Aug 24, 2008

All I have to say about the ChiCom Olympics 

Having watched both the opening and closing ceremonies, where the dirty ChiComs raised and lowered the Olympic Flag with a military color guard, I must now ask the following: if America did the same, at what speed would the world community lose it's collective shite and call us imperialists who were militarizing and politicizing the games?

A: The speed of sound
B: The speed of light
C: The speed of thought
D: Ludicrous speed


Aug 23, 2008

Not a day goes by... 

...that don't I thank Christ that I joined the Corps and not "Brand X" over there. But after giving the berets to everybody I guess this was the logical next step... or something.

tip o' the hat beret ... ahhh... cover to Wollf

Aug 19, 2008

And... there went my lunch... 

Clicking here only recommended for the iron stomached.

You were warned.

Aug 4, 2008

The prodigal blogger 

His Holiness, the Crowe, returns at long last! His run over at RedState may prove to be a rather short series, but I can always hope it morphs into a full-blown case of blogging by one of this blog's oldest and best friends.

Aug 2, 2008

Just to clarify 

I've noticed some of the commenters seemed to be under the impression that I was back in Iraq after taking a break here in the States. But I assure you, I'm home. At least until the next time...

America is still Batman 

A week ago Rush Limbaugh spent nearly a half hour on his show considering a Wall Street Journal article that compared Batman to President Bush. Even a review at the UK’s Times Online admitted to the post-9/11 vibe of the latest film, though saying it was “heavy-handed” and “wearisome” while only giving the film two stars out of five. But then what the hell does that guy know – he attributed one of the most important lines of the whole movie to the wrong character, so he most likely had his head up his ass while he was in the theater.

There are two ways to look at this: either I was on the laser etched cutting edge of things with my original assessment two years ago, or The Dark Knight is so palpably heavy with allusions to today’s real world threats that it can’t be overlooked no matter how hard you try. I would submit that both are in fact the case.

If you’ve seen the film by now (and judging by the record-setting box office numbers, you have) what I am about to go into will probably come as no surprise to you. If you haven’t seen it, sorry, but thar be spoilers ahead. This was not a warning I gave during my first visit to the Batcave. I wrote that when Batman Begins had come and gone from the theaters and I had watched it for the umpteenth time on HBO – I figured if you hadn’t seen it by then, well… tough crap. If you have not seen The Dark Knight, just read my original comparison and then come back to this later. Otherwise, follow me to Bruce Wayne’s damn near pristine clean room below the Gotham Docks…

I will concede one point to the reviewer from the Times. This is a Batman film that is really driven along by every character but Batman. The Batman of this film makes fatal underestimations of his foes and appears to be more reactive than proactive for a great majority of the time. And he does things that drive away some of his closest confidants and that under other circumstances he would himself likely find distasteful. But for starters, let’s talk bad guys.

As you’ll remember, I previously stated that if America was Batman, then the rest of the world could be divvied up into very basic Batman categories, and I think that my original assignments hold up well for the most part. I said “If America IS Batman, then places like North Korea, Iran, China – these are the bad guys. Break ‘em down however you like. Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Scarecrow, what have you.” The one thing I could not have foreseen at the time, however, was what writers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan were planning on doing with the Joker. And what Heath Ledger brought to life is unquestionably the very personification of terrorism.

If America is Batman, then the Joker cannot be equated to a state aggressor of some type. He is instead a borderless entity who follows no discernable set of rules. He is a mayhem machine, his only desire carnage. In short, he stands in for al-Qaeda… or Hamas… or Hezbollah… or… well, freaking pick one. Within the confines of the film itself he is referred to as a terrorist. And as such he gleefully does things unthinkable even to other hardened criminals. He happily shows his face to the security cameras that he knows Batman and the Gotham PD will later check, basically daring them – “come get me”. He makes torture tapes and sends them to the press. He dresses his gang as hostages and puts clown masks on the real hostages so they’ll look like kidnappers in an attempt to get the police to first kill innocents, and then lure the cops in to get killed themselves when they come to release the “prisoners”. And just like his real world terrorist counterparts, he kills people and then says that their deaths are Batman’s (America’s) fault because Batman wouldn’t do what he told him. As Alfred states “Some men aren't looking for anything logical... They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

I posed this to my Bro, who went to see the film with me. “But,” he said, “how can that be? That doesn’t fit the profile of say, a Hezbollah. If Israel was wiped off the map and they actually got a Palestinian state, wouldn’t they quit? I mean that’s what they want right?” “Sure,” I replied. “That’s what they say they want. But you forget the Joker’s own words. ‘I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do if I caught one.’

The worldwide Islamic jihad IS that dog chasing cars, just like the Joker. Sure, if the caliphate is reestablished and the entirety of the dar al-Harb passes into the dar al-Islam, then they’ll finally have what they want… right? But then what? Do they know? Does anyone?

The true jihadists, the hardcore, committed freaks like bin Laden and Zawahiri don’t go back to being the businessmen and doctors of their youth. And their followers, who’ve been raised now for decades on a steady diet of “Death to America” won’t have something to go back to. They won’t return home to the family farm if they’ve been shooting AK’s and building IEDs since they were 6. They’ll keep doing the one thing they know how to do: kill. They’ll just have to find a new excuse to do it to someone else. Probably someone who is Islamic, but not Islamic enough.

But it’s truly through his interactions with Two-Face that we can confirm how the Joker equals jihadis.

My original assessment of Two-Face (excellently portrayed by Aaron Eckhart in a performance sadly destined to be forever overshadowed by Ledger) had him as a stand-in for Iraq. I must clarify that Harvey Dent and Harvey Two-Face need to be treated as two entirely separate characters. This is not to say that Harvey Dent was “pre-invasion Iraq,” but Harvey Two-Face is almost certainly “post-invasion” in the sense that he became exceedingly lethal only after having been whipped up into a frenzy by the Joker. Like Iraq, once his head is filled with the words of true terrorists he sets his sights on hurting the men who were actually working to save him.

Harvey Dent, the virtuous, hard-nosed District Attorney, on the other hand, is referred to repeatedly as “Gotham’s White Knight.” In him, we see everything we want the savior of our city to be. He’s tough, he doesn’t back down, and he works within the law to defeat the bad guys. Sure, when Batman goes and snatches a criminal back from Hong Kong (in what can only be described as a nod at extraordinary rendition), Dent smilingly claims, “Hey, I don’t know how he got here, but he’s here and I’m gonna prosecute his ass.” In Dent, Batman sees someone who could finish the fight that he started and might allow him to hang up the cape and stop keeping ungodly hours out in the shadows. Harvey Dent - the White Knight - is America… at least he’s the America we’d like to be. While Batman - the Dark Knight - is the America we are.

And this is a Batman much more highly conflicted about his role than ever before. He’s an inspiration to novice crime-fighters, but they are sometimes more dangerous than helpful. He ends up using military-grade technology to temporarily invade the privacy of every citizen of Gotham in his search for the Joker. He works outside the law when it prevents others from catching criminals. He even beats up the Joker during an interrogation when time is of the essence. But he desperately wants to be done with all that and turn over the reins of crime fighting to Dent.

And the role of the Westernized World is… handed off. You see, this whole theory of mine started out based on some lines from Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend Rachel in the first film. She represented the West. Massive spoiler alert!!!: she dies in this flick. But the role that her character filled in Batman Begins is even more fully realized here as it is shifted onto the entire population of Gotham.

Once the Joker starts laying out ultimatums for Batman, the populace calls for Batman to give up… and he considers it. In the ultimate hat tip to the “blame America first” crowd, he actually begins chastising himself for murders perpetrated by the Joker. And he does himself no favors in a fight against a man without rules by having certain lines that he absolutely will not cross and - more importantly - that everyone knows he will not cross. In short, he has a rep for playing hard but not playing dirty, and the Joker intends to exploit the hell out of that one chink in Batman’s armor.

And by the end of it all, the Joker is contained but not truly defeated, Harvey Dent is dead but is revered as an ideal that should be lived up to, and the citizenry of Gotham considers Batman a criminal even though he has been doing and will continue to do everything in his power to keep harm from ever befalling them. Along with Alfred’s line about watching the world burn, Dent gets to deliver one of the other ultimate truths of the film: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Has Batman become the villain? No. But perception equates to reality for the masses who don't know the full story.

America is still Batman. Still the one doing the thankless job. Still the one blamed for evil acts done by others. Still the one that will fight to make sure that the protected can live to curse our existence. We may not be the hero the people of Gotham want or even need right now, but we’re the one they’ve got and the one they deserve. So you can still say it and mean it – I’m Batman.

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