Are you a victim?

Posted by Whit Barringer , Wednesday, July 30, 2008 1:42 PM

Better hope you're not.


Andrew Klavan Misses the Point: Why The Dark Knight is Not Allegory for the Bush Administration

Posted by Whit Barringer , Tuesday, July 29, 2008 9:05 AM


Before I get to the substance of my post, it's worth mentioning that there are a lot of people out there who have had a shot at trying to discuss Batman on an ideological level, and among them are greater writers than myself (Matthew Yglesias and Spencer Ackerman, for example). But when Klavan's analysis of the movie was brought to my attention, I could only shake my head. I felt (and feel) that he completely missed the point of the movie. To be fair, Klavan doesn't posit that the entire movie is allegory, but I don't think you can take the character out of the movie as if it were a vacuum.

Andrew Klavan:

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand.
See, this is only the third paragraph, and it's already gone awry. The thing is, Batman isn't vilified and despised for confronting criminals on their terms because that's not what he does. He's vilified in the beginning for being a vigilante, which is against the law, but the public comes to accept him and depend on him. His presence is a benefit, and people know that. There is a scene in the movie where Harvey Dent has almost snapped after an attempt on the mayor's life and has kidnapped one of the suspects to interrogate him. He threatens him with a gun and flips his coin to see the fate of his victim. At that point, all we know is that Dent has reached the limits of the law, and that he might fall off the edge into the abyss of vengeance. When Batman stops him from making the biggest mistake of his life, we find out all of his threatening was for naught because Dent assumed something that wasn't true.

Do you see where I'm going with this? In our world, Bush threatens and executes (not quite literally, but close enough), bandying about a gun with no Batman to stop him. In Gotham, Dent threatens and almost executes, bandying about a gun with the Dark Knight there in the nick of time to stop a fatal error. This is only reinforced by the rest of the movie after that point. When Batman has a chance to kill the Joker, he doesn't. When Batman has a chance to end the life of the lead mob boss, he doesn't. What Andrew Klavan misses is that Batman, unlike Bush, doesn't push the limit because he knows it opens a gate that he cannot close. Take this passage from the graphic novel Under the Hood when Batman has the chance to kill the Joker once and for all:
For years a day hasn't gone by where I haven't envisioned taking him... taking him and spending an entire month putting him through the most horrendous , mind-boggling forms of torture. All of it building to an end with him broken, butchered and maimed... pleading - screaming - in the worst kind of agony as he careens into a monstrous death... I want him dead - maybe more than I've ever wanted anything. But if I do that, if I allow myself to go down into that place... I'll never come back.
Bush, with his pushing on the limits of constitutional law and international treaties, doesn't understand that the limits were there in the first place to stop men like him.

But back to Mr. Klavan:
Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.
We're still in the third paragraph, people. This is what I was talking about when I said that the laws were in place to stop men like Bush. And to this statement, we can turn to Harvey Dent again. There's a scene where Bruce Wayne is trying to figure out if he can trust Dent. When prompted about the caped crusader, Dent says that Batman is needed, and refers to the fact that old Rome, when faced with danger, would do away with all traces of democracy and appoint a single leader to lead through the "emergency." To which Rachel points out that the last leader they appointed was Julius Caesar, and that "he never gave up that power." Even after pointing that out, Harvey still holds fast to his belief that sometimes it's the right thing to do.

Even Batman doubts himself every once in a while. Harvey Dent is more of a cutthroat than we believe he is. He is willing to offer up power to one man as long as it keeps people safe. Just like Caesar, this person may wield this power to himself, but at least there is no danger. To Klavan's credit, Bruce Wayne nods at Dent's sentiment. However, I believe this is only because Wayne knows he can trust Dent after he said those things - not because he necessarily agrees that one man should hold all of the keys.

Here again Bush is more Dent than Wayne. Bush has worked very hard to consolidate power into his position without realizing what would happen if and (probably) when it backfired. Now the country hates him, and will more than likely swing the other way in an election, taking power away from those he labored so hard to give it to. As has been said many times by now, the next president will have more power than ever before, and all due to the machinations of George W. Bush. He gambled the Harvey Dent way and is ultimately going to lose.

To drive that point home even more, there is a point where Batman has somehow managed to tap every cellphone in the city. Lucius Fox despises the technology, but Batman has made it something destructible and undoable, and is looking for something specific. When the Bush Administration did somewhat of the same thing, they cast the net so wide that it caught considerably more than it ever should have. Will wiretapping ever go away? Probably not. But Batman was able to do it without it becoming a conscious part of society, without infringing on the rights of others, and with a target in mind. No, I'm not saying it's right. But there is definitely a difference. Bush may say the target is terrorists, but just how many can he say the government has caught, and how many innocent people has it stepped on along the way?

Almost forgot that Andrew's still talking:
And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society -- in which people sometimes make the wrong choices -- and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.
Right about now, it's obvious that Andrew and I are totally ideologically different. But aside from that, this is where he is most correct in the entire piece. He's right that Batman sees the world in black and white, but he forgets that the Joker steadily chips away at this resolve. The Joker's bad, yes, but Batman sees every man as having an understandable motive. The Joker must want money, power, fame - something that other men want, right? Yet we learn quickly that the Joker is not just another man, and that his motives aren't those of other men.

Klavan is consistently striking the same spot with the hammer, but he is completely missing the nail. Batman learns that his perceptions of the world cannot be definite, and that Batman may be "incorruptible" as the Joker calls him, but he is still learning that the world is not in black and white. But there is something else here that Klavan overlooks in order to make his point.

There is a scene when the Joker has rigged two ferries to blow - one carries criminals from the prison, the other carries normal citizens. They've been given the detonator to one another's ferry, and they have to hurry in case the other ferry decides to save itself and blow up the other. To try and not spoil it, I'm going to quote MightyGodKing's "One sentence review":
There are many reasons to see The Dark Knight, many of which have been repeated elsewhere many times over, but I will merely say this: any movie starring Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman which trusts one of its most powerful and emotional moments to Tiny Lister [article], and makes it work perfectly, is a movie that is a cut above.
Meanwhile, Joker and Batman are trading jabs. The Joker says that one of them will blow the other up. Batman (who we assume knows who are on the boats) says that he's wrong and that nothing is going to happen. The Joker is betting that human nature is violent, while Batman is betting that people are good and will do the right thing.

I won't say who's right in this battle of philosophy, but who wins isn't the point anyway. In this scene, the Joker is betting on instinct, a "better-you-than-me, guts-over-brains, feral cat in a corner, life on the line, survival autopilot" kind of instinct where anything goes. He's also betting on paranoia to aid his plans. The Model Citizens constantly assess that their lives are worth more than those of criminals, and that since they are inherently the scum of the earth, they will detonate the bomb first. They work themselves into assurance before they even begin contemplating the actual deed. Yet the Joker didn't account for the societal programming in each Model Citizen. For crying out loud, the Model Citizen Ferry even takes a vote on whether they should detonate the Criminal Scum Ferry, and they still waffle.

Shocking Bottom Line: In this scene, Bush most resembles the Joker. Bush has been betting on paranoia, raising threat levels, constantly reminding that Al Qaeda is right behind you, provoking gut responses by saying our children are in danger. The Joker sees the world as most like himself when it's in its most primitive form - fragile, shallow order on indestructible, deep chaos. While I don't think Bush is chaotic, I do believe that this may be how he sees the world. After all, he is the closest we've ever come to an outright evangelical president, and many conservative evangelicals believe that the world is an evil place. What is more evil than absolute chaos?

Am I overreaching and becoming too psychoanalytical? Perhaps. But think of this: if Bush were a betting man, and he were placed in that situation, would he have faith that they would do the right thing? Or would he bet on one or the other as the most likely to detonate first? Considering how the world sees men in orange jumpsuits, I can guess who he could have bet on.

Yet this is where the movie turns real world logic on its head. The fact that the scene goes the length to point out there is redeeming value in everyone, even criminals, shows that it wasn't trying to make allegory for anything the Bush Administration has done. When you believe in absolute evil (which is debatable whether Batman does or not), and that people cannot be redeemed, or that when they are reduced, they will choose not to redeem themselves, you become rigid in a fluid world. The Bush Administration, and even conservatism in general, are the rocks in the river. They believe once a criminal, always a criminal. But there are flaws in this worldview. As with the deathrow inmate who tries to prevent children from taking his path, or the prisoners who (some of which) were just in the wrong place and the wrong time, seeing the world as inherently evil and stubbornly making decisions on this non-fact is dangerous and hardly without consequences. Even Batman consistently believes in the redeeming value of criminals, as Jason Todd, one of Batman's Robin sidekicks, met Batman while stealing the hubcaps off of the Batmobile.

Non-Shocking Bottom Line: Andrew Klavan doesn't get it, but he tries really hard anyway.

The rest of the article devolves into "crazy liberal Hollywood needs to let more conservatives direct," as if Chris Nolan was card-carrying member of the RNC (he may well be, but I don't think anybody really knows that). If you want to see what people say about the rest, I suggest going to see MightyGodKing's post "Well, if Dick Cheney's the penguin..." Matt Yglesias responded to the article as a whole here.

(crossposted at vdcc.net)

In Vogue - REDUX

Posted by Whit Barringer , Sunday, July 27, 2008 1:42 PM

BWAHA.



Goooood stuff.

The Big News.

Posted by Whit Barringer , Wednesday, July 23, 2008 1:42 PM

Alright. I've been alluding to some major goings-on. I waited because I didn't want to say something and not have proof, but gone are those days. Here's the news, almost verbatim from where I broke the news earlier this week.


I know a lot of you remember that I took Donna's Core IV media criticism class. Well, I kept up my site (now at vdcc.net) and applied for a job at a site called ObsessedwithFilm.com. The ad said it paid, but that turns out to be in "exp" rather than "gil" (sorry).

Anyway, the guy read my review of WALL-E, and immediately offered me the job.

Well, two weeks after that, my first review is finally up on the site. I'd appreciate all of the comments you guys can muster. I hope to review a more serious/less a "waste of my money that won't be reimbursed" movie next time, for a but at least this time around I hope everyone can at least be supportive that I've made it to the equivalent of benchwarming in the minor leagues. Yay!

Here's the review: Mamma Mia!

And for other reviews with considerably more feeling, including The Dark Knight, WALL-E, Civilization Revolution, and more, go to my site at VDCC.net. I'm trying to grow it into something worthwhile, and would appreciate all of your help. And for those of you who don't use RSS, email subscriptions are available too. :)

Sorry if this seems like a shameless advertisement, but this is the best thing that's happened all summer (the review on OWF) accompanied with the most revived thing I've poured my energy into this summer (vdcc.net). Even though the website who published is going through some rough transitions and even rougher reviews, it still feels like an accomplishment I should share.

Well, there you have it. My good news.

And yes, I'm excited.

The Grad Bag

Posted by Whit Barringer 11:13 AM

Drumroll, please.

Here are my top grad school choices, in list form.

1. University of Texas at Austin
2. Vanderbilt University
3. University of Oklahoma
4. University of Chicago
5. Harvard

Yes. That's right. Harvard is my fifth choice. Ho ho!

Time for some funny.

Posted by Whit Barringer , Monday, July 21, 2008 1:43 PM

Best of Dr. Cox from Season One of Scrubs. For your viewing and laughing pleasure.

An intriguing course of action.

Posted by Whit Barringer , Friday, July 18, 2008 12:10 PM

How far should we go to hold our leaders accountable? I'm willing to say as far as we f***ing have to, but I'm willing to be reasonable and not pursue people like the hound from hell. Yet there are times when leaders flout their position, deem themselves untouchable, and just in general piss people off. Karl Rove is one of those people.

Now people are calling for his arrest.



An intriguing proposition. What do you all think? Should they just leave it be or put him in jail? It's true - he should be held in contempt. But who is really at work here? Rove? Or the Administration? Who's to be held accountable?

If you are intrigued enough, you can go here and sign the petition.

Well, damn.

Posted by Whit Barringer , Thursday, July 17, 2008 1:25 AM

Ever work really hard on something for someone, only to be told that it's not needed anymore? See the products of those efforts on the newest review over at VDCC.

In other news, I plan on seeing The Dark Knight tomorrow night, and Mamma Mia this weekend. Any news on either?

Summer Project: 80% Done.

Posted by Whit Barringer , Tuesday, July 15, 2008 9:03 AM

Things are looking up for a second or two, and have been so for the last week. In that spirit, I figured if I was ever going to finish the computer project I'd started, now's the time.

So, after eight hours of frustrating yet educational work, my computer.... almost works. The power supply works. The motherboard works. The processor works. The fans work (though the one in front needs a bit of a nudge before it kicks on - I'm okay with that). But I got no picture, man. I think it's the video card - either it's a dud and doesn't work or I'm a dud and don't know how to make it work. I'm going to transfer my graphics card over from my old computer so I'll have a control test to see if it will produce a picture. If so, then the card's a dud and I need a new one. Who knows at this point.

But yes, I worked on the damn thing from 6 P.M. to past 2 A.M. with only a break for a dinner salad with my grandmother. You know what, though? As long as it's the two year old graphics card that I bought for less than $200 at the time that is now obsolete is the only thing wrong, I'm alright with the world and the world's alright with me.

I'm planning on going to see Hellboy II tonight. Anybody have an opinion on it?

If I've died, I don't know where I've gone.

Posted by Whit Barringer , Thursday, July 10, 2008 11:46 PM

Life is topsy turvy at the moment. Everything's up and down, and sometimes at the same time. My job has been at a questionable point for quite a while, but a meeting helped to reset the feelings that had grown hard with time. Also, I got to go through a magazine to pick out things to order for two days straight. I hadn't had so much fun in months. I swear to God I should have been an accountant.

Otherwise, I don't get a stimulus check because my mother claimed me on her taxes, yet money seems to still be in good supply this summer despite my depending on that check - which is more than many can say. The VDCC Top 30 countdown is going well, but looking forward to each entry seems to make my weeks go by faster. People, it's mid-July. Where the hell did the time go?

I'm going to have some big news coming up (though I'm going to wait until it's definitely official before I tell you) that I'm very excited about, but I'm also apprehensive - as I am with all new steps. But I have hopes that this step could ultimately help to curb the impending doom I so carefully outlined before. Like one of my friends says when quoting The Hold Steady, I need to stay positive.

Oh yeah, and the last best/worst thing.

Coheed and Cambria, my favorite band with my number one favorite lead singer and future artistic collaborator (I almost said "husband", but I didn't want to seem too hopeful), Claudio Sanchez, are doing the most amazing epic music spectacle to grace the prog-rock stage in many moons. They are going to play four nights, and each night they are going to play every song from their albums.

The catch?


Those four concerts are in New York and Los Angeles. How disappointing. My mom gave me a friendly/playfull nudge saying that maybe I could afford to do a Fun Fare if I plan enough in advance, but I doubt that it could happen. Oh, but if it could, though. How often does this happen? Honestly? Jeebus.

Anyway, I've got three reviews coming up soon for VDCC. I don't know when I'm going to finish the Washington Journals, but I promise I'll do it soon. I've got some free time coming up this weekend that, while I'm not playing Civilization Revolution, I will work on.

Gaze into this... thing.

Posted by Whit Barringer , Monday, July 07, 2008 12:55 AM

Look at the black dot in the middle. Don't look away, and watch the colors disappear.


Found here.

In Need.

Posted by Whit Barringer , Friday, July 04, 2008 12:26 AM

I've been better, I've been worse. The days at the museum are long and tedious, and my life seems to reflect that now. Nothing's really exciting at the moment, and nothing seems to be positive either.

Then I talk to my grandmother today, and things get worse. I already knew that Medicare faces a 10% cut due to a Republican block in the Senate. I already knew that it was going to have an adverse affect on my family unless people figure out how to fix it. But then worse news came. Gran gives a sort of home health service for the elderly who cannot help themselves. Last week, she lost one of her jobs, but was able to pick up a new one that will take up a bit of the slack. Then, her other couple, whom she's been watching for about a year now, decided that it was time to go into assisted living - meaning she lost that job as well.

I have applied for a few jobs for weekends during the school year, which I didn't want to do but I don't see a choice if we're going to survive. Yet I know what's going to happen if I do this. I'll implode, like I did several times this last year, and I will be at another unhappy point in what is supposed to be the best years of my life. But it's beyond the point of each family member taking care of herself. There is a very tense reliance-defiance relationship amongst each member of my family, alive or dead, old or young. We need each other, but we don't want each other, and the resentment builds with each lent hand, no matter if it's loaning money or paying it back. There's a sense of entitlement that can only be so sincere when people love each other because of blood and few other connections. We are all three different people, with different motives, with different understanding, of how we work.

Now the time has come for me to make a decision. I can save my body, mind, and sanity and hope for the best that my 66-year-old grandmother, with her multiple health problems, can make it without my help, and I will live my own life and look back only to wave and smile. Or I can take the hard route that will burn, hurt, and leave me breathless from now until I'm finally able to leave, whenever that would be. The worst thing about all of this? I know which way I have to go, and it hurts to think of what that means for my future.

I have to help them. Times are tough now, I know that. And I also know that I have no idea how hard they can get, and I'm not prepared. But I know I can't sit by while my grandmother is reduced to eating one meal a day and never going to the doctor. I love her, and I can't bear to see her suffer.

I'm looking for ideas. I can write. I can brainstorm. I can lay bricks. I can do something, and I can do it soon. I want to be able to do something that will give me time with my family, so that I'm not squandering what time I have left to spend with them.

I'm not asking for in-roads and favors. I'm asking for ideas, work, and jobs that I can win on my own merit.

Thank you.

Fun with Music!

Posted by Whit Barringer , Wednesday, July 02, 2008 9:18 PM

As is everyday with me, this is apparently Opposite Day. Of course I don't feel like staying away after I say so! Don't you know any better by now?

Anyway, I've been listening to the craptastic single "Damaged" by the craptastic "singing group" Danity Kane (I suppose they are called so because it is somewhat bad marketing to call them the "engineered sound bite group").

Moving on, I thought we could have fun with the music, and make it as fun and educational as possible - for you and the kids! Here's how it works: take the lyrics of "Damaged" and replace one word with a sound. Yes, that's right. Just replace the word "heart", which appears in the song twelve times (not counting when it's spelled), with the sound "unh." If that's not your style, you can say "mm", too. It helps to wiggle your eyebrows a little bit. With such placement, you can get classic phrase like this:

Do, Do you got a first aid kit handy?
Do, Do you know how to patch up a wound?
Tell me,
are you patient,
understanding?
Cause I might need some time to clear the hole in my unh/mm and I
I've tried every remedy
And nothing seems to work for me
Baby, (baby)
this situation is driving me crazy
And I really wanna be your lady
But the one before you left me so
Damaged, damaged
Damaged, damaged
I thought that I should let you know
That my unh/mm is
Damaged, damaged
So Damaged
And you can blame the one before
So how you gonna fix it, fix it, fix it [cont. ad nauseum.]
Later on in the song, there's this gem:
My unh/mm is missing some pieces
I need this puzzle put together again.
That's right! Change one word, and you've got a song about sex safety! Why tell the kids that it's unsafe to have unprotected sex with multiple partners? Let this song tell them for you. Suddenly a horrible and unrelateable song about a first aid kit fixing heart ache is now about getting a hole in your "unh" from a particular horrible former sex partner, and how you'll have to tell every future partner about the hole in your "unh" forever - because it's not curable.

Thanks, Danity Kane, for making those parent-child conversations so much easier!

"Your destiny... is in the stars."

Posted by Whit Barringer 9:02 PM

Adding a little flair to their design, Nintendo put really bright stars under some of the letters. You know, kind of like putting on a little eyeliner to bring out the eyes. Except this time... something strange is afoot. Look at the letters the really bright stars are under.



Can you make it out? Take a closer look.




Look carefully under the letters U, R, M, R, G, A, and Y.

Yes. That's right. UR MR GAY. Best to tell the parents soon.

Thanks to my friend Matt for pointing this out to me.