Friday, July 20, 2012

The Rational Side of Evil

The recent massacre at a "The Dark Knight Rises" midnight showing has caused me to reflect on another instance of senseless murder I saw in Belgium related to "The Dark Knight." A kid who idolized the joker went into a daycare and started killing children with a knife and even some of the caretakers before he was finally apprehended. When we hear about these tragedies we often think "What would be something that would drive someone to that kind of senseless and barbaric behavior?"

The funny thing about that question is the Batman trilogy itself answers those questions. The series itself is in a lot of ways, a metaphor for the world we live in. It shows the corruption inherent in society and even explains the dark psychology behind its villains. In most classic superhero films, there's this boring storyline that goes something like "Epitome of evil shows up, Hero fights it, almost loses, but eventually triumphs and evil again vanishes." Whereas in the Batman trilogy we see the villains (representations of evil) and how they came to rationalize their behavior based on society's corruption and how they can get away with it using the corruption that itself is rooted in society.

I think it's this rationalization and metaphor for our world that is starting to affect the minds of some people who watch the films. I think they're starting to see the intended metaphor and the rationalization the villains go through, and even on some levels agree with their rationalizations, and then themselves decide to become villains. Look at the information on the shooting suspect in the latest string of murders related to the films: he never had a criminal record, he was a Ph.D. student, he showed no signs of mental instability, he accrued his weapons over a long period of time in realistic quantities so as not to draw too much attention to himself. This is someone who premeditated and planned this act in a very smart and methodical way. This is someone with no record of violence. He's not insane. He's no epitome of evil. He decided to become evil, FOR A REASON. I don't believe in his justifications, but it must be admitted he became evil for rational reasons.

I think too often when we see evil we think that its perpetrators are weaker than us in some ways. I think too often we refuse to see that sometimes, if the environment promotes certain behaviors in people, those behaviors will become more pronounced. It's corruption in society that occurs on a large scale that causes this evil, not insanity, not weak people. 

In fact, the series itself tends to never show society as healing from its corruption. The storyline usually goes: Batman defeats the villain, but in the next film/episode, another villain is able to rise because of the evils in society. I think the overall message of the series is that it's our job to change society if we want to conquer evil. Unfortunately some people who watch this series are starting to miss that and become the villains themselves.

I hope the next time one of these people who understands the villain's mind watches the series that they look a litter deeper to see its overall message and instead of going evil, decide to face society and try to change it. I'm grateful for friends I have that around me are examples of doing good even when society's corruption affects them in negative ways and also try to change what's around them for the better. I'll do my best to help them.