Analysis of Philosophical Themes Through The Film 'The Dark Knight'

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About this sample


Words: 1274 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Apr 17, 2023

Words: 1274|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Apr 17, 2023

The movie The Dark Knight, written by Christopher Nolan, Jonathon Nolan and Bob Kane does do a good job of presenting the philosophical themes of dualism and mimetic desire through its two main villains. During the course of the film Batman, the alter ego of billionaire Bruce Wayne, fights to protect the city from both Joker and eventually his friend turned villain Two Face, also known as Harvey Dent.

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Mimesis or mimetic desire is the idea proposed by Rene Girard that states that desire for things is inspired by our innate need to imitate others. This imitation of others can then lead to us imitating desire. For example going from wanting the same sports car as someone else to wanting that specific car they have. This causes conflict and rivalry among people spreading until it can affect the group as a whole. Once someone obtains the desired those without it grow angry and vengeful and so the cycle continues. Girard believes this is the reason that violence exists in the world. The Dark Knight displays the consequences of mimetic desire on the people of Gotham city. After the mob has been found hiding money within Gotham banks, Gotham begins to take a stance against organised crime in the city. At the front of this stand is Harvey Dent, Gotham’s perfect district attorney who uses the law and Batman the dark symbol of Gotham who uses force. They both seek to be symbols to be imitated, Harvey Dent inspires the City of Gotham to work harder on getting organised crime out of the city, while Batman’s actions are literally copied by citizens in similar costume trying to help him.

The mob scared of the City in turn hires the Joker, a sociopath in clown makeup, to escalate the situation. He has power with the mob because how afraid they are of him and Gotham City. This mimics Batmans tactic of having power over criminals because of how scared they are of him and his presence in the CIty. Girard states that when fear and chaos threaten the very structure of society, the community will choose a single person to put blame on in order to restore the previous peace, this is known as the scapegoat. However, the scapegoat is a lie as no one person could ever be fully responsible for such unbridled fear and chaos. Therefore, peace does not last long and eventually the cycle will continue. Girard believed that because mimetic desire and rivalry are innate in humans the cycle could not be broken unless the scapegoat is replaced with a christ like figure to inspire non violent imitation among the community. Harvey Dent as the white knight of gotham seems to be that figure, fighting crime with law not brute force. Even Batman supports the idea of Harvey Dent replacing him and creating a Gotham that no longer needs Batman. However, the Joker ends up corrupting Harvey Dent and destroying the mimetic desire of peace Harvey was inspiring among the people and Gotham’s government. With the burning of fifty percent of his body, the loss of his lover Rachael and some persuasion from the Joker, Harvey becomes Two Face. He begins, through imitation of the Joker, spreading fear and violence through Gotham by attacking police officers. And so our figure of purity and peace has been corrupted and false victim to the fear he was supposed to remove from the City. In the end Gotham turns again to the scapegoat, picking Batman as the person to blame for the crimes committed by Two Face and the Joker. So in the end the symbol of Batman and the mimetic desire through our heroes have been destroyed and Gotham sees relative peace for a short time.

The Dark Knight is also a movie filled with dualism, The Dark Knight of Gotham; Batman wants a Gotham in which he can be replaced with Harvey Dent; the White Knight of Gothams legal system. However dualism is most present in the theme of order and chaos, Harvey eventually comes to represent this dualism through his character arc. Starting off as the white knight of Gotham and then later becoming Two Face, a villain who just like the Joker relies and chaos. He physically embodies this dualism when he burns half of his face and body and his coin which was once the same on both sides now is burnt on one side turning it into a normal coin.

The Joker throughout The Dark Knight is trying to show Batman and the Police of Gotham that underneath the act of kindness and civility all humans are violent animals who only look out for their own survival. This is similar to Thomas Hobbes view of humanity in his book “Leviathan” as he believed true human nature was just this. The Joker himself believes in the philosophy of nihilism, meaning he doesn't believe in anything. When asked what he does believe in his answer is meaningless saying “I believe whatever doesn't kill you makes you simply makes you stranger”. When asked about his scars on his face each time he gives a different story because it doesn't matter. The Joker however does plan out his acts of violence in order to send his message that, acting good is only an act, once people are put in true danger they will climb on the backs of others to save themselves. The Joker uses this fact to his advantage, having is henchmen kill each other over money from the bank, mob members killing each other in order to survive, and blowing up hospitals in order to send people into mass panic including the police. The Joker finally manages to corrupt Harver Dent, who once stood for the law and safety of the people turns to believe only in chance, using is newly burned coin to decide whether he kills his victims or not. Just like his burned face and burned coin Harvey has been corrupted to show his true side just as the Joker believed.

However Batman the entire time is trying to prove the opposite, never once throughout the movie does he kill anyone, upholding his morals and proving even the criminals of Gotham deserve life. This is demonstrating during the ferie scene which depicts a scenario similar to the Prisoner's Dilemma. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a situation in which two people with out contact with each other must pick optimal choices for their own survival. Usually including an option negative for the other party and one in which a compromise is found. In The Dark Knight the Joker has rigged two ferry boats with explosives, and each boat has the detonator to the other boat. However one boat is carrying the most wanted criminals of Gotham while the other holds ordinary citizens, physically putting chaos and order against each other. He tells them that in order to survive they will have to blow up the other boat but if neither boat blows up the other he will blow them both out of the water.

This is the ultimate test of Joker and Batmans ideas of people and in the end neither boat blows up the other and Batman prevents the Joker from blowing them up, proving Batman’s idea true that the people of Gotham are worth saving and are good.

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In conclusion, The Dark Knight does a good job of presenting philosophical themes through the ideologies of its two main villains and they way people change and act throughout the film. The Dark Knight is subtle with its presentation of philosophical themes, not shoving them in your face but intertwining them with the story of the film.  

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Analysis of Philosophical Themes Through the Film ‘The Dark Knight’. (2023, April 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
“Analysis of Philosophical Themes Through the Film ‘The Dark Knight’.” GradesFixer, 17 Apr. 2023,
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