Throughout the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight, whenever I was brave enough to actually look at the screen (if you are as sensitive as I am to horrible images, I recommend you not going), I kept on thinking what a coward Batman is.
At one point in the movie you see Batman shooting some bad guys with a machine gun. The machine gun feels wrong to you and so you quickly realize that it’s not him, but an impostor. You just know, even if you aren’t a Batman expert, that Batman would never leave home with a gun.
Batman seems to be trained well enough to be able to, for the most part, attack the bad guys, put them out of commission, but kill minimally. So um, how long are they out of commission for?
He has at least two opportunities in the movie to kill the Joker – the ultimate, horrifying bad guy – and he doesn’t. Every time that kind of thing happens in (American) movies – and it happens all the time – I get so angry. And scared. It boggles my mind to think that this is who many of Western civilization consider to be the good guy. The man who stands up to evil but, when he has the chance, does not fully rid us of it. If he had killed the Joker when he had the chance, many, many more people would not have been killed.
As I was thinking this, I wondered, if Batman had taken a gun and shot the Joker in the head while the Joker was hopeless, how would I have felt? I admit it would have made me feel uncomfortable. Besides the fact that suddenly the plot would just have had nowhere to continue to (unless people would be interested in seeing the rebuilding of the city), it would have been hard to watch.
But that, in my opinion, only means that I am a coward too.
On July 17th 2008, Naomi Ragen wrote an absolutely amazing article about this. She talks about how in civilized terms, it is wrong to kill even the most heinous criminals and terrorists. Especially during that moment when they are helpless. Instead, we put them in jail (as Batman so stupidly does). The only time Batman is willing to kill a really bad guy is when the bad guy has a gun to a child’s head. Yes, of course it has to be a child’s head.
Naomi talks about the evil we have to keep facing, and that keeps killing us, because we don’t firmly stand up against it. So many people are killed in the movie because Batman doesn’t want blood on his hands. But in the end, isn’t it obvious that the blood of all those killed after Batman had the chance to kill the Joker but didn’t are on his hands?
In the Torah (the Jewish Bible) we are commanded to kill all of Amalek (men, women and children). I am sure that most people who study this portion feel uneasy about such a commandment and are probably pretty relieved that we don’t really know who Amalek is today so we don’t have to worry about doing it. But there is something we are supposed to be learning from this, even today when we cannot necessarily fully fulfill the actual commandment. Evil must be taken seriously. It must be fully rid of.
To think that Batman is a hero is really terrifying. And it is a perfect example of what is going on today. We hate the idea of getting blood on our hands. And so we allow more and more innocent people to be killed and terrorized instead.
I would think that the most important thing right now is to stop the killing and terror, wouldn’t you?