least for now some lunatic in a third world country doesn’t have Oppenheimer’s deadly toy in his possession with a mindless twist to see what happens.
      Sorry for lingering on here with my rant. I say, let us what Disney’s “Enchanted” and compare the two ideologies that would be twisted!

    • Greg

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but I love The Dark Knight, or any action/adventure movie of that same category (Gladiator, Braveheart, Lord of the Rings, etc.) because there is a battle to be fought, where winning or losing determines your very survival. The battles these characters fight define them, it makes them who they are. In a word, it gives them purpose.

      I’m drawn to that because I have to live my dreams of courage, honor, and adventure through these movies. I’m a comfortable, 21st century American Christian, a product of a generation that has had life handed to it by our ancestors who did all the hard work for us. I’m still trying to figure out whether this is a good thing or not.

      I don’t have to fight for my way of life, I don’t have to fight for my faith, I don’t have to fight for my family, my job, or my ambitions. Not even my life. I’ve got the ideal, middle-class suburban existence without a real, defining challenge in sight.

      It just seems wrong I guess. I know these movies are just glorified fiction, but the characters still have a purpose, and that is more than I can claim.

    • Eric W

      FWIW, I think it’s doing so well because of the super-hype surrounding Ledger’s death and performance as the Joker, coupled with really great trailers.

      That said, we enjoyed Hellboy and Hellboy II more, and were rather underwhelmed by TDK, and at 2.5 hours, it began to drag a bit. Maybe our so-so attitude was because our expectations for it were too high.

      And … Ledger’s snake-like character – tongue movements, rare eye blinking (all deliberate by Ledger for that purpose) – got to be a bit repetitive.

      Or maybe the concept – ultra-rich billionaire tycoon dons mask and cape and gravelly Clint Eastwood voice at night to fight crime – doesn’t grab us.

      The existential/philosophical/moral crisis Batman faced in the movie didn’t come off very convincingly, either.

      Maybe a second viewing would have us liking it more. I sometimes change my opinions of movies after I’ve seen them twice.

    • Miguel Mesa

      A wonderful and brutally honest response Greg. I have never thought about how you said…

      “I don’t have to fight for my way of life, I don’t have to fight for my faith, I don’t have to fight for my family, my job, or my ambitions. Not even my life. I’ve got the ideal, middle-class suburban existence without a real, defining challenge in sight.”

      This is a very intriguing statement that I am sympathetic to.

      Regarding “accurate portrayals of human nature in cinematic history” (Sam)…
      …I see Joker’s in stages of infancy, adolescence and near maturity at times around here. It is a frightening reality. We are breeding the product of Our Ideas….its consequences.

      If The Dark Knight gives us a bi-polaric picture of our world and its “toward nihilism” culture then our everyday life clearly is what makes this cinematic tale.

      And of course without question it truly was a joy for me to watch an amazing performance by Heath Ledger and a well developed story coupled with a wonderful musically scored piece of film-making. That alone simply brings in the bucks too.

    • Jeff Thompson

      Will somebbody please clue me in on what I’m missing? I didn’t know there was yet another comic book movie or about the death of the star. The death of any individual is tragic, either for them or those that love them, especially if they are not saved; that’s not my point, it’s the apparent to need to not merely know, but to be more concerned than about the death of anyone else.

      I am not trying to stake out and claim the moral high ground here, even though I know that’s like trying to claim to be humble. I do, though, consider it a shame to know about the activities of celebreties bu,t short of being dead, it’s impossible to learn about them.

      There must be something terribly wrong with me—I don’t read the newspaper, watch movies, listen to the radio, read magazines, watch television, follow sports, read fiction, or purposely try to keep up with pop culture in any way, including politics. To me, it’s all so shallow, empty, and vain.

      Yet, I routinely get messages from fellow Christians through sermons, podcasts, essays, and theological writings, about ‘engaging’ the culture. Do I really need to know who got on or off some (non)-reality show, anything at all about popular music groups or singers (Christian or otherwise).

      I care, deeply, about people. I don’t care at all, or at least not anywhere nearly so much, about personages. Are we not called to live and talk about Jesus, to be light and salt?

      Now, I’m not just an old sourpuss; I can be witty, funny, charming, and a joy to be around—unless I get carried away with that sort of thing, in which case my friends or my wife tell me so (by the way, those are not mutually exclusive categories, though I do have only one wife).

      The bottom line questions are:
      Do I need to know these (popular culture) things?
      Do I need to care about them?
      How much time, effort, and money do I need to invest in learning about them?
      Will I be a better Christian participating in any of these things?

    • rick

      Jeff #23-
      Saw this quote of at the Sets ‘n’ Service blog:

      “Vanhoozer goes on to say, “The reason why theology must study God and contemporary culture is the same reason why preaching must connect both with the biblical text and the listener’s context: because disciples do not follow the gospel in a vacuum but wend their Christian way through particular times and places, each with its own problems and possibilities. We can follow God’s word only if we know where we are and if we have a sense of where various ways lead.” (pg. 16) And we can embody and live out this theology only if we realize that it is for more than just us, that its path is a path for our neighbors to walk along side us in. Culture is not a tight rope that we walk with the world on one side and the church on the other always fearful of falling to side with no safety net. No, culture is a public sidewalk crying out to be chalked by those abnoxious bored kids and to be traveled on by the whole neighborhood.”

      The full post is here:

    • rick

      sorry (oops)-
      the 1st line of #24 should read “Saw this quote over at the….”

    • rick

      Jeff #23-
      One more post worth checking out is Dan Kimball’s look at St. Patrick and how he related to the culture.

      I came across both this post and the Sets ‘n’ Service post while looking for something unrelated, but your good questions came to mind as I was reading these.

    • Mark

      I found this Batman charachter to have a sense of morality in the sense that he kept stating something to the effect ” there is one thing I won’t do.”

      In previous movies, Batman never seemed to have a depth to which he wouldn’t sink to right wrong. Previously, He never seemed to struggle with the issue of being a vigilante righting wrong, under some kind of internal standards to which he adhered. The other movies I felt portrayed him as ruthless in getting his man and gave the impression he was a glorified bounty hunter.

      Although the Joker was compelling, I felt both charachters were equally well portrayed. While the Joker may have been nihilistic, Batmans morality gave purposeful reason and hope to the movie.

      My mind gravitated to the parallel of an attitude that we as a country are wrestling with when dealing with terrorism. Terrorism does seem to be pointless and purely random when it happens, although we know it is not. Furthermore, it is hard to combat because there seems to be no standards or rules that terrorists have when attacking. Death seems not to phase them. What would terrrorists do if they won? How are we to respond? Are there somethings that we won’t do to combat it?

      I think this is the real subconscience draw to the movie.

    • […] The Dark Knight: The Joker as a Window into Nihilism I read another theological perspective on the Dark Knight.  It is on the “Parchment and Pen” blog, and it can be viewed HERE. […]

    • Tyler C

      as the Joker may be the final outcome of postmodernism, equally scary is Two-face’s reliance on chance for the outcome of the future…reminds me of naturalism

    • joyce

      Joker was a metaphor for Satan, in my opinion. He lied or made up a story every time about how his face got that way–trying to evoke sympathy from the victims.

      Batman’s power was checked as in a check and balance system with his smart butler and gadget maker. Without a terrorist dressed as a terrorist, we still got the idea that there are absolutes, there are good guys and bad guys, and sometimes good guys have to smash the bad guys.

      As Christians, it is rare to find a detailed explanation of the OT battles. King David’s valiant men would have understood Batman. But, how many of us understand the times, and know how to use our weapons, real and spiritual?

    • Simon Ravenscroft

      Michael said: “Our postmodern culture may see itself in the character of The Joker.”

      Just a short note on the connection between nihilism and postmodernity. To my mind, nihilism is actually the climax of modernity, not postmodernity. More specifically, it is the climax of modern liberalism and the corollary notion of a secular public realm. It is important to remember that Nietzsche and his forbears were products of modernity, not postmodernity. I know what you’re saying, because often what is referred to as ‘postmodern’ includes empty nihilist ways of thinking, but those are not really postmodern, they are ‘hypermodern’ – modernity working to its natural (and extreme) ends.

      Anything that exhibits a more nihilistic bent is likely to have roots in the latent individualism, naturalism and humanism of modernity. This would include things like pluralism, radical liberalism, and shallow notions of truth. While these are often perceived as postmodern, they are not, as they make no break with modernity, they are simply extensions of it – they are hypermodern (or ‘late-modern’, to some). Anything that IS truly ‘post’-modern, and does make a clean break with modernity (likely exhibiting many characteristics of pre-modernity), should not lead to nihilism. Jamie Smith’s book ‘Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?’ (Baker) is helpful in this regard, as is Conor Cunningham’s ‘Genealogy of Nihilism’ (Routledge).

      I’ll leave it there, just because you may see this as pointless philosophical meandering. It is semantics, but ‘postmodernism’ is often made the whipping boy for many problems which are essentially modern.

    • Radical Left

      “The Dark Knight” Represents America’s Slide into Nihilism & Decadence…

      Faith in America’s ‘greatness’ has diminished,

      along with belief in its moral values. This is no bad thing

      America’s might has been weakened. We can look forward

      to a long period of increasing decadence

      Imagine how that will disturb…

    • Bob


      I thought the theme of the movie was about moral choices. In the movie the Joker was constantly trying to prove that people always act in their own self-interest, and that there is no such thing as virtue. This was his one goal and his obsession. It also represents the Darwinist’s attempt to discount true altruism, the origin of which is impossible to explain by the theory of evolution. This is the one thing that the Joker believed in and is what motivated his actions. Of course his extreme cynicism leaves no rational room for a religion based on a substitutionary atonement.

      Batman stands in direct contrast to the Joker’s world view. He is the anti-Joker. Batman’s belief in a moral code was well-known to the Joker through his legendary crime-fighting exploits. The Joker also knew that Batman was his most worthy opponent in all of Gotham. So if he could defeat Batman, or better yet, turn him, it would be the signal triumph of the Joker’s life. If he could induce Batman even to kill him, he would achieve his goal, because Batman would have compromised his moral code. The Joker sets up circumstances that either involve mindless destruction or place people in ethical dilemmas. These dilemmas are like thought experiments, but dramatized in movie action. In the end the popularity of the move may be attributed to the kind of philosophical questions it raises that affect our everyday lives in the world we live. Heath Leger’s portrayal of the Joker was so believable that I cannot help but think that his experience in becoming this role brought on such a state of despair that left him vulnerable to the events that led to his death.

    • Scott Breiding

      I thought the movie, overall, was great. I was disappointed, however, to see what i (and others) perceived as moral relativism. Batman said something along the lines that the people needed something more than the truth. It seemed that the movie, to me, was pushing a moral relativistic agenda with the compromises Batman was making concerning truth.

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