Tuesday, August 12, 2008

11 ’Av 5768: International Youth Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Georgia: Ceasefire and Withdrawal Now!”

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:

  1. “The ‘next Satanic Verses’ shelved for fear of stirring up Islamic extremists”: Shame on Random House for crumbling for fear that Muslims may become violent! This is a society in which we have freedom of speech, not freedom from perceived insult. If the rest of us have no right to be never offended, then neither do the Muslims. Let them protest if they want, but if they get violent, the violence is their fault, not anyone else’s.
  2. “Italy’s black cats disappear in record numbers as Satanic rituals increase”: There is plenty of offensive material in Anton Szandor LaVey’s books, but nothing advocating sacrificing black cats.
  3. “Arizona: Court Allows Fake Snow Opposed by Tribes”: Exactly how is putting fake snow made from waste water on a sacred mountain not supposed to be religiously offensive? Legal or not, this idea is in extremely bad taste.
  4. “Bush Stresses Religion in China”: Nice for Bush to talk about the need for religious freedom in China. Now let’s see him actually do something about it.
  5. “Eritrea: Christian Students Shut Into Shipping Containers”: China is not the only country with hypocritical attitudes on religion, claiming religious freedom while being religiously oppressive. I find the excuse of Christianity being not patriotic particularly pathetic.

Today’s news and commentary:

Today’s weird thing is a guest commentary, included below. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


An open letter to Christopher Nolan

Dear Mr. Nolan,

Congratulations on the making of The Dark Knight. With all the reviews out, I don’t need to add any more praise on top of the heaps already out there. Heath Ledger (who played the Joker) will undoubtedly win a posthumous Oscar and the movie will make a vast amount of money. Obviously a sequel will be in the works and I am eagerly looking forward to it.

So where to go from here?

With The Dark Knight being such an artistic as well as financial achievement, the fans will be expecting something much better than the average superhero movie. I think everyone is in agreement that we want something good. One of the great strengths of the rebooted franchise so far has been its grounding in reality, how it takes the fantastic world of comic books and makes it almost credible, particularly as far as psychology goes. What follows are some suggestions along these lines. There are offered freely, with no claim of ownership. My only concern is that the next movie continue with the franchise keeping its high quality, being something worth the wait.

At the end of The Dark Knight, Batman is left particularly isolated. He has gone from being loved to hated, from befriended by the police to being hunted by them. He has chosen this in part for the greater good, but he is still human. Additionally, the love of his life Rachel is gone, murdered by the Joker, so his only real human connections left are Alfred and Lucius Fox. The character being particularly lonely sets up a situation that could be used to introduce two other characters:

  • Catwoman: Catwoman in many ways is a lot like Batman, skirting the edges of moral and ethical behavior. Indeed, depending on which version you choose to base her off her, she could be quite confusing for Batman, robbing people one moment as a burglar, then the next beating up a would-be rapist. Being quite physically and socially drawn to her, he could be drawn into a nasty conflict of interest on top of deciding whether the good she does outweighs her crimes. She herself might face similar dilemmas as they try to work out their complicated relationship. It could get quite ugly, which means possibly quite awesome drama. (Should be played by someone more like Sean Young than Michelle Pfeiffer.)
  • Robin: When you think about this, the relationship between Batman and Robin is quite inappropriate. (No, not that way.) Yes, it is one thing for Batman to go out on his own and fight bad guys, but this to put a child in danger doing the same thing? Why would anyone do such a thing? Robin’s eagerness to avenge his parents’ killer undoubtedly plays into it, but shouldn’t Batman know better? Perhaps his need to reach out to others is so strong that he will willing to let Robin into his world against his better judgment. With Commissioner Gordon and the police no longer there to support him as they once did, how far is Batman willing to take this kid just to have someone at his side?

The situation could be exacerbated by Alfred, who could encourage Batman to get some friends or work on making little Waynes for his own good. Putting Batman in ethical binds about how to deal with the Joker and Two-Face made for awesome drama; the torture he could face figuring out how to deal with his conflicted relationships with Robin and Catwoman could be fantastic.

Similar themes could be found in other villains as well:

  • The Penguin, cut off from his family’s fortune, seeks reconnection by stealing the lost wealth, and by opening the Iceberg Lounge for camaraderie with fellow sufferers. (Philip Seymour Hoffman really would be a great casting choice.)
  • Mr. Freeze’s wife is in suspended animation and he feels lost and alone without her. (Should be played by Patrick Stewart.)
  • The Mad Hatter is in love with his “Alice” and misuses his mind-control techniques to forge some kind of relationship. (Jim Broadbent, perhaps?)
  • Harley Quinn flips out over the Joker being thrown into Arkham’s maximum security wing and causes massive amounts of damage. (Somehow it might be interesting if she was played by Mary-Kate Olsen.) The Clock King might act out similarly when the order of is world is shattered.
  • The Riddler, who is isolated due to obsessive-compulsive disorder, seeks to commune with someone worthy of his attention, even if that means feeding into his own compulsions in the most self-destructive way possible. (Jim Carrey might be able to reprise the role he had in Batman Forever and top it if given decent material to draw on.)
  • King Tut, his own personal life in ruins, falls into a fantasy delusion acted out in crime. Zeus might suffer similarly.
  • Poison Ivy is abandoned by her boyfriend and isolated by her advanced academic background, leading to a strange relationship with plants. Asperger syndrome is a real possibility. She struggles to full the social gap in truly dysfunctional ways, which may be the only way she can get a reaction out of anyone, a tendency which degrades into outright criminal behavior.

And so forth. All these are completely in keeping with the realistic tendencies of the first two movies (note the conspicuous absence of more fantastic characters such as Clayface, Killer Croc, or Batmite) and are quite believable and sympathetic. The fortunes of Batman could parallel those of Robin or whichever villains are chosen, all alone, angry, and frustrated together, variations on each others’ pain. Batman ultimately has to make (more or less) the right decision about how to deal with his issues, but for everyone else there’s no limits.

As a certain chairman might say, allez cinema!

—E. Nygma

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