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The Dark Hero

I finally saw last night The Dark Knight.

I had not a lot to do yesterday actually.
I went to that American bookstore. I was disapointed by the small choice of books they had. W.H. Smith is so much better if you ever need an anglophone bookstore in Paris.
I bought a book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time now, The Road by Cormy McCarthy (you know, the guy that wrote No Country for Old Men).
I went over to the movie theatre to see when TDK was showing… I had 2 hours to kill.
Long story short I came back to the theatre over an hour before TDK was supposed to be shown. I bought my ticket (7 euros/11 dollars, ouch) and waited in front of the movie theatre. 20 minutes later, a dozen of people had already morphed into somewhat of a queue in front of the movie theatre. We were fortunately allowed to wait inside. Half an hour later, the queue had grown to over 200 people.
It should be noted that TDK just came out yesterday here in France.
I think there were even more people waiting to see a “normal” screening of TDK than there was for the premiere of Cloverfield I went to the day before it came out!

I came out of the theatre ecstatic.
It was amazing!

But why I am talking about that now?
Well for once because I might become amnesiac.
And more importantly because, yet again, it got me thinking. Yes, I think about stuff, deal with it.

It especially got me thinking about a post I read a while back about (super)heroes and their flaws.
I believe TDK correlates directly to that idea, especially for both Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent.
To make a hero believable, we need him/her to be flawed. We need him/her to have limits. We need him/her to be vincible.
Bruce Wayne is a human that becomes a vigilante at night. But he is still a human behind his (too-much-technologically-advanced) suit. This is reminded to us early on in the movie when he is bit by a rottweiler (physical failing).

What is interesting to see is that Bruce Wayne can be faillible as a human (at least to the audience) but Batman, the facade, must be invincible. The emotional failing that is Rachel towards Bruce Wayne is absent in Batman (I’m talking here in the POV of the Gotham people, not the audience), to avoid an obvious correlation between the two, and therefore Batman’s identity being revealed. The Joker quickly finds the emotional weak spot of Batman/Wayne and exploits it brilliantly when he forces Batman/Wayne to make a choice between the woman he loves (Rachel) or “a greater good” (Dent). Knowing that Batman/Wayne will choose Rachel instead of Dent, the Joker “mixes up” the address, leading Batman/Wayne to save Dent (the Joker’s “Ace”).
The hero ultimately overcomes his personal failures and realizes that the facade must become a scapegoat in order for the legacy of Dent to continue. This realisation incidently is induced by Lucius Fox’s comments (in the role of the mentor).
On the other hand, we have Harvey Dent. Unlike the “superhero”, he doesn’t overcome his flaws and therefore becomes a villain. Like Bruce Wayne, this white knight has problems of his own; after all, he is also human. He is a hero to Gotham City as well as Batman’s glimmer of hope for a normal life, but his nobleness is actually a facade as well, as he is easily manipulated towards his other flaw (besides Rachel), that is “the luck of the draw”. Like Batman, he relies on what he believes in, although when what he loves is taken away from him, unlike Batman, he goes beyond his values and is consumed by vengeance, therefore becoming what he was fighting against all along.

Examples of flawed heroes (and therefore believable heroes) can be found now everywhere in fiction:
Tony Stark must overcome his physical problems to become what he wants to be.
The next volume of Heroes, Villains, will most likely delve into the dark side of some of the heroes.
The James Bond franchise successfully reinvented itself by giving Bond real flaws that could be really exploited by his ennemies. This will be directly seen in the next Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, when Bond, for the first time impacted by the events that have transpired in the previous movie, goes in a blood-filled quest for vengeance (the trailer says it all).
Buffy “The Slayer” Summers is also a faillible hero that goes to “dark places” in seasons 5 and 6.
Willow Rosenberg can be compared to Harvey Dent, especially at the end of season 6. When they both lost their loved ones, they both went to the only refuge and haven that was left for them: magic for one, luck for the other.

In a realistic setting, the line between a hero and a villain is ultimately a small one. A flawed hero can easily be tempted to “cross the line”.
Those flaws is what helps us identify to our heroes.

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