Phillips, Nickie D. "The Dark Knight: Constructing images of good vs. evil in an age of anxiety." Popular Culture, Crime and Social Control. Ed. Mathieu Deflem. Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance. Bingley: Emerald, 2010. 25–44.
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|Resource type: Book Article
Language: en: English
BibTeX citation key: Phillips2010a
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Keywords: "Batman", Adaptation, Cultural criminology, Film adaptation, Justice, Superhero, USA
Creators: Deflem, Phillips
Publisher: Emerald (Bingley)
Collection: Popular Culture, Crime and Social Control
Purpose – This chapter explores the commercially successful and critically acclaimed motion picture The Dark Knight as a cultural artifact that both reflects and influences popular notions of crime and justice in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Design/methodology/approach – From a cultural criminological perspective, this chapter examines ideological messages pertaining to crime and justice presented in the film, including the framing of conflict as one between good and evil, justifications for extralegal violence, and reliance on absolute power as a means of social control. This chapter assesses reactions to the film as a “ritual moral exercise” in which viewers assuage their anxieties and insecurities in a post-9/11 world.
Findings – This chapter investigates representations of justice in the film, including the construction of the villain as “other,” the perception of constitutional procedures as impediments to justice, the embrace of vigilantism, and the willingness to sacrifice transparency of government authorities while accepting widespread surveillance in a time of crisis. Such themes resonated with some viewers who interpreted the film as offering explicit vindication for many of the questionable tactics used in the war on terror.
Originality/value – This chapter argues that popular media, specifically fictional entertainment media, play a role in reflecting and informing collective sentiments of justice. It offers an analysis of The Dark Knight as celebrating individualized, American-style retributive justice in a post-9/11 context.
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