“The Dark Knight” — the new Batman movie — make $155 million over the weekend. One cannot help wondering what sort of message the movie reflects in us considering its vast amounts of spilled guts, buckets of blood and unmitigated gore. How do we contend with the strange, inhuman, joy found in the shared popularity of public killings?
When the indiscriminate assassin “The Joker” — played by Heath Ledger — murders his way through the movie, and young people attend the movie dressed as that killer, do you find revulsion in the glorification of the mindless slaughter of innocent citizens placed on the flickering screen for profit and movie making?
I am not the only one publicly wondering about the terrible message we are knifing against each other in the name of public entertainment:
Folger, 44, of Tulsa, thought she was taking her family to a superhero film in the vein of Hancock, a breezy action film that, like Knight, is rated PG-13.
Instead, she found herself squirming during several scenes.
“This is not a regular comic-book movie,” says Folger, who took her husband and two children, ages 11 and 14. “I know it’s a good movie, but it should have been rated R.”
If movies are a current, cultural, reflection of our values and morality — how do we come to terms with the record-setting box office returns for “The Dark Knight” without confessing, with the same breathless fascination, that we prefer to watch criminality test justice and bloodshed instead of kindness?
When I was growing up, my “Joker” was Cesar Romero — a buffoonish cartoon of a criminal who was easily defeated by Batman and goodness and the American Way. If a culture changes us, or if we rot the culture — I am horrified to know how the new “Joker” sets a fresher American Standard for Wholesome, record-breaking, cultural touchstones pretending to be True Art.
The most disturbing aspect of “The Dark Knight” is the intentional, and uneasy, appeal to children in its viral advertising campaign that can be viewed nightly on television.
In one particularly onerous advertisement, a young woman from Domino’s Pizza is racing through the streets of Gotham City in her car. She is being chased by bad guys shooting at her and trying to steal her pizza by killing her. They rip the door off her car. She careens her attackers into a fiery crash just before she arrives at her delivery destination… which just happens to be a slimy warehouse.
As the warehouse door opens, we are astonished to see the fresh-scrubbed-and-proper Domino’s delivery girl is bringing her “Gotham City Pizza” to the Joker’s lair as part of Domino’s “The Dark Knight Deal.”
When the Joker’s goons answer the door in horrifying masks, our blithe delivery girl smiles and says to the creeps, “The Joker owes me a new car.”
I could not believe the horrendous bad taste left in my mouth as I wondered who in the world that Domino’s pizza advertisement was meant to attract.
The good guys or the bad guys?
Are we supposed to be impressed that Domino’s doesn’t discriminate in its delivery practices and even killers like the Joker deserve an on-time delivery from Domino’s in under 30 minutes?
Who thought up that mass mess of mixing the Joker with Domino’s pristine, religious, founding?
Domino’s, in case you don’t know, was founded by Thomas Monaghan, a devoutly religious Roman Catholic, who felt so strongly about his faith — and in the disintegration of American Morality — that he donated hundreds of millions to create his own religious university and dogmatic town in order to found his own “Christian Utopia:”
After selling his interest in Domino’s, Monaghan used upwards of
$450-million constructing Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida, a
“Catholic town” he designed and built from scratch. After being
threatened with a lawsuit by the ACLU, Monaghan backed off on plans to
have his town ban adult videos, raunchy cable TV channels, and the sale
of condoms and birth control pills at drug stores.
It doesn’t matter if Monaghan is still involved in the daily business of Domino’s or not — his legacy is in that pizza chain and the money spent to build his Catholic utopia was minted with Domino’s coin — and we who remember, know there is a moral decay growing in America, and we are offended by Domino’s sponsorship of “The Dark Knight” because their goodwill only helps that immoral carbuncle grow and fester deeper into the cancerous hearts of good people and hopeful children the world over.
We must be morally responsible for our entertainment — as well as our pizza advertising — and we must re-take that first bold step of owning our lives by vowing, as a community, to never again celebrate murder and hopelessness with our hard-earned dollars.
We must instead be vigilant in all future efforts to discriminately degrade the street value of violence as commerce in society and to begin to celebrate again our internal memes of joyousness and happiness that are then publicly expressed in kind acts we give to each other — without the expectation of reciprocity… or a knife across the throat… or the false promise of a pizza delivered in “30 minutes or less.”