Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Batman: The Killing Joke

Zach Snyder's Batman v Superman offered a controversial dark knight that was truly beginning to fall into the darkness he claims to fight (the extended addition makes that even more clear than the theatrical version). The Killing Joke (which is based on the 1988 story arc from Alan Moore and Brain Bolland) builds on this trajectory in a move that might rightly be called Breaking Bat.You can find summaries of the plot elsewhere; I prefer to focus on the worldview within the movie.

A flashback to the Joker's early life reveals the first meaning of the title, The Killing Joke. He was a struggling comedian looking for a joke that ‘killed,’ the one that got the audience rolling with laughter. He was desperate to support his pregnant wife and do something meaningful in the world. When some criminals approach him about helping them with a heist, he reluctantly agrees. One big score is all he needs to keep his family – and his dream of making people laugh -  afloat. It falls apart, of course. On the day of the robbery, he receive that news that his wife and unborn baby have died. The mobsters won’t let him off the hook. That night, he falls into a vat of acid while running away from Batman and emerges as the Joker.

That’s where we find the second meaning to the title. Life is the killing joke. Life is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The Joker is the comic book world’s premier nihilist. He just wants to watch the world burn. If that’s not possible, he will do everything he can to burn away the goodness and sanity of those around him.

He doesn’t think it will be that hard. He believes that everyone is just one bad day away from embracing the insanity that has become his closest friend. One bad day where everything you love is ripped away. One bad day where all hope is lost. He seems truly convinces that even Batman or Commissioner Gordon would join him on the other side of reality if what happened to him happened to them.

This provides the plot to the story. The Joker does his best to force Gordon and Batman into that one bad day to prove his theory correct. If he is successful – if he can take the two best people he knows and break them not just bad but insane - he will be vindicated.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Planned Parenthood And The Lives That Don't Matter

In response to the latest police shootings, Planned Parenthood posted the following  response in an attempt to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement: "You deserve to parent your child without fear that he or she will be hurt or killed. Freedom from violence is reproductive justice."

I agree with Planned Parenthood's statement. I would have phrased it differently (can we include what kids deserve?), but I embrace the general sentiment. Of course black lives matter; of course we want a world where parents don't have to worry about children experiencing violence or being killed.

This is why I am also angry at the hypocrisy of this claim and heart-broken at the reality it supports. Do they really want to have a discussion about the intersection of violence and reproduction? Planned Parenthood is one of the leading providers of abortion in the United States, an act which by its very nature takes the life of a unborn human child. Thousands of unborn children suffer violence every day when someone receives an abortion in a Planned Parenthood clinic. If freedom from violence is reproductive justice, then there is no reproductive justice at any Planned Parenthood clinic by their own standard.

I know Planned Parenthood is attempting to support the cause of the Black Lives Matter movement, and as I noted earlier I agree with their sentiment. But their statement fails dismally because it only reveals their hypocrisy. Planned Parenthood's track record shows that, in spite of their rhetoric, not all black lives matter to them.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Post-Orlando Question #2: How Do We Know When Individuals Truly Represent Groups?

In Part One of Post-Orlando Questions, I began a short series covering three questions swirling around since the tragic shooting in Orlando. The first question was, "Is it fair to attribute the actions of Omar Mateen to a climate of hate created by the Conservative Religious Right"?

This post will address the second question: "Is there a way to make a proper distinction between what is inherent in or necessarily follows from the beliefs and actions of a group vs. what particular individuals or sects do?"

When people do terrible things in the name of their religion or worldview, are they acting consistently? Are they the true ambassadors of the group, or are they the aberrations, the outliers who have co-opted a religion or worldview for their own disturbing purposes?

I won’t attempt to answer for Islam, the faith with which Omar Mateen claimed affiliation. [1] I also won't attempt to answer for all the other political and social groups to whom this question equally applies on both the Right and the Left. [2] My interest lies in offering an answer as a Christian. I obviously won't resolve this in a simple blog post, but I hope it can provoke some thoughtful discussion.