THE DARK KNIGHT wasn't as dark as I expected. Or maybe I mean evil. But not because it didn't try to be.
I was afraid of the impact it might have on young minds, or weak minds. And I still think it could cause some of them to see evil as amusing, even enticing.
But it's too muddled actually to cause the kind of direct bad that I believe some movies do.
I have arguments about this a lot, and have my whole life.
Some folks find it strange, that a guy who has fought against censorship, for the First Amendment, and embraced some dark subjects and experiences in my own writing and in the writing of friends like Hubert Selby Jr., would get angry over movies I feel can sometimes cause audience members to do evil things they might otherwise not.
That's a little broad, but that's the kind of arguments I do get into sometimes.
After the flick THE BELIEVERS came out back in the '80s, and I saw it with my teenage kids at the time, they couldn't understand why I was so upset about it. "It's just a movie" was their refrain. But I felt the power and seductiveness of its message, and believed it could actually cause harm.
After it came out on video, a gang of drug smuggling, murdering kidnappers were caught living on a ranch in Texas, the base of their operation. They had been kidnapping U. S. college students on vacation in Mexico and killing them for their money and their i.d.s etc.
When they were caught, the bodies of these college kids were found buried on the ranch, and the viedo of THE BELIEVERS was found in their VCR. One of the gang said their leader had them watch it repeadetly for inspiration. The film isn't precisely about their murderous activities, but it related to them, and more importantly, seemed in the end to justify them.
I don't believe that movies can create criminals, although in terms of bending youg minds toward a criminal career, I do believe that. But they certainly can influence less decisive people, or give them arguments and images and justifications for behavior that otherwise they might have been convinced was anathema.
I was afraid THE DARK KNIGHT would be like that, and to some extent it is. The line I was hearing the young people who exited the movie with me repeating most, was the one where The Joker explains why he prefers murdering his victims with a knife rather than a gun, because he enjoys watching their agony etc. etc.
Smiling young people, maybe thirteen, fifteen tops, repeating this line and laughing about it.
Most of them, I'm sure, actually do find it amusing, and nothing more. But it still gave me the creeps.
Fortunately, like I said, the actual plot of the film and the seemingly justified belief that even to do good one must do evil (some of the plot points seemed like deliberate justifications for some of the actions taken by the present administration, disregarding the constituional rights of suspects, or of citizens, in order to "protect" them etc. etc.) is so muddled I doubt many in the audience could even follow it, let alone understand it.
And it certainly is a wonder and a sad one to see how great an actor Heath Ledger is, and wonder how much greater he may have become had he not died. By the way, after playing this role, which some say had a pretty heavy negative impact on him.
It may soon be the most popular movie in the world. Seen by a lot more people than will ever see that Obama New Yorker cover, despite the internet, that seemed to have so many on the left and the right so upset.
Yeah, I know, I know, it's just a movie Michael. And if moving pictures with words could really have that kind of impact, don't you think giant corporations would be using the same devices to influence people to buy things they don't really need and do things they might otherwise never do? Oh, yeah, that's right...