holy Batman!

This opinion piece in the WSJ totally blows my mind. George Bush is a hero because, like Batman, he does what needs to be done and takes the vilification for it while liberals whine about moral relativity and hold namby-pamby sentiments like “torture is bad.” Andrew Klavan, who writes thrillers, including a forthcoming one on the “war on terror,” thinks one day Bush will be recognized as the hero he is, and artists will be able to tell the tale.

When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness. We prosecute and execrate the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve. As Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon says of the hated and hunted Batman, “He has to run away — because we have to chase him.”

That’s real moral complexity. And when our artistic community is ready to show that sometimes men must kill in order to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values; and that while movie stars may strut in the bright light of our adulation for pretending to be heroes, true heroes often must slink in the shadows, slump-shouldered and despised — then and only then will we be able to pay President Bush his due and make good and true films about the war on terror.

Like the message of the television hit, 24 – torture is something a real man’s gotta do. That is neither good nor true, nor is it a terribly profound or daring thing  for an artist to propose. It’s appealing to a base and simple-minded idea of justice.

And it makes me think, once again, that it is in genre fiction and in popular culture generally that our ideas of goodness and truth are worked out, and the ways they are worked out matter a great deal.

I think Batman should sue this guy for defamation.


5 Responses to holy Batman!

  1. hooooooey, sister. love how you just jump into the can of worms.

    here’s the thing. it’s hard to laud GWB for bravery when he is imho such a dim and flabby puppet. *however* i must confess to a strong and terrible streak of vigilantism-admiring. Natch I decry all of our govt’s dabbling in organized terror/torture. There is no place in public policy for these horrors.

    However…in fiction, t’is a very different matter. I find myself absolutely drawn to the edge where good and bad souls do things they never thought themselves capable of…torture among them, when a greater good is contemplated.

    Good thing no one elected me to office, huh.

  2. L.J. Sellers says:

    This great post ties into our discussion on 4MA. I can never relate to characters who commit significant crimes/immoral acts in the pursuit of their goals, no matter how lofty those goals. The same is true of leaders, politicians, and heroes. When those acts of violence are committed against bystanders, it’s even worse. For me, this even applies to police officers who kill innocent bystanders during high-speed car chases or shootouts. The greater good is not served this way.


  3. Barbara says:

    This is really fascinating. Though Sophie and I are generally reading twins, I have an allergy to vigilante stories. I get all morally high and mighty. At least, when it’s a sort of casual eye-for-an-eye – the Jack Reacher shrug: Some folks need killing.

    There are books in which characters I care about do bad things, but I want them to be at least conflicted about it. There’s a Simon Kernick book where the narrator made me so angry because I got the impression he was wanting to be admired when he was doing terrible things – and actually wanted forgiveness. Like – hey, you understand, right? Besides, you really would like to do the same, wouldn’t you? No, and no.

    Probably the most morally challenging crime fiction that I’ve read in a long time is Gene Kerrigan’s The Midnight Choir. The morally ambiguous stuff really creeps up on you. I was furious at the ending of the book, but it was actually very well done.

  4. […] so is our discourse; so are our heroes, and apparently we find some absolving relief in that. For Andrew Klavan, celebrating lawless and brutal vigilantism for the sake of fighting our enemies, burning the […]

  5. […] so is our discourse; so are our heroes, and apparently we find some absolving relief in that. For Andrew Klavan, celebrating lawless and brutal vigilantism for the sake of fighting our enemies, burning the […]

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