THE DARK KNIGHT is an amazing film. Exciting, dark, violent and very rarely funny, it purports to be a film about evil vs. good (many previous superhero films have been about good vs. evil: this one is different). But, viewed a different way, this film is fascinating in its complete absence of drugs, alcohol, and sex. The two main forces in the film – The Joker (by far the major force in the film) and The Batman (easily the second) operate outside the boundaries of sex, drugs, rock and roll and – perhaps most strangely – alcohol.
Whether these characters drink or not is perhaps beside the point or perhaps IS the point. Is The Joker simply sociopathic, or is he a drunk or drug addict? And what of Batman? The lack of any indication of drug use or alcohol use in this film and BATMAN BEGINS is significant. In the latest film, “Bruce Wayne” has a drink while he laments the (SPOILER ALERT) death of his beloved. But one! One drink! Where were all the others?
Likewise, The Joker (Heath Ledger) displays all the signs of a complete meta-amphetamine user without this ever being offered in the text of the film. Ledger did a brilliant job of portraying a heroin user in the film CANDY and would have known, through whatever research (and this blog is not suggesting he did drugs to do research) the effects of drug usage. The Joker, in the great new film THE DARK KNIGHT, has all the frenzied characteristics of the Ice User.
Likewise, there is very little recognised sexual activity or desire in the film. The Joker is, quite obviously, completely sexually ambivalent – but his impotence, or whatever elements contribute to his complete lack of sex drive – are not addressed in the film. Likewise, The Batman’s own sexuality is dealt with in quite laughable terms. Supposedly, “Bruce Wayne” – the real “Batman” being the real “Man” – quite fancies the Assistant DA (played by the fetching Maggie Gylannall – what Superhero wouldn’t want her?) But he constantly screws it up by (very ludicrously) arriving at his own functions with leggy models on either arm. I know a couple of Playboys (as it were) and they’ve never arrived with two models an arm. It’s ridiculous.
All this aside, this is a great movie. It is an extraordinary modern comic, with an extraordinary modern iconic villain in Ledger’s Joker. But, by bringing Gotham City into broad daylight (as it does, using Chicago as Gotham’s “actor”), and by incorporating Hong Kong and China as plot points, it cries out to be part of our (real) world and not just that of a mythical DC-Comics world. In doing so, the fact that it denies the alcohol and drug usage of its two main characters – The Joker and The Batman – becomes strangely and obviously apparent.
I loved this film. But if the series is going to place itself into our real world, I think its next step is to really go there – placing maniacal freaks like The Joker into a context of drug and alcohol abuse, rather than a (relatively) simple abstract framing of “sociopathic behaviour”.