Why So Serious about "The Dark Knight"?

by Shen Shi'an, The Buddhist Channel, July 24, 2008

Dharma-Inspired Movie Review: http://thedarkknight.warnerbros.com

Singapore -- If you think Batman stories are kiddy stuff, nothing could be further from the truth - especially so for "The Dark Knight", which is a gritty but compelling tale of moral ambiguity and the koan-like dilemmas it presents.

The leading criminals of Gotham have cowed further into the shadows - in fear of the swift and silent vigilante, while a more menacing criminal rises among them, calling for their unity to kill Batman (played by Christian Bale). But can there be true honour among thieves? Apparently not for the Joker - being a force of violent insanity.
While Batman is one of the most complex characters in comic book history, the Joker as presented poses a formidable match as an archenemy. Note that this is no superhero flick, since the protagonists have no special powers. Batman's altruistic endeavours are strongly driven by guilt of not being able to save his parents from crime when he was young. The Joker however, is nihilistically immoral and sadistic, seemingly void of conscience. One has too much guilt while the other lacks it! Karmically, both extreme attitudes can prove punishing.

The Joker creates a fix for Batman when he resolves to kill one person a day - till he discloses his masked identity. In this cunning move, he turns the tables around by making Batman look guilty. It's quite a fix indeed as Batman, being an outlaw (operating above the law), albeit to protect and serve, will be arrested should he surrender. His absence might render Gotham more criminally chaotic, but innocents are dying because of his refusal to surrender too. Of course, Batman does his best to save them and himself, and the Joker - from his madness!

The Joker devises a sick "social experiment" on morality by planting bombs on two ferries - one transporting criminals while the other lawful citizens. Each side is given the detonator of the bombs on the other ferry. He urges them to consider pressing the button before the other side does. His expectation of chaos goes "chaotic" though - when both sides decide not to press their buttons after much deliberation. Order is restored! Even the leader of the criminals threw away the detonator. The worst of situations often bring forth the best in us.

Though the Joker relishes in chaos, he is ironically not the personification of chaos. He desires order within his chaos too. Here lies what I call the Joker Paradox. He claims this - "I'm a dog chasing cars. I don't have plans. I just do things. I'm not a schemer." Despite this, we see his elaborately devious plans in action to wreck havoc. He wanted to prove "schemers", who control law and order, to be pathetic in their efforts. In the end, he proved himself to be the ultimately pathetic schemer when apprehended by Batman.

Batman's voluntary vocation is a largely thankless one - which makes it all the more truly altruistic. As the Joker put it, both of them are seen as freaks, even if one helps while the other harms. Batman chooses his serious and threatening style to strike fear in the guilty, while the Joker simply laughs away his "uptightness" and uprightness. Maybe even wrathful Bodhisattva manifestations might not work well for the severely deluded and unrepentant? If so, only self-awakening to their Buddha-nature can help. Arkham Asylum never really cured the criminally insane!

"Why so serious" about him, the Joker? Perhaps the brilliant actor (Heath Ledger) who played his role so seriously was the real personification of chaos - due to his heavily publicised sudden accidental death. Are matters of life and death tragically chaotic? The truth is, chaos can never be truly chaotic as it exists within the orderly. Within the apparent mess that is the universe, there must be the order of cause and effect - even if not readily discerned. If life, the universe and everything is pure chaos, life and death would be totally meaningless, pointless. We might as well become the Joker. Seriously! No joke!

Review of the Film's Interesting Dialogue:
Batman: Dark Dialogue -

Related Review:
"Batman Begins" his Wrathful Bodhisattva Path -

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv