Thursday July 24, 2008
One Good Cop
So one reader, Shen, writes the following about how Christopher Nolan helps break Batman’s usual vigilante-to-cop-to-camp cycle:
In Nolan's Gotham, the corruption of the police and political structure acts in a way so as to maintain Batman as simultaneous vigilante / institution. Nolan demonstrates this nicely even while keeping Gordan as a supporter, with the deep infiltration by the mob and other corrupt elements. Batman therefore simultaneously keeps his vigilante status (pursued by the “police” who are actually working for the mob, although this may be less effective with Gordan as commissioner now), and Batman as institution (he's the real crime-fighting institution, since the criminals know they can always plead insanity like in Batman Begins, or manipulate/bribe the police/DA to keep out of jail, like with the Dark Knight).
Smart stuff and all true. In an original draft of “Dark Knight My Ass,” in the section on the social changes reflected in the Batman films, I had a take on this but cut it for space reasons. If there are cops, why is Batman necessary? Different eras have different answers. In 1943, the cops were fairly incompetent. In 1949 they were merely understaffed and overwhelmed and so Batman rode in, like the Lone Ranger, to save the day. By 1989, post-Serpico, you have intimations of corruption, but only one cop, Lt. Eckhardt, is on the take. Sixteen years later, this situation is reversed: every cop is on the take, with only one good cop, Gordon, remaining. There’s an intersting book to be written about our attitudes towards cops as reflected in our films. Maybe it’s already been written.
My friend Adam also writes about what he considers some of Heath Ledger’s best work: his few scenes at the beginning of Monster’s Ball in 2001: “I remember at the time thinking, Jesus, who knew this kid was so good? I mean, to hold your own with BBT and do so with such deep and interesting character work — you could see it all back then.”