Batman in Nolan’s Trilogy: hero or villain? | Part 2: The Dark Truth

Aggiornamento: 4 mar 2020

by Pietro Somaini

Part 1: Escalation begins

«“Oh, criminals in this town used to believe in things: honor, respect… Look at you, what do you believe in, eh? What do you believe in?!” “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you stranger”»

The escalation of mimetic violence has begun. The crisis erases any difference, any value; when the violence does not kill, the response is twice as dangerous (which shows its mimetic nature).

As in the first chapter of Nolan’s Trilogy, at the beginning of the second we watch a fight for the property of something, but in this case the criminals kill each other to secure control over the Mob’s money and it is definitely not a game between two children. Other difference: the whole robbery is planned by the Joker, whom has fully understood the nature of the crisis in Gotham.

Also the Joker is a Dostoyevskian character after all, just like Batman. The nemesis of the Dark Knight does not rise from Batman’s mistake, because the superhero is not super enough (following the super-human ideology), but actually the Joker is forged by Batman’s strength. The Joker is the mimetic response to Batman’s attack on Gotham’s criminality. We have shown the importance of Bruce’s decision not to kill rivals, but now we watch that «whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stranger», which is an even bigger threat: the Joker is speaking about Batman and himself.

Let’s recap the mimetic escalation: at the beginning Bruce is a victim of the fear, then he decides to turn it against his enemies, but now his enemies are drowning in fear and ask the Joker for help. He understands them, he has fully embraced the nature of the crisis. He is not crazy.

«Batman has shown Gotham your true colors, unfortunately. Dent? He’s just the beginning»

The White Knight is just the beginning: but the beginning of what? Can Gotham feel safer, more optimistic?

When Dent takes Batman’s side, it seems that Bruce’s plan might actually succeed, but the dark truth is that it has not arisen a new difference: it is created a new scapegoat hunt. The Mob, the police: during the crisis everybody wants a scapegoat to put an end to escalation. Once again, Batman does not understand. Once again, Batman does not see the full picture, but Joker does.

«“I know the truth. There’s no going back. You’ve changed things. Forever.” “Then why do you wanna kill me?” “I don’t wanna kill you. What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off Mob dealers? No, no, no. You, you complete me.” “You’re garbage who kills for money.” “Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not. Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak like me. They need you right now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out like a leper. You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll shows you: when the chips are down, these civilized people, they’ll eat each other”»

The Joker is explaining his origin (see “joke”): he is speaking about the same crisis that was brought upon Gotham by Ra’s al Ghul, in which “civilized people” and criminals are identical, only now the drug is the mimesis and ultimately Batman (see “a freak like me”).

The Joker’s plan is to impose upon everybody the sacrificial logic. If the hero himself kills like a villain, then any difference will be erased. The hero has to choose a victim, the Joker wants him to see the need of scapegoat. But who is really the hero? And who must be the scapegoat?

The Joker is able to divide Batman and Harvey Dent because of Rachel’s sacrifice: they start as allies against the crime to eventually become rivals and since that moment, precisely because of their rivalry, one of them will have to be sacrificed.

Nolan can see that there are few differences between a hero and a scapegoat:

«You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain»

At the beginning Harvey is the hero: he fights the Mob following the law and when Batman is chosen as scapegoat by the people, the White Knight takes Bruce’s place so that the Joker can be caught. Harvey is no longer a hero, when he can’t bear being a scapegoat any longer. Why him? Is it right?

«Nobody panics when things go ‘according to plan’, even if the plan is horrifying. If tomorrow I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot or a truckload of soldiers will be blowing up, nobody panics, because it’s all part of the plan. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well, then everyone loses their minds»

Only Chaos has the right to decide who must be sacrificed. «Chaos is fair» says Dent, but he just wants to mask his revenge. The escalation gets worse: if the Joker is the mimetic response to Batman, Two-Face is the mimetic response to Joker; but the Joker (like the Scarecrow in the first film) is fully aware of the madness he causes.

Also the whole Gotham is tested by Joker’s social experiment, like Harvey. And something has really changed, as Batman hoped: people refuse the sacrificial logic. In this case a new identity arises between criminals and “civilized people”: even if at first the violence seems to make everyone identical again, when everybody is ready to sacrifice the other, in the end everyone – a criminal first – recognizes the real identity behind those differences that justify the violence.

The real threat is Two-Face now. Precisely when Gotham has won over the Joker and is ready to emerge from the crisis, its hero becomes an executioner and Batman needs to kill him. This part of Joker’s plan succeeds. The solution is that Harvey goes back to be the scapegoat and the dark truth is hidden by a “white lie”. It is necessary a new villain, a fake mimetic response to the White Knight to justify a new mimetic reaction against the evil: the Dark Knight, the real scapegoat to hunt.

Part 3: The Dark Truth rises

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