Letter to the Editor

Last Friday, the biology club held a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders, an effort I was excited to support until I found out that they were showing the Dark Knight. My stomach immediately turned. I had seen the movie when it first came out and was extremely . I am not exactly sure how I felt. The best I could explain to people was that I did not like the movie because it made me sick to my stomach. Never one to rant endlessly about something I cannot explain, I took the opportunity to view the movie again and explain my reaction to it. This is not meant to be a critique of the movie for theatrical value, nor am I condemning anyone who enjoys the movie, but an attempt to explain my emotional reaction to it.
I am a chicken when it comes to violence of any kind; I actually had to leave Youngchild 121 multiple times in order to break the intensity of the movie. However, as I watched the reaction of my peers to the movie, I realized that I wasn’t merely upset over the scene where the Joker impales a “bad guy’s” head with a pencil, or the multiple explanations for his scars, or when he crashes the fundraising part, add vicious actions and maniacal laughter ad nauseum. I was upset by the reaction of my peers to every single instance I previously described — laughter.
I was sickened while those around me laughed. I believe the dissonance is largely due to a lack of understanding of true terror, and the horror that it inflicts on others. Perhaps working in a domestic violence shelter has made me too sensitized to the effect psychological torture has on people. Perhaps growing up in an abusive home is the reason why such actions revolt me rather than amuse or entertain me.
Watching the movie, I couldn’t help but recall the last movie review in The Lawrentian — mainly a critique of our culture’s desensitization of violence in contrast to our discomfort with sexuality. Raised conservatively, I was sheltered from many “adult” issues in American culture which my peers faced early on: language, sexuality and violence. I find it interesting that the last one is the one which I have yet to become comfortable with in a movie. If I choose to watch a movie which portrays violence, I am much more likely to choose one such as Hotel Rwanda, or Crash because those movies examine the complex issues surrounding violence rather than glorifying in it gratuitously.
Perhaps, as a friend observed, my problem lies not with the Dark Knight, but with the American movie industry in general. I disagree with that statement for the following reason. Without getting into an in-depth explanation of the dynamics of abuse, I particularly did not like the Dark Knight because of the Joker — a character who the audience followed intensely — exemplifies many characteristics of an abuser, an individual who is commonly accepted in society, but whose horrifying effects I deal with on a regular basis. Even though the acting and special effects may be spectacular, the desensitization of my peers to the issue of violence to me matters more.