Thursday, January 22, 2009

So I was thinking about the other day's Dark Knight drivel, and worrying that I might be wandering into "Grand Inquisitor" territory. Do you think Bruce Wayne's ending position in that movie could be described as Grand Inquisitor lite? It is a deliberate reliance on falsehood and self-scapegoating on the part of an elite to save the souls of the general run of humanity, in short, an argument that salvation must forever travel with a bodyguard of lies.

But then, the Grand Inquisitor is more about freedom and agency than the problem of evil. Different cultures, different politics, different fixations, I suppose. Subjugation for us isn't the issue it was to the Russian intellectual, after all. If Batman in all his incarnations is about anything, thematically, it's about civic lawlessness, urban disorder, the problem of evil in the city.

There is no real hunger in Gotham, as there is in Doestoyevsky's Russia, or the Grand Inquisitor's Seville, and thus all that about bread goes over our heads, whereas in Doestoyevsky, it was intended to go right through the literal gut. "Feed men, and then ask of them virtue!" For those who have seen what virtues the well-fed, fat, lawless poor are capable of, this is an ironic demand. In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet, and say to us, "Make us your slaves, but feed us." Oh, how ironic this one is, when the fools of Hollywood pledge their literal servitude to a new king on the day of his crowning.

But really, truly, the cup of "Mystery" and its self-regarding moral pride is a temptation. It's hard to not get caught up with Ivan in his enthusiasm for his creation's towering egotism.

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