Is it ethical to kill one villain to save numerous lives of innocent citizens? This is precisely the question that was placed in the movie The Dark Knight by Christopher Nolan. As Batman fights the criminals and injustice in Gotham City, he gets a perfect chance to finally stop the violence by killing Joker in their final battling scene. However, Batman decides not to do it according to his ethical principles. The ethical righteousness of Batman’s principles gets questioned in the movie and reflects the morality of the current societal order. The analysis of the dilemma Batman faces in his decision to fight injustice morally proves his deontological views.
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The movie The Dark Knight is based on the Batman comic book and tells the story of Bruce Wayne, who continues to fight injustice in Gotham City. The film starts with the appearance of Joker and his gang and the bank robbery. Meanwhile, Batman and Harvey Dent work with Lieutenant Gordon on stopping the crimes in the city. Joker intends to kill Batman and causes massive terrorist attacks to undermine him. Starting with the attacks on innocent people’s lives, he then gets to Batman’s close friends. Joker wants to break Batman’s spirits and creates morally tricky situations to make him betray his principles. However, Batman does not fall for Joker’s tricks and has to lose his love Rachel and his friend Harvey. Batman manages to stop Joker with the high cost of his loved ones’ lives, but he does not make vengeance and leaves him alive. In the end, Batman has a final battle with the Two-Face, takes blame for the killings he caused, and disappears to stay on guard of the city as the Dark Knight.
The movie focuses on the faults of the societal order in an exaggerated way. It even references such a real social tragedy of great importance as 9/11. In its essence, Gotham is the embodiment of collapsed social norms at the hands of organized criminal gangs and terrorists. It presents the failure of civil society, the ultimate chaos, and corruption at every level of its structure that Batman aims to rebuild. In the Dark Knight, Batman prevents the destruction of the city by Joker and fights the injustice to revive the moral system.
The movie The Dark Knight highlights a wide variety of complex moral and ethical problems. The Joker was the driving force making people question their morals in the terrorist attacks when people on two ferry boats had to decide whether to blow up the other boat. Even Batman himself had to choose to save either his crime-fighting partner Harvey Dent or his love Rachel. These morally challenging situations raise the question of the morals of the main characters and the society itself (Filip et al., 2016). It comes down to the issues of civil rights, vigilantism, the nature of people, and the question of whether or not the end justifies the means (Filip et al., 2016). The last question remains central in the story and creates one of the most significant ethical dilemmas for Batman and viewers in the movie.
The question of whether killing Joker is morally justifiable to save millions of lives, particularly stands in the movie. Joker is a homicidal menace who brings destruction to the whole town in its core. He took thousands of innocent lives, and the collateral damage he brought is immense. From the consequentialist’s point of view, Batman’s decision to keep Joker alive is wrong as numerous lives could be saved, and the social order would be in peace in the long-term perspective (Yogerst, 2017). Batman sacrifices the greater good for his own moral principles and ethics of virtue. He insists that his morality is tied directly to his own actions rather than the consequences. Such thinking is closely aligned with deontology as Batman focuses on the rightness of the actions themselves instead of their consequences (Yogerst, 2017). Batman justifies his actions by the slippery slope argument that once he crosses the border of good and bad and kills somebody, he becomes evil. It is the ground for his ethical position that he follows no matter the situation.
On the other hand, Joker is a clear egoist as he is ready to commit whatever crime to entertain himself. He is a psychopath with evil intentions to kill Batman and do anything to achieve his goal. Joker’s actions and social experiments are designed to create chaos and prove that social morals, values, and beliefs are baseless. These are the signs of extreme egoism that goes into conflict with Batman’s virtue ethics. Such a disagreement leads to a moral conflict between him and Batman, as Batman does not cross the line or get corrupted no matter what Joker causes. The endless cycle of Joker causing mischief, Batman catching him, and Joker breaking out continues because of their moral beliefs. These decisions are questionable but create the characters’ unique system of beliefs that make them exciting to follow.
The moral views of the main characters of the movie present the extremes of what ethical theories suggest. They show us the consequences of different actions according to various ethical views and what it leads the society to. Batman and Joker belong to the different ethical groups of consequentialism and deontology, which causes long-term resistance to prove each other wrong. Overall, such a conflict of views allows the audience to take a critical look at their own values and reflect on the ideas of the society they live in.
Filip, I., Saheba, N., Wick, B., & Radfar, Amir, MD. (2016). Morality and ethical theories in the context of human behavior. Ethics & Medicine, 32(2), 83-87. Web.
Yogerst, C. (2017). Superhero films: A fascist national complex or exemplars of moral virtue? Journal of Religion & Film, 21(1), 37. Web.