Sarah's other show has a special guest! Maintenance Phase co-host Aubrey Gordon visits Why Are Dads to talk about Christopher Nolan, trash masculinity and the dwindling number of non-problematic superheroes.
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Sarah's other show has a special guest! Maintenance Phase co-host Aubrey Gordon visits Why Are Dads to talk about Christopher Nolan, trash masculinity and the dwindling number of non-problematic superheroes.
Subscribe on Patreon
Donate on Paypal
Buy cute merch
Support the show (http://patreon.com/yourewrongabout)
Mike: Ooh, I have one, I have one I have one! Welcome to You’re Wrong About, the podcast that just wants to watch the world burn.
Sarah: Oh, that’s true.
Sarah: Yeah, very good. Now that might make you think that we’re doing something a little bit different from that quote today, but no, we’re just going straight in.
Mike: [laughs] I am Michael Hobbes, but there’s no point in introducing myself.
Sarah: I’m some lady. I’m “the woman.”
Mike: [laughs] The woman!
Sarah: According to some reviewers.
Mike: And today we are releasing a bonus episode of Sarah’s delightful podcast.
Sarah: Aww! Thank you, Mike!
Mike: With a delightful special guest.
Sarah: Yes, with your delightful Maintenance Phase co-host Aubrey Gordon.
Mike: Yeah. It’s like a little family reunion.
Sarah: [laughs] We did this episode on my other podcast Why Are Dads a couple weeks ago and we had Aubrey on as a guest. I don’t know, it just was really special to me to further knit our podcast family together.
Sarah: Maybe that’s because this has been such an intense year for loneliness. But, I feel like I am still going on some on the gas in my tank from the Aubrey conversation. It was just so nice. We’re gonna jump in and you’re gonna hear me and Aubrey and Alex Steed talk about The Dark Knight in a minute, and all of our misgivings with it is logic and so on. But, I’m curious about – do you remember when you first saw this movie and your response to it then and how your thoughts on it have changed if at all? Or even at the time. Cause when I first saw this movie I was like, dazzled by it. But I can imagine you being like, “I don’t know about that ending, you guys…”
Mike: Yeah, I mean, I’ve said this to you before and I think you disagree. But I think it has the same thing as a lot of Martin Scorsese movies where nobody ever talks about the final third.
Mike: All of the cultural impact of it are in like the sort of parts that make gangsters look cool. And then at the end where the gangsters die and get arrested, we edit those parts out. It’s the same thing here where like The Dark Knight has this great set up and all these great sequences, and then the final third is just a mess. And nobody remembers it or talks about it.
Sarah: Yeah. I would dispute that only to say that I talk about the final third of Scorsese movies because I like them but that probably has something to do with the fact that I’m a girl.
Sarah: And so I’m not invested in, you know, joining the mob being in the end, maybe a good idea?
Mike: And that’s where the good Sharon Stone stuff is too.
Sarah: Yes. Exactly, that’s where Sharon Stone gets to act her whole ass off.
Mike: The sequence where Sharon Stone is on a boat and she can detonate the boat at any time, and then it doesn’t make any sense.
Sarah: [laughs] I wish Sharon Stone was given that kind of power. And then Sharon Stone gets half of her face burned off. Were you living in the US when this came out or were you abroad?
Mike: Uh, I was in Denmark.
Sarah: Ok. What was that like?
Mike: I mean, I think I actually saw it in the US though. Because I think I came home for Christmas. I remember seeing it on an IMAX screen and I was sitting too close. To the point where like I sort of had to turn my head like I was watching a tennis match to watch different parts of the screen. So the whole time I was like whipping my head around to try to figure out what was going on. I finally saw it elsewhere like under normal circumstances, and I was like, oh yeah some of the visuals are still pretty muddled. I still don’t really know what’s going on. It might not have been the big screen.
Sarah: [laughs] Yeah. I feel like some of it is just cuts. You’re not supposed to know what you’re seeing exactly but the cuts are exciting.
Mike: Yes. I mean we could do a whole episode on sort of the whole construction of Christopher Nolan.
Mike: Because all of his movies have been super duper critically acclaimed and paradigm shifting when they come out.
Mike: And then they age badly extremely quickly.
Sarah: Yeah. Like McDonald’s.
Mike: Everyone like lost their fucking minds when Inception came out and then like two years later people were like, it doesn’t make any sense, it’s all exposition.
Sarah: Yeah and I almost feel like we clamor for experiences to overhype something and then talk about how we overhyped it. Tiger King was like this. And this has to do something with theatrical release. To me Inception was such an amazing theatrical experience and I was like, I must see this movie as many times as I can in this exciting, expensive, immersive way.
Sarah: Because once it’s out on video I don’t know if it will work. And I have not even tried to watch it since it left theaters, honestly. I haven’t seen it in eleven years.
Mike: I mean this is one thing that I love about this episode, too. You guys get into the ways in which The Dark Knight’s story telling mechanics just make no sense at all. Like there’s no way that the Joker can be this good at planning every single thing. For a guy who sort of fetishizes chaos, like he’s gotta be sitting there with a spreadsheet for hours to make any of this happen.
Sarah: He has to be one of the most organized people in the world.
Sarah: And just has a love hate relationship with himself about that, I guess. It reminds me of the moment in one of the DC Sniper episodes where they’re trying to call into the police to be like “hello, we’re the DC snipers.” And like, they don’t have enough change for it. I was like, is there ever a moment where the Joker is mid-way through his menacing plan, but like, he’s out of change, he needs to use a payphone, he’s like standing outside like, McCormick and Scmicks or whatever panhandling to try and get change to call the cops? I am super capable of enjoying movies with bad guys who are never challenged by the world they’re in. But I don’t know, they’re just not scary to me cause that’s not- you know, everyone runs out of change, everyone looks like an idiot sometimes even if they’re terrifying.
Mike: It’s also interesting how many of these movies really are products of their time in ways that we don’t realize when we’re watching them.
Sarah: Yeah. Or, I feel like some people realized but were kind of ignored. I know there were a couple of reviews that were like, “this movie is bad.” Like I think Sasha Frere-Jones wrote a review that was just like on a blog or a website. And it was just like, “this movie feels bad to watch.”
Sarah: And everyone was like, “no it doesn’t!” [laughs]
Mike: Mhm. Parts of it hold together. This is the thing with Inception, too. If you just kind of let a Christopher Nolan movie wash over you and don’t ask questions, it can be a very enjoyable viewing experience.
Sarah: I feel like Christopher Nolan is great at sound design. And I know that he’s good at a lot of other stuff. I guess, Mike, I would ask you what is the significance of this movie? Like, why does this movie matter? Why would now four people spend time out of their lives discussing a movie that they want to make fun of but still deem important for some reason. Where is that coming from?
Mike: Because there’s dad issues that resonate with two women from Portland that I co-host shows with.
Mike: [laughs] Many PhD dissertations will be written about our weird fascination with super heroes over the last two decades. And what Dark Knight is doing is it’s the peak of this very 2000’s thing of kind of taking super heroes seriously.
Mike: The James Bond movies kind of did this too. Like, what if this took place in the real world? What if we tried to really ground this in the world we live in?
Sarah: What if both of the girls he has sex with die!
Mike: Yeah! As we’ve gotten so many more of them and as we’ve thought more about the structural elements – all of the stuff that’s been illustrated by the events of the past year – I feel like one of the things that has aged really badly about all of these movies is like, – “wait, why is this guy beating up criminals?”
Mike: What does this have to do with anything? Isn’t this guy a billionaire? Can’t he just like, fund schools? Or like, do something politically that would actually solve the problems in the city? It’s such conservative, 1980’s Reagan-ass thinking to be like, well the way to fix the city is to go out every single night and beat up random bank robbers and purse-snatchers and stuff? It’s just an absolutely appalling way to think about the problems of urban life.
Sarah: I think that’s what’s interesting about Batman, really, is like how we approach him over time. And how sincerely a movie can approach his whole thing. Cause in Burton Batman, which we also talked about on Why Are Dads, the second movie that Burton does he’s like, “Ah, I don’t really care any more. Let’s talk about workplace sexual harassment and Catwoman and Danny Devito eating fish and waving his arms around.” And you’re like, yes! That sounds like a good time.
Sarah: Yeah, in Guantanamo-era Batman, we were going through something in America where even more than usual, we needed to believe and needed to see heroic figures beating up criminals and giving the Joker the third degree because he deserves it. And also, in The Dark Knight Rises the end game of all this is that Batman ends up you know it seem like a prison in an unnamed Middle Eastern country and has to escape through sheer gumption.
Mike: Yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Sarah: The individual can overcome anything in this world. And also for that reason the individual is allowed to do anything. Which is great because, no matter who you are or how vast a system of power you’re enmeshed in you can always still see yourself as an individual. It’s the easiest thing to see yourself as.
Mike: I mean, you might break your back, but all you have to do is do some pushups on the floor and then you’ll be fine. That’s the lesson of these movies.
Sarah: Yeah! It’s like the Empire Strikes Back. It’s like, how long was Luke training with Yoda? How many pushups do you have to do to cure your back being snapped in half?
Sarah: Like seventy. It’s fine. [laughs]
Mike: So enjoy this bonus episode! We will also be releasing another bonus episode later this week from Maintenance Phase, my other Aubrey-featuring family podcast.
Sarah: Yeah! And we can’t wait to see you next week with a more analytical hat on. But for now, let’s turn our brains off and enjoy The Dark Knight.
Mike: We’re not the podcast you need. We’re the podcast you deserve.
Alex: Hello, Sarah Marshall.
Sarah: Hello, Alex Steed.
Alex: So hello, dear listener. You are listening to Why Are Dads and we are about to talk about the movie...what movie Sarah? Based on our voices.
Sarah: I mean, my Batman voice is the same as my demon voice, but we're going to talk about The Dark Knight, and I'm really excited about it.
Alex: I don't think there's a difference between the Batman voice and a demon voice.
Sarah: That's a good point. Yeah. I've been doing this voice for a baby I know who likes the “arghh” sound. And I do like, “I’m your demon babysitter. I can have as many popsicles as I want.” And the baby likes it.
Alex: Of course the baby likes it. Babies love everything. If you do stuff with love they're just like, this is great. I love it.
Sarah: No, babies love talented impressions and they do not like bad impressions. They have very good taste in impressions.
Alex: We are joined today by a lovely, lovely guest, by Aubrey Gordon. Who is the cohost of Maintenance Phase.
Sarah: Yeah. I'm really happy about that.
Alex: Yeah. This was the absolute funnest. It was some of the various pieces configured in an interesting new way.
Sarah: Yeah. It was a really lovely, kind of slumber party experience. And I feel like our giddiness at just getting to talk about this movie with each other is present in this episode. And I hope that you got some of the glow from that.
Alex: What are some things that the listener of this upcoming episode, what should they be looking for?
Sarah: Okay. I think that if you like love this movie a lot, and if hearing people make fun of it is going to be hard for you, then you should skip this one. If you don't mind hearing people make fun of it, then this is for you. Because it's about, you know, just talking about like, what is Batman's plan? Is he really going to get a girlfriend by making someone else be Batman? Who is the daddy? Obviously, what kind of worldview does this represent?
This episode is very special to me because I think this is the most mean that I've been about a movie that we've talked about on the show. And it's hard for me to express how I both relentlessly need to mock and also am genuinely delighted by this movie. And I do hope that we captured that. I feel like we did.
Alex: I think so, too. I'm actually interested in the fact that you're warning people a little bit. Because I listened to this episode and was surprised, based on our conversation, how warmly we all received this movie that we're still very critical of. Like we are critical of this movie, but we're critical of it from the perspective of people who still watch it and light up a bit while watching it.
Sarah: Oh yeah. I kind of want to watch it tonight and I've obviously seen it quite a few times in preparation for this episode. And I think that is why it was important, to me anyway, to kind of try and situate this and its political moment. Because it was like when this movie came out, like this is one of those movies that just everybody liked and had something for everyone and it felt like it just was for, you know, I'm sure the world in many ways, but definitely for the United States in that moment. And now I feel like it matters to look back and be like, we need to talk about who we were when we loved this and when this felt like it was making sense of the world that we were in. And now you look back and you're like, Batman has to be framed, why?
Alex: Yeah. We were living in a world where this pitch probably made sense. And in retrospect, it's very hard to understand why.
Sarah: It’s just weird. Like I was watching the White House Correspondents Dinner from 2011, which is the one where, you know, Obama famously made a...he went pretty easy in making some jokes on Trump. And that does appear to be one of the crucial moments in Trump's need to become President out of spite and racism.
That's such a weird moment in time now to watch because the jokes don't make sense anymore, and they're in reference to things that were like these really odious, manufactured scandals, but none of them were about, “We have a Congress person who says there’s a Jewish space laser.” It was like, “The tea party wants Obama's birth certificate.” And it was like, that was really bad, and just a blatant attempt to gen up a fake story about a President who people wanted to dislike or wanted to hate because he was black. And like, that was the beginning of where we are now, but it's like being those kids in Cabin Fever and feeling nostalgic for when just little bits of your body were falling off. Like, “Oh, we were so cute then.”
Alex: Yeah. That's like very much the beginning of the time that we're in now, and the end of the time that The Dark Knight happened in.
Sarah: Can we talk for a second about the Snyder cut, which is something that happened between us recording this episode and now doing this intro? This is something that I just vaguely know, and I had to ask you to explain it to me the other day. And so I just want to talk about it a little.
Apparently when the Snyder cut came out, which everyone really wanted to happen, or a lot of people did, and they were like, “Release the Snyder cut. Oh, Justice League.” Because I think people thought there was a good movie in there. And I haven't watched it, so I don't know if it's true, but outlook doubtful in my opinion. And people were delighted by the fact that in that cut, the Joker literally says, “We live in a society”, which I learned is like a Joker meme, and I find it funny and kind of unfortunate that throughout this episode we're about to hear, I characteristically have several rants about like, “You know, if you live in a society, who do you hold to a higher standard, the crazy guy or the society?” And I was like, wait, am I theJoker?
Alex: All right, let's go talk with Aubrey.
*video clip plays*
“You think that your client, one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the world is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights speeding criminals to a pulp with his bare hands. And your plan is to blackmail this person?”
“The city just showed you that it people, people ready to believe in good.”
“He comes at me with a knife. Why so serious? He sticks the blade in my mouth. Let's put a smile on that face.”
“You want to kill me?”
“I don’t want to kill you. What would I do without you? No, no you complete me.”
Alex: Oh hey, one more thing before we begin, Why Are Dads is made possible with support from Knack Factory, which is a commercial and creative content in video production company based in Portland, Maine, that does work through these here United States and elsewhere. And also via Patreon. Thank you so much to everyone who is able to support us via Patreon.
And we have pretty frequent bonus episodes. This week we are going to have a bonus conversation with Aubrey. Aubrey was good enough to join us for some extra chat time and we really appreciate it. And that's patreon.com/whyaredads. If you are able to support it financially, we appreciate that so much. And if you're not able, we absolutely understand it. We are just glad that you're along for the Why Are Dad's journey.
All right, let's go talk about the Dark Knight. Hello, Sarah Marshall, she's drinking the G Fuel under the blanket. We know that it's happening. How are you doing?
Sarah: I am so great. I know that I'm super excited before every movie we talk about, but I just really feel like today we're going to kill the Batman and I'm going to be licking my lips the whole time.
Alex: And who are we going to talk about this with, Sarah?
Sarah: Okay. I just realized this. We're going to talk about this with one of the Internet's own Batman's, Aubrey Gordon, formally known as Your Fat Friend.
Aubrey: It's like Post Master's General. Hi guys.
Alex: Hello, Aubrey. Can you just tell us a couple of things about yourself?
Aubrey: Sure. I am a writer, I'm a columnist. I just released my first book called, What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat. And I co-host a podcast with Sarah Marshall's other co-host Michael Hobbes, called Maintenance Phase, where we sort of debunk diet and wellness industry nonsense.
Alex: It's the best. I love it so much.
Sarah: We have had people be like, I don't want to, I feel reluctant to listen to all these shows because I feel like I'm facilitating these people cheating on each other. We all just have a thing for each other. And it's great. And we're gonna have a thing about Batman today.
Alex: Michael's on a business trip and we're all just hanging out.
Sarah: It’s fine, he's busy.
Aubrey: And Alex and I are a couple of home wreckers. Don't worry about it.
Alex: Can we start this episode by you, as concisely as possible, explain what The Dark Knight is? The Dark Knight, I don't know if The Dark Knight is, and what the plot is?
Sarah: I will explain it for three hours. Thank you. Okay. Yeah. I was watching it again right before we recorded and I was like, I know I'm going to get asked to describe the plot of this. And I've watched it several times in the past couple of weeks. And I honestly barely know, and I don't care that much. Like I feel as though this movie could be called, Law & Order: Batman.
So, okay. The plot is that Batman is Batman-ing around. This is the only movie in the Nolan trilogy in which we see him just be Batman. This is our only chance to do that. And so he's successful enough that he now has imitators. In the opening scene he is attacked by dogs, which is great. We really opened though, by watching this bank robbery between this crew of, I think six, five or six guys, all of whom take each other out and then get taken out by the guy who reveals himself to be the Heath Ledger Joker. And it's fantastic. And he takes off his clown mask and he has clown face paint on underneath. And it's great. It's like when Renee Zellweger and that other lady took off their coats and Down With Love, and then they both had the color of each other's coats on their dresses. You're like, “Yay”. And whenever Heath Ledger is there, you're having a great time.
And then we go to Batman dealing with the new threat of the Joker. Batman surveilling Harvey Dent, who's Gotham's new District Attorney who everybody loves and who is dating Batman's long-term love interest. I don't think they were ever in a relationship, but this lady, Rachel, I think it's very rude of him to never talk about the weird disease or accident that she was in that led her to transform from Katie Holmes to Maggie Gyllenhaal. But that also has happened in this movie. She did a lot of plastic surgery and they're like, “You know, you look great, but you look completely different”. And she's like, “Ah, Bruce won't even notice.”
Aubrey: What, if you looked more indie?
Sarah: What if you look like your character had substance, and then we didn't have to write interesting dialogue for you because you're known for your roles playing well-rounded characters, and people will think that you're playing one now.
Sarah: So basically the movie is Batman, I was trying to put this together. Batman meets Harvey Dent. They seem to hate each other. There's a real frenemies vibe. And then Batman's like, “I know Harvey Dent will take over my Batman duties, and then I will retire as Batman. And then I can take his girlfriend.” And that's kind of his plan.
Alex: Yeah. That’s actually kind of the plot.
Sarah: And then the Joker gets in the way, basically.
Aubrey: There's some real incel logic happening in Batman's brain.
Sarah: It doesn't matter where she wants to go.
Aubrey: No, there's another man. He's in the way. When I remove the other man, then the woman is mine. It’s like, “Ah, no.”
Sarah: It is a lot like Oceans 11, I think, where like as an audience member you're like, “Well, this woman is torn between two jerks, and one of them I know better. And I'm on the side of the jerk who's the main character in this movie. So sure.”
I find Harvey Dent very... I can't imagine wanting to date him. Like, what do you think of pre- transformation Harvey?
Alex: Oh God.
Aubrey: No, that's a hard “no”. The vibe that I got from Harvey Dent in his sort of like pre-Two Face scenes in this was that, he would be the kind of guy that you would get drinks with and he would talk about how, like, nobody at his job knows what they're doing and he’s the one who does. Do you know what I mean? Where I'm like, that's not a vibe that I'm into.
Alex: He's the loudest and most consistent and self-assured person in a 200 level Philosophy class. He like, constantly has some shlatitude to say.
Sarah: Aaron Eckhart is very charismatic in other roles. So I know that this is not just him being an uncharismatic person, but like lending his abilities to play someone unpleasant. But I don't know, I just was watching him in the early scenes and I was like, yeah, I can see you going completely crazy and just going on a killing spree after suffering facial burns.
And I also love how Harvey Dent in Gotham, where the ratio of supervillains to citizens is quite high, is going around like, “My girlfriend died, so I get to kill people”. And it's like, you're a District Attorney. Like, you of all people should understand that that's not convincing mitigation in a world where most people have lost a girlfriend to a super villain, I bet.
Alex: Obviously we talk about masculinity and where it's broken, and this movie has so many overlapping portraits of it.
Aubrey: It’s almost like a taxonomy. You know what I mean? Where you're like, well, you could have the Commissioner Gordon kind of bad masculinity, or you could have the Lucius Fox kind of like dysfunctional masculinity, or you can have the Batman. Like, there's so many options for like how to be bad at being a dude.
Sarah: So Batman has a plan. He's a Batman with a bat plan. He is going to give his Batman duties to the district attorney, which doesn't make sense.
Alex: Who outwardly believes in fascism, by the way, and talks about it a lot.
Yes, I know. And then they have his girlfriend be like, “Harvey, fascism is bad.” And he's like, “Whatever”. And then they just move on. So that man has a plan to steal the DA's girlfriend by outsourcing his vigilante duties to more effective prosecution. Which I really didn't know was an option for him. So that's his plan.
And then there emerges a new supervillain, called the Joker. And there is a famous speech given by Michael Caine, who plays Alfred. And who is talking about how a long time ago he was in Burma, which is probably why he doesn't call it Myanmar. And presumably the Brits were attempting to use jewels to bribe local heads of local populations, something like that. Like some kind of colonialist something, something. But that's not the point. The point is that Alfred was helping to figure out who were these bandits that were stealing these jewels that were going to be used to pay off the locals so that the Brits could do whatever they were trying to do. And he says, “You know, Batman, I really think you don't understand this criminal that you're reckoning with because some men can't be bullied or bribed or whatever. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” I thought that was a bad impression, but I really wanted to try it.
And you're like, no, like maybe the bandit was stealing the jewels because he didn't want British colonialists invading his country. And he did have a plan. And he just didn't understand where he was coming from. And you just assume that he just wanted to watch the world burn. Which is also interesting about the Joker, because he was like, “I don't have a plan. I'm an agent of chaos”. Which people seem to believe, but like, he's very good at planning heists.
Sarah: Like he's on the level of Robert de Niro in Heat.
Aubrey: It's like ballet, do you know what I mean? It's like he's like doing Swan Lake, but as heists or as whatever. Like, it's really beautiful.
Sarah: And when this movie first came out, I was not enamored in the way I'm now of the part where he gets that school bus perfectly out with the other school buses.
Alex: Oh, I love it.
Sarah: It's so beautiful. As an adult, you're like, “Yeah!”
So basically the Joker claims to have no plan, but basically embarks on this crusade of terrorism. And he says, “For every day The Batman” - which is what we all agree to call him in Nolan's world - “For every day The Batman doesn't unveil himself, I will kill another Gothamite.” And so he goes after the fake Batman, and he kills a judge, and he kills the police commissioner, which is how Gordon gets a promotion.
Basically this culminates in a night of events where Harvey Dent has taken the fall for being Batman. Maggie Gyllenhaal shockingly doesn't want to be with Bruce Wayne now that he's given up his Batman duties, because she actually gets to decide who she wants to be with. And the Joker kidnaps both Harvey and Maggie, and Batman has to decide who he's going to save. And so he decides to go save Maggie. The Joker, apparently knowing that he was going to do this, or just deciding to because he's mean, the Joker's mean. He has switched them. So in trying to save Maggie Gyllenhaal, he accidentally saves Harvey Dent. And Maggie just gets blown up, which was the only thing that ultimately was going to be able to happen for her because she just, I don't know, that movie did not. They were like, “We need a woman”, but then what. I don't know.
And then there's this whole other set piece, which I find really boring. Where the Joker has two boats and he has put a bomb and a button you press to detonate the bomb on each boat. And one has civilians and one has criminals. Ooh. If the people on each boat press the button, they can detonate the other boat. And if they get to midnight without either boat pressing a button, they're all going to die. And so his plan, I think, is to prove that people are evil and to psychologically destroy Batman.
Alex: I hope that it's not lost on our dear listener right now that the part that you find the most boring is the closest to a Saw plot.
Sarah: That's very true. And there are some things I like about how that is executed, But I just, if this movie knew it were a Saw kind of movie, it would be a very different movie. And I would have had a very different kind of a time.
Alex: That is what it's missing, is a level of self-awareness.
Sarah: It's like taking joy in the thing that it is. Because yeah. And what happens is that in the end, Harvey Dent wakes up, half of his face is spectacularly burnt off. It really is fantastic looking. I remember just being delighted by how all in they went. Like, you can see a whole eyeball. It's great. And then he goes around killing people. And then the Joker kills Maggie Gyllenhaal. And then the people on the boats, none of them press the button because people are good sometimes, which is my personal belief. And then the Joker is just left hanging upside down off of a building for the SWAT team to collect, basically. And he just tells Batman, like, “You complete me and I don't want to kill you. We balance each other.” And Batman is like, “I don't care, I fear intimacy, Bye.”
And then there's like this final standoff where, and I didn't realize this until this year, where Harvey Dent dies. He gets pushed off a building and dies in a very shadowy and anticlimactic way. Because I always thought for some reason that they just didn't explain where he ended up because they wanted to keep it open to like do Harvey Dent for the final movie. That was what I assumed for some reason at the time. But he's dead. Batman and Commissioner Gordon are left. And Commissioner Gordon, played by Gary Oldman - who is just fine in this - is like, “Well, I'm going to give this final speech that really doesn't make sense, about how we have to let Batman take the fall for all the murders Harvey Dent committed, because it would demoralize them to know that the district attorney, who citizens of every major American city know what his name is and care about, if they knew he went on a killing spree it would demoralize the whole city forever. And also all of his cases would be thrown out because that's how the law works. And we have to let Batman, who was a folk hero, take a fall for everything and be chased into the night because he can take it.
Alex: Ok, that was beautiful.
Aubrey: That was phenomenal.
Sarah: Thank you. That was hard to do.
Aubrey: It also feels like foreshadowing of a bunch of the weird plot nonsense that would show up in later Christopher Nolan movies, most recently Tenet, right? Where like people are going to see Tenet and they're like, “What is it about? I don't know.”
Sarah: And Inception is about Joseph Gordon Levitt and Tom Hardy running around in upside down hallways, and it's a lovely action movie that thinks it's about stuff. And I'm like, “I don't care about this stuff.”
Aubrey: Sure. Interstellar, similar sort of like, what is, huh? When a dude who doesn't like to talk about feelings wants to make a movie about love. He's like, “No, it's about space”. Okay.
Alex: That’s what the ideology feels like it comes from. The collection of things you described as described in the media that I know about, in the movies, the movies of his that I've seen, which has all of them minus Tenant, feels like a person who is very much under the belief that they are saying a series of layered, interesting things in a highly entertaining way. And that is the origin of their ideology. Not, an ideology.
Sarah: And they got rewarded for it again and again. And like his movies really are, I think they're all like that. This sort of joy in being hard to follow. And like, I know I'm just an American rube, but like, I think Speed is the perfect action movie. Because it's three movies in one, there are real world stakes, and you basically always know why people are doing what they're doing. Like mostly during this movie, during The Dark Knight, I'm like, “Why aren't we doing this?” I don't really know, but it's fun to watch.
Aubrey: So I've watched this movie a lot of times. I really enjoy this movie. This was the first time that I noticed how much sort of ridiculous, like Fast and the Furious-level action movie nonsense is in here. There’s this point at which they're in a fight in a parking garage, it's within the first like 20 or 30 minutes. They're clearly on the, like, I don't know, 5th or 10th floor of this parking structure. And the Batmobile just like drives in through the wall, like there’s a street outside. Like, what?
Sarah: And that seems also amazing because the fake Batman is there and he's like, “Why are you different for me?” And Batman's like, “Because I'm not wearing hockey pants.” And then he drives the Batmobile away and you're like, I appreciate that he knows that the only reason he's Batman is because he's rich.
Alex: It also feels like it's a person who had 150% of the great ideas that could possibly rest in a movie and have breathing room. And like, it's been commented on a thousand times about how the Two Face plot just feels like it's literally just like 45 minutes that they attached at the end of another movie and didn't flesh it out totally.
But yeah, one of my favorite comic book movies is Logan. And I think the reason for that is someone was like, “There's so many cool things that happen in superhero movies. What if we gave the themes some space to breathe over the course of two hours.” Because so... there are maybe five cool things that happen every five minutes in this movie to the point where it's so disorienting. It sounds great though. The sound is, chef’s kiss.
Sarah: The sound is amazing. I was really appreciating it this time. Like I think the music is great, everyone always talks about that. I do give Hans Zimmer a hard time because I think repetitive growling is easy to use to stress out if you were, but like whatever. But like the sound design I think is really amazing in this.
Aubrey: It's phenomenal. Everything sounds like clicking and clanking and crunching of the stuff that he uses. Right. Like all of his little gadgetry stuff. They do a great job of mic’ing up when the, like, however they did the sound on the transformation of the Batmobile. I was, yes, I want that sound as like my text tone. It's just so great.
sarah: It's very embodied. I was thinking about the difference in place between the different Batman directors and how Tim Burton's thing is kind of, I want to say like WPA Detroit look, where they have these huge statues of workers and just very gothic and kind of out of time, even though they're using nineties technology. But I feel like this Batman takes place in what I can only describe as like a very clean Chicago.
Aubrey: Yeah, totally.
Alex: I think that that's right.
Sarah: And like, without color, like without pretty graffiti or anything, it's just all beige and steel.
Aubrey: Yeah. Clean Chicago where it's always nighttime. It's never the day. I hope you don't like the sun.
Alex: They're like, we mean it literally it's the dark night. It is throughout, start to finish.
Aubrey: In case you didn't get the two layers of meaning happening here.
Alex: So, okay. So we said at the beginning that there are just an amazing amount of layers of the things that we typically talk about in the show. But even more on the nose I didn't realize how much that just literal dad theme was throughout this movie. Like Albert is Batman's dad, Batman's the city's dad, Gordon's also the city's dad. We have Dent trying to be the city's dad and it not really working out. There's a series of very Bush-era conversations around what you have to do about liberty and personal freedom as a means of keeping people safe, and what people's expectations are, and like what the trades are. What does this movie have to say about paternalistic responsibility?
Aubrey: You're totally right. Harvey Dent is like damaged dad, damaged wannabe dad who never quite makes it happen. Lucius Fox, who is Morgan Freeman's character, is sort of like company man, principle, no frills dad. Dad, who's not mad at you, but he is disappointed, competent dad.
Sarah: And he’s kind of the dad of the corporation, too. You're like, “he's taking care of it. It's fine”.
Aubrey: Totally. The Joker I think is like when an abused child grows up, maladaptive. The thing that I walked away from that movie feeling like this time around was, oh, all of those are failed. None of those actually function. Even the one that provides the movie’s resolution doesn't feel especially functional, right? Like it doesn't resolve all of these tensions around, as you were saying, like sort of Bush-era anxieties around like the Patriot Act and all that sort of stuff. It feels like it looms very large in this movie and no one really solves it. It does feel sort of like an “Oops, all dads”. Very like, well everybody's a dad. Also because there are no women. There's one. There's one lady. I hope you like that one lady.
sarah: And then, and there she goes.
Alex: She's basically there exclusively to be a grief vehicle so that we can then see messy grief dad.
Aubrey: Right. She's a plot device more than like a person.
Alex: Yeah. The only other place we see women is on Bruce's arm, and there's always several at once.
Sarah: Oh, right.
Aubrey: Prima ballerinas.
Sarah: This is a weird scene where they're on the yacht with the ballerinas to get the alibi, because like, first of all, I feel like ballerinas are supposed to avoid getting tan lines. Bruce seems uninterested in them. Like maybe he was at some other point.
Alex: This man doesn't have sex.
Sarah: No, he does not. Yeah. That's the thing. Like his love interest is a woman who rejected him three years ago or something like that. Yeah. And I do appreciate that Batman is like overtly wounded in that way and that we see that.
But then, Alfred also doesn't want to put suntan lotion on the ballerinas and you're like, does this whole movie not want to put suntan lotion on a ballerina?
Alex: And can we talk about why the ballerinas are there? The ballerinas are there because Harvey was going to take his new girlfriend, who's Batman's love interest, to the ballet. And Batman's power move as Bruce Wayne was to invite the entire ballet on his yacht so they could hang out and then Harvey and girlfriend could not see the ballet.
Sarah: Because then maybe that'll stop them from having sex for just that one night. Who knows, it could work.
Alex: This movie does end with a bit of a thesis. It ends just with a big hug around Bush-era politics. Like this movie loves all of the dads acknowledge that some shenanigans need to happen under the radar as a means of upholding liberty and freedom. Which is the whole Bush thing. And we hear of Batman who is inexplicably taking the fall.
Sarah: Because everyone's gonna feel good about that. About Batman being a murderer.
Alex: Because everyone will feel let down that, this is nuts. But Gordon, the dad, explains to his son why Batman the dad had to do this for the city. And he says, “Batman is the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one they need right now. Because he can take it. He's not a hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector, a Dark Knight.” Which is a dad explaining why he's a martyr. I don't know if Christopher Nolan is a dad.
Sarah: Yeah, he is.
Alex: Okay. His thought about being a dad is like, you are a martyr, people are going to shit on you, you have to break the rules in order to keep everything going. Like, if there are enemies at the gate, he says this in the movie, “If their enemy is at the gates, you have to suspend democracy”, even though it's pointed out that what happens after democracy is suspended forever.
Sarah: Well, the lady who said that got blown up, so who cares? Sounds like a loser.
Alex: At the end of the movie it says, yeah, well, you know, sometimes you just got to torture a couple of people and kill about 300,000 or 400,000.
Sarah: I could talk for an hour about what does it mean when Commissioner Gordon says, “He's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now”. Like, what does that mean? I don't know what that means.
Aubrey: It's movie dialogue, is what it is.
Sarah: Yeah. It's code for, we need to wrap this puppy up.
Alex: Did Nolan write this? Was it like him and his brother or something?
Sarah: He co-wrote it. Yeah.
Alex: That's something written by a man who felt misunderstood as an artist for a long time. That's something that like literal nineties indie film guy wrote. He's like, “I put this movie out and it's what people need, but not right now.”
Sarah: Right. And it's like, no, it's what people need right now.
Aubrey: It's also sort of Christopher Nolan's whole M.O., which is like, if you don't get it, that's on you. Do you know what I mean? It’s like, if you don't like it, that's because you don't get it, is sort of the vibe of all of these movies, right? Inception and Tenant and all of those sorts of like projects, and Interstellar. All of it is sort of this like, “Hey man, I made this really complicated thing that's about what's in my soul. If you're not on board with that, then like, that just means you just like haven’t ascended to this level yet”, tends to be sort of like the culture around it. Whether or not that's his actual intention.
Sarah: So I think I'm especially confused in this movie by the phrase, “He's the hero Gotham deserves”. Because maybe this wasn't the intention, but I feel as if this movie kind of hates Gothamites, and if it doesn't hate them, it is just utterly indifferent to them. Like I have no idea what these people are like. I was actually wondering, I was like, “Is there a Gotham accent? Or did a lot of people relocate from New York, especially if they're gangsters?” Oh my God.
Aubrey: It feels like he hates Gothamites, but it particularly feels like he hates Gotham government. This is like such a deeply, deeply, deeply anti-government movie.Right? Harvey Dent is like the one competent person and he's like not great.
Sarah: And then he becomes a murderer, but we don't talk about it.
Aubrey: Then he becomes a murderer. The courts are overloaded. Cops are sort of hapless. Like even on the boats, when the boats are sort of trying to decide whether or not to blow each other up, they try to vote and it doesn't really work on whether or not they should blow up the other boat. Right. Like, it's just like one failure after another of government. And it feels like deeply, deeply Libertarian to me.
Sarah: Yeah. And it also makes sense that Batman would be so punished for believing that he could hand off his duties to the DA, which again, it makes no sense. I just have to highlight how little sense this makes that like, it is not the district attorney's job to like beat people up in parking lots. But I think we're living in a, I don't know, maybe in America people do think that. Maybe that's what their job is metaphorically. And then he's punished for that because the movie's like, “You thought an elected official could take care of crime? No. Only throwing Eric Roberts off of a fire escape will work.”
Aubrey: So here's the thing that I'm curious about. They're definitely all of these like very American, Bush-era, post September 11th kind of anxieties that are getting processed in this movie. The other thing that's getting processed in this movie in what I think is a really interesting way, is what is the origin story of psychopathy. Which is sort of like what we're talking about when we're talking about the Joker and what we're talking about when we're talking about a number of characters in this movie. This shows up in a couple of different ways, right? I think probably the biggest one is the explanations for the Joker’s scar. The sort of trademark scars that he has that sort of extend his mouth into this big creepy grin that he gives different answers two times. And then the third time Batman just like pushes him off a roof or whatever. I can't remember what he does, Batman’s just like, I don't care.
I really appreciate that this movie does not actually give you answers to that. And when it does, they are unsatisfying. Like I think that the origin story of Harvey Dent is an unsatisfying origin story.
Sarah: Because that's us watching an origin story happen. And you're just like, okay.
Aubrey: I just appreciate that this movie deals with sort of the idea of this medicine character. And it's just like, yeah, we don't actually know where this guy comes from, we don't know his background. We just know that he's here and we've got to figure out what to do. That feels like a more honest answer than we get from a lot of movies that sort of tangle with the same idea of sort of like, where does “evil” come from? Where does “psychopaths” come from? It feels more honest to me to be like, but you don't actually know, and that's the unsettling thing.
So I appreciate that part, but I'm curious about how that bit about the scars, the sort of explanation of the scars landed for you two.
Sarah: Even watching it after many times and knowing that the first time you hear this story, it's going to be contradicted by the next one, they’re still very powerful stories and I think they really work.
It also reminds me of Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer, another great Chicago film, where we have, you know, our Henry serial killer who also tells multiple mutually exclusive accounts of just how did he kill his mama, and why is he the way that he is. And I don't think we actually want to know why people do awful things, because the answer is often like, “Well, we didn't have any funding for seeing if children are being abused in the home or it wasn't a crime at the time.”
I was actually reading about Mommie Dearest, and there's a story about Christina Crawford trying to basically escape when Joan Crawford would try to strangle her and stuff, and a cop saying to her like, “Well, you just got to stick it out until you're 18, sweetie. Because if you get in trouble again, they lock you up and your mom's allowed to strangle you if she wants. It's different when you're an adult, but not now. Bye.”
If we want to talk about improving society and creating a bigger government in some ways to deal with those problems we could, but like, we love having a fake answer because like his girlfriend died. I think Harvey's resilience was the problem.
Aubrey: Yes. That Mommie Dearest story feels reminiscent of the Jeffrey Dahmer escape story. One of the folks that he picked up.
Sarah: Two people.
Aubrey: Did two people get away?
Sarah: Yeah. And the second guy who escaped, the police were actually like, “This seems suspicious”. But the first victim who escaped, yeah, he found two young black women or teenage girls who kind of encountered him and hailed down the police. And the police took him back to Dahmer’s house and were like, “Well, it's really weird. This is a weird situation, but we don't know what gays are like. This is probably it.”
Aubrey: Yeah, totally. And basically that was Dahmer's explanation. Right. Was he was like, “Oh, we're gay. And it's like a gay thing.” And they were like, “Alright, bye.”
Sarah: This is what gays do. They chase their very young looking, very drugged seeming, sexual partners into the street naked while wearing handcuffs. It's a gay thing.
Aubrey: Totally. And it's much easier to have a conversation that's just like, “I don't know, he's crazy.” Then to go, okay, actually we had some really precise and serious failures in law enforcement. And this is actually a problem of having straight people in charge of gay people without really being comfortable enough to be around gay people.
Sarah: Yeah. And then one of the cops who helped return one of Dahmer's victims to him, who then obviously the obvious consequences of that then happened immediately. That guy, I think last summer there was a story that he was President of the police union or had been for a long time in Milwaukee.
Aubrey: He got like a decorated retirement and he was a police officer in Kenosha, right after the Kenosha protest stuff.
Sarah: Well in the words of Stevie Nicks, “Lightning strikes maybe once, maybe twice. And it all comes down to you.” And ultimately what that I think reveals is that like, these questions of individual evil or individual behavior or whatever are actually less important than like, if we had a society that took care of people who had problems than like their problems would be less of a problem.
And also, I feel as if like in the same way that I love how the Saw movies kind of allow you, like never attempt overtly to stop you from just coming up with the interpretation that John Kramer had no plan at any time. And it was just a man dying of a frontal lobe tumor, which notably impacts your decision-making skills.
We're allowed to watch this trilogy and be like, so Batman set up shop in a city that was definitely struggling, but was also, you know, doing okay, like hanging on. And he basically in a few short years, turned it into a police state.
Alex: Right. I have a hard time extracting these movies from Bush,anything.
Sarah: And this came out in 2008, so this is like a valedictory look back at the past eight years. I don't know when it was written in the context of Obama's ascent, but like Dent is Obama, in a lot of ways. So it's hard to extract those things, but like there are on the reeds about what Audrey just said, where it's like the origin story of the Joker changes. I don't think Christopher Nolan is smart enough to have been making these statements, and I'm reverse putting them on. But like the origin story for the reason to go into Iraq changed several times, right? Like the origin story for that evil changed, it changed four times in the course of three months in public. And people were just like, all right, I guess we're just doing this. So to create that monster, like it has that overlap there, which is particularly interesting. And like, I was probably like anyone who from the get-go was like, this is a bad idea, was always confused why that didn't rattle some more cages. But it didn't rattle more cages because of a thing that the Joker says in this movie. Like a lot of the things that the Joker says in this movie, you can accidentally become a person who takes it too seriously and thinks that he's saying some good shit. Like people do about Thanos in the Marvel movies. He says some correct things, and one of the correct things he says is essentially like, “People will go along with anything as long as it's going to plan, even if the plan is horrible.”
The Joker, sorry that I'm making so many Marvel connections, but also I've been really nerdy into Norse mythology. Like the Joker is the Loki character in this too, because like the Joker is not necessarily good or bad. He is just an agent of chaos who goes around and reflects to people what they are in one way or another. And he is maybe like an Anarcho-Llibertarian in this movie, but he's correct in saying like, people will do anything as long as it seems like it's kind of part of the structure. So like, let's go along - and he's kind of wrong as we see portrayed in this movie - let's go along and like fuck up the structure a little bit and see how people act.
And this is the thing we talked about in this episode is like, you know, as soon as we get into horror franchises where we're describing the person's backstory, I'm out. I'm just not interested anymore. I don't need to know more about Michael Myers’ third cousin. I don't need to know it. And so I like that what this does is exactly as Aubrey pointed out, is like, it gives you a couple of origin stories. It's like, these might be true, they might not be true. It doesn't fucking matter. Isn't this guy wild. I don't want to, in any of the criticism I've offered, overlook the fact that like this Joker is so fun.
Sarah: He is so fun. And he's funny. Like the Joker often, because he dresses like a clown, he's like, “I don't have to be funny”. And it's like, okay, whatever. But like this guy is like, the clown look is muted, so I'm just going to be a funny guy.
Aubrey: Just the moment of him like turning around in the hospital dressed as a candy striper, exquisite. And the fact that they managed to do that without making it like a super transphobic man in a dress moment, I was like, good work. Look at you. You did it. You avoided the landmines. Cheers, team.
Alex: And he's like coordinated in a fun way. Like, his outfit is great.
sarah: Oh yeah. I love it. The line when they have him at the station, we have a shot of like all the knives he somehow had in his pockets, focused on his person getting all lined up. And they're like, it's very much like when John Doe gets taken in in Seven they're like all his clothes are custom made and nothing in his pockets but knives and lint.
Aubrey: I will say while we're talking about delightful, bad acting. I mean, not like, whatever.
Sarah: Acting like a bad guy.
Aubrey: Delightful, bad behavior. I will say that around the release of this movie is when we got that release of the recording of Christian Bale unloading on the Director of Photography.
Alex: Oh yes, yes.
Aubrey: Do you guys remember this moment?
Alex: Oh yeah, yeah.
sarah: I remember this happening and I remember not even listening to it because I was like, I know. I believe. I appreciate that he's doing bad stuff and he has anger issues, and I don't support that. But also like, I want to be able to keep emotionally relying on Newsies and this is going to make it harder for me. So I guess I kind of compartmentalized it. But I would love to hear about it now. I feel like I'm strong enough.
Aubrey: That’s fair. As a person who just does not enjoy shouting out of anger, it always makes me feel real skiddish. Don't enjoy it. It is hard to listen to, but also it is very funny to me. So like, it's not a funny instance, he's being awful. I just want to be incredibly clear about that. But the way that he's being awful is very funny to me. He is yelling in a way that would be immature for a grade schooler where he just goes, “Oh, good, good for you”. Like, just like this, like dripping with sarcasm weirdness. And he goes like, “Oh, look at you. You're just going on. Like, doo do doo.” You're like, what is happening? So it's very funny to me to think about this very well-respected actor who's at the top of his field, award-winning in all of these ways, going to another adult man, “doo do doo”.
Sarah: Which this movie could have had more of honestly, like, I mean, I think one of Batman's problems is that he's never allowed to be funny and like never in his life will he have an adventure where he has to or gets to be funny. Although I'd love to hear about when that happens or comes close to happening in comic book plots.
Alex: The funniest thing he says, he and Alfred are going up some elevator thing, and Albert says something like, “I'm going to go to jail for being an accomplice.” And Wayne says, “Accomplice? I'm going to tell them this was all your idea.” And it's oddly funny for how weirdly joyless this man is the entire time. This man whose entire existence is defined by being angry that his parents died when he was 10 years old, and that his girlfriend from three years ago is now with another person.
Aubrey: I also wonder, you guys have done a couple more Batman movies than this. And it's been a minute since I've seen the ones that precede the Nolan trilogy. Is this the origin of the Batman voice, the like growl-like that?
Sarah: They had it in Batman Begins. And Keaton is definitely doing some kind of a voice. But this is a hang up I have about the Nolan Batman. I'm incredibly hard on Christian Bale in this role. I think partly because he's publicly ashamed of having been a Newsies and I'm like, Newsies was better than this and you sounded less silly in it. I have to say like, I would rather he sang everything than do that Batman voice that he does, because it never works for me.
It's never not distracting. The whole time I'm just like, Bruce, like,, are you going to get polyps or what?
Aubrey: Yeah. Well, and then in the next film, they graduate to the Bain voice, which is like even more bonkers.
Sarah: I do love the Bane voice. Yeah. And I love how it gets like Sean Connery basically, but it's something else.
Alex: They really should have had a bit where someone hears Batman talk for the first time and just laughs at him. And imagine being a cop and there's this man doing all this shit and then he talks like this, and you're like, what the fuck did you just say to me?
Aubrey: It's such a bonkers voice. And especially in lines, like, “Because I'm not wearing hockey pants”. What? That voice doesn't say’ hockey pants’.
Sara: You seem like a really cool guy who should be doing this. Like, I also think like this movie, casting really does a good job of making the script seem stronger than it is. Like I would watch Morgan Freeman grocery shop for about an hour and I would have a great time. And like, I don't think that Alfred in this really, I could not say what kind of a person he is. He's witty, he's funny, and he just is completely and utterly loyal to Bruce. And that's really all I know. I guess he seems like he has more of a character in this because Michael Caine is so lovely to watch and just has a dimensional presence, I feel like.
Aubrey: Yeah, totally agreed. There was like, not quite enough, Michael Caine for me. There was not quite enough Morgan Freeman's character for me. I was like, this is a really fascinating portrait of a company man. That’s sort of the Morgan Freeman kind of vibe. He's definitely like the most competent person in this movie. Do you know what I mean? Just in terms of getting things done and knowing how to do things and being a go-to. Like, it's very true that he is sort of like straight up knows how to run things and like just handles things. That moment with the guy who wants to blackmail Bruce Wayne is a great moment of Lucius just being like, “Oh sweetie, no, honey”.
Sarah: There should be a Lucius show. Because I feel as if he's sort of like the casino manager figure of it all. Like he's the guy who has to go between and like get this technology. Like it has to be harder than what we're seeing.
Alex: Everyone who is in kind of a dad-ish role in this movie, taking out the Bush context, just about responsibility, there is a lot of commentary about how there's stuff that has to happen above board, and then there's stuff that has to happen below board.
Like starting with the bank that gets robbed. It’s a bank. Yes. But it's also a mob bank. Everything has a layer of like what's happening above the surface and what's happening below the surface. But what's the movie say about responsibility? It's like, you have to do stuff above board and have character, but also you have to have like a secret R&D department in your corporation where you can privately develop weaponry. Like, does it have a statement accidentally?
Aubrey: I mean, I think it's statement is, but ultimately you got to crack a few eggs if you want to make an offer. Right. Like that seems to be sort of the vibe of this movie is like, “Look, nobody likes surveillance, but we're going to do it. If it gets our guy.” It definitely feels like very steeped in that kind of like Guantanamo debate. Interestingly it came out before the Snowden leaks, right? Like several years before all of the NSA stuff, which feels really fascinating to me.
Sarah: Because that was under Obama that we found that out. Yeah. Under, under Harvey. Harvey whole face. This idea you were like covering your bases by sort of debating or seeming to debate the topic, and then being like, but of course we have to surveil everyone and it's fine because Morgan Freeman is doing it. And who would you feel better about surveilling you? No one. The end.
You know, that feels very early line order to me where they kind of, especially in like the early season episodes, which are the ones closest to my heart. Because they're clumsy and weird and they have some kind of transparency. The cops on the street will be debating this concept very openly of like, if someone is abused, does that give them the right to kill their abuser? Maybe. And then at the end they're like, “No, it's not okay” at all the end. And you're like, “Well, I guess they entertain the idea.” And it's like, did they entertain it or attempt to sort of trouble your conceptions significantly? Or was this sort of like a symbolic offering?
Alex: It didn't strike me until just now how Law and Order is just unrealistically, 90%, a bunch of cops talking about the philosophical rationale for the things that they do. Like it's their conversation that they would be having at the office.
Sarah: I'm sure that's what they do. Yeah.
Aubrey: The first four seasons of Law & Order SVU are just like Christopher Meloni being like, “I’m a Catholic. Here's what thing.” Where you're just like, “What?”
Sarah: It's like, what if we could combine Dragnet with the McLaughlin Group.
Aubrey: He’s just there to ask like exposition questions, but not really have an opinion. Mariska Hargitay would be like, “And I'm a woman!” As we're talking about this, I'm realizing the degree to which Jack McCoy, the Sam Waterston character, is Batman.
Aubrey: Like he is the Batman of that crew, which is just like, I don't care. I'm going to do what needs to be done. And you're not going to always like it. But here we are.
Sarah: He's a bad lawyer, man. Like, he's like the prosecutorial version of Perry Mason. Like he does not have a strategy. I don't think he really plans stuff out. He just, you know, like 20 minutes before court, shot a scotch, get in there, intimidate some people, you know bark about morals, point, and then you know, eventually they take a deal.
Aubrey: Like just about any cop show or law enforcement show, including The Sinner, which we were talking about earlier off mic. It is this deep willingness to believe that actually people who are in law enforcement in any capacity are in it to find the real answers and the real people who did the really bad things. And it's like, well.
Sarah: And the system may be corrupt, but they are not. And like we put our faith in the individual Batman's origin story is that he originally, you know, was a detective. That has been, I think, what he is this entire time. Like the systems aren't the answer and that the lone man, the lone detective, the lone vigilante, like the point is that he's doing it by himself. And there's a line that I find so interesting when he's talking about giving his job to Harvey and Alfred's like, I think he says something about like, “What about the fake Batmans? Like, what about that?” And Batman's like, “You know, that's not what I meant when I said I wanted to inspire people.” And I was like, well, if people are inspired to dress like you and beat up criminals like you and be vigilantes like you, maybe you want to inspire them less.And I feel like he's really saying like, “No, but I want to do it”.
Aubrey: What did cosplayers ever do to you, man?
Sarah: Yeah. There's something especially dark about superhero movie directors seeming to dislike fans and it's like, I don't know what side do you think your budget is buttered on, sweetie?
Aubrey: Did either of you see the Joaquin Phoenix Joker?
Sarah: I did not. And I'm curious about how it compares, because like, I was just like, ah, I don't care about the joker as a character that much. And I love Heath Ledger as the Joker, but I don't know. I think, and this is another kind of half-life of this movie thing, too, I'm very creeped out by the fact that we had a shooting at the premiere of the Dark Knight Rises, where the gunman was inspired by some Joker iteration or was doing a Joker kind of a thing. And I think the feeling that a lot of people had anticipating the Joaquin Phoenix Joker movie was like, it's going to inspire incels and mass shootings, and blah, blah, blah. And then people were like, no, it's not about that. I haven't seen it so I don't know, but I'm just like, well, I do think it's reasonable we could suggest to fear, like not maybe the content of the movie so much as what happened at the last premier of the Nolan Batman.
Which really, I remember going to see because my boyfriend at the time was a comic book guy. And so we went to a lot of midnight premieres or releases of things. And so we went and then like walked home. And I remember I was reading the news at 3:30 in the morning and reading about this massacre in Colorado that had just happened to people exactly like us, who just wanted to watch a movie exactly like us. Just like Gothamite plebeians just wanted to see some cool stuff happen for three hours.
Aubrey: It feels like the two sort of biggest sort of rival Joker performances. There's also the Jared Leto one.
Sara: But that one no one seems to want it.
Aubrey: That's right. That's exactly right. So I was just curious about how you all felt about those two. I mean like the thing that I think is both interesting and profoundly uninteresting about the Joaquin Phoenix joker movie. So I went to see it like opening weekend at a theater in East County in Portland. And there were two Kevlard up cops at the entrance to the theater. So to your point about sort of this crime, so to your point about this mass shooting, that fear was alive and well enough in Portland, Oregon. Which in a Portland, Oregon movie theater, which feels like maybe one of the sleepiest places to be. They had deployed like, again, not security, like cops, like cops were at the movie theater, which is just real wild.
I mean, the thing about the Joaquin Phoenix Joker movie that stayed with me was, I was like, this is the origin story that we don't get in the Dark Knight. Us not getting that origin story, is I think, part of why I find this movie so satisfying. You don't get to know where this guy comes from. And also the Joaquin Phoenix one is like, he's got a real frigid mother and people are mean to him and blah, blah, whatever. You're just like, okay.
Sarah: Yeah. Let's blame a series of women.
Alex; I felt like with that movie, like I would have a responsibility to feel a certain way and weigh in on the movie when I watch America's dialogue about it, which I think was important or whatever. But like sometimes you're like, is this actually important? Like, is this conversation that's happening about this? Like, is anything happening as a result? It's like, people are just like angry and yelling and freaking out. And like, do I have to feel responsible with an opinion of a movie by the guy who made Roadtrip about the Joker? Like, I can't deal with it.
Sarah: People don't kill people, Alex. Todd Phillips movies kill people.
Alex: I was like, I can't have this.
Sarah: I guess, spooky about that initial crime would have held me back from going to see the Joker aside from the fact that it seemed kind of serious and I really am somewhat allergic to serious superhero movies. Because we were talking about that today. But yeah, there's also this thing of just like it happened in Colorado, but it also happened in a movie theater. And there's something about being in a movie theater where it's like, you're not where you are, you're in a movie theater and like your senses are blocked out.
And we're now in a moment where we're kind of realizing that like, literally everything we used to do was like brave and slutty and amazing. I grew up watching The Celluloid Closet over and over again, because IFC was playing it a lot when I was in eighth grade. And Susan Sarandon has an amazing moment in that where she's talking about like, well, movies, you know, they're this incredibly vulnerable experience because you go into a room and they turn the lights out and then, you know, you are watching something that transports you to your dreams and your fears and just, I can't believe it's something that we just used to do all the time and not even think about it. But it's like, you're surrendering yourself to a collective dream with a group of strangers that you're agreeing to implicitly trust. And we had to have that conversation and people had to be like, “I'm afraid to go to see a Todd Phillips movie.”
The problem is that we're living in a country without sufficient gun control that people don't feel safe going to see a movie. Like this is the kind of thing I feel like I would grow up being taught about like, you know, some other small country that we're supposed to pity, like that's how they live. And it's like, hey, it's us, we're doing it.
Alex: That must have looked from the outside nuts that like we were having a heated conversation about a Todd Phillips movie, because we feel so powerless about doing anything surrounding Todd Phillips movies.
Sarah: And the text of the movie, and like, does it support violence or does it not? And it's like in a just society, Todd Phillips could make whatever stupid movie he wants to, we wouldn't have to worry about it inspiring criminals, who then were able to just go out and get whatever tools they wanted without any pushback. People should be allowed to make weird art without people being able to do it themselves at home quite so easily.
Another thing about this movie, about The Dark Knight. Out of the many movies we have discussed here today is that like, speaking of the sound design in it, like the sound of guns in this movie is like, there's a lot of gun sound and it's very effective, I feel like. And that's just, I don't know if we would do that today. I don't think we should do that today in a movie that is for entertaining people.
Aubrey: It does feel like there are not many movies, particularly blockbusters and particularly blockbusters that remain. People really continue to like this movie. Like this continues to be like a mainstay of USA Network on a Sunday. And there were just not many movies that have this kind of like real-world violence attached to them. And for it to continue to sort of make its way through without necessarily being hampered by that in people's minds, is really wild to me.
I'm curious about, we're sort of talking about sort of broadly the feelings about this movie. I'm curious about how you two feel about it. What's your relationship to this movie?
sarah: I definitely like it. Like, I definitely, if this were on TV, I would be like, I will watch this, you know? And when I saw it in the theater, I was 19 or 20 and I was like, that was great, I loved it. It seemed to have themes. I like it when an action movie seems to have themes, I feel smart. Great. And then coming back to it in the past few years, I've sort of just been delighted to return to the Nolan Batman movies and put them in conversation with the other Batman movies and be like, these movies are like, they think they have this perspective, which I think is really silly. I think if you break down the electric philosophies of all of these, they don't make any sense, but also they perfectly document like the America in which I was a young adult. And like, that didn't make sense either.
Like, I guess I feel like there are, in a way that nothing else has been. Because there were so many movies, like Syriana. We talked about on the show recently, or like movies about the Iraq war that people just don't remember anymore. This one, I do think just sort of distills that time and what we believed or felt we had to believe. \
Alex: So I remember seeing him in the theater and being like stoked about a lot of things in it. Like just seeing the first clown mask in the movie. I think it treated, I mean, obviously like Heath Ledger treated the Joker so beautifully in this movie. But I think the movie is the best tribute to the Joker in film forum, for sure. I haven't seen the Joker movie that you just talked about, but like it honors this spirit in a really interesting way while speaking to a lot of stuff that was happening in that particular moment. And it is a lot of fun, like outside of the convoluted elements to it, I think it's like a lot of fun for such a dour movie.
Like there's so many things I do like about this movie and I love what is beautifully parodied in Lego Batman - which we're going to do at some point in the show - is showing the codependent relationship between the Joker in Batman that happens so quickly that illustrates two fucked up men who just need each other in order to have any reason or rationale. Like, it's beautiful. And I remember being in the theater thinking this part is so fun, to the point where I was so fucking disappointed when we had to spend another 45 minutes on a sequel that they tried to cram into.
Aubrey, you said you've watched this movie a lot. What is your take on it?
Aubrey: So I have a real pension for action movies, regardless of their quality.
Sarah: The best action movie is a 6.1 on IMDb, that's the sweet spot.
Aubrey: The greatest. So I will say I went through a long phase in my twenties in particular of going to see every new Liam Neeson movie that came out, every new Nic Cage movie that came out.
Sarah: Which is just like one a year for about 10 years there. Right?
Aubrey: Oh yeah. So this has like all of the payoff. I would say that this has all of the payoff that I'm looking for in an action movie, which is like chases and punching and one liners and Morgan Freeman, for some reason. Do you know what I mean? I'm just like, it's all there. I'm getting everything I need out of this. It just scratches similar itches for me as like a Bond movie does. Which is just like, oh, you just made this thing that has a bunch of sort of like dude-ly kind of Christopher Nolan. It's really complicated kind of stuff to it, but also hits all the high notes of like all of the pain of the beating up of the crime fighting of the blah, blah, blah. All of those sorts of things are there.
I will also say this was a movie, like I am a person who is off and on at different points in my life profoundly anxious or profoundly depressed, and constantly trying to convince people around me that the world is darker than they think it is. So this was a movie where I was like, “Guys I was right all along.”
Alex: Aubrey, do you know the question we typically ask at the end of the show? And if you do, would you ask it of the group?
Aubrey: Yes. Who's the daddy, everybody? Who's the daddy of The Dark Knight? I mean, again, I feel like this is like, oops, all daddies.
Sarah: Oh, yeah. Let's look at our candidates here. Okay. So we have Commissioner Gordon, about whom very little can be said by me. We have Batman himself. We have Alfred. We have Lucius Fox. We have a lot of like also random side guys. We have Eric Roberts as a gangster, which I always appreciate. We have Anthony Michael Hall, as the news, we have the mayor who's just a random hottie, whose name I forget.
Aubrey: Oh, Nestor Carbonell, a man born wearing eyeliner.
Sarah: And then we have the Joker, you know. Okay. For me personally, the Joker is the daddy because something I feel like we all need to talk about more as a society is that the Joker literally says to Batman, “You complete me.” That's beautiful. Like he knows what his deal is. Nobody else knows what their deal is.
I also love when he proposes to kill the Batman and the various gangsters who he has assembled. He’s like, well, why didn't you do it already? Why are you telling us about it? He's like, “If you're good at something, never do it right for free.”
Alex: Yeah, totally. That is a fantastic lesson.
Sarah: Yeah. And just, and the Joker is like, I don't care what his backstory is. He doesn't need a backstory because he has a coherent presence now. He wants to kill the Batman. And he got some scars somehow and he feels it necessary to wear a lot of makeup. And they're like, “war paint”. And it's like, no, I think we can just call it makeup. Makeup is fine.
And it's really like, this is a story about Batman having a chance at intimacy and pushing it away. Batman wants Maggie Gyllenhaal to come, you know, live with Bruce Wayne and be his love and who even knows what their relationship would involve, because it's not like either of them have hobbies. But really, he isn't Bruce Wayne, he’s Batman. And the Joker wants Batman and he wants them to just torment each other until the end of time. And they should have just done that.
Alex: Aubrey, you went to your take?
Aubrey: So like on the movies terms, right if I'm thinking about sort of the movie itself, I think this movie doesn't exist without the Joker. Like it just doesn't if it's Batman versus this sort of like crime syndicate. Who cares, who cares truly, who cares?
I think in my heart of hearts, I kind of feel like it's Lucius Fox. I’m so fascinated by that character. And I need, like, I think Sarah you mentioned earlier, like they should have a Lucius Fox spinoff movie. Like I would watch the shit out of a Lucius Fox spin off movie.
Alex: Yeah, I agree with Aubrey's take. I mean, I agree with yours. But my daddy would be Lucius for all these reasons. I just want to know how he was approached initially. Like I want to know what conversation was like. Did he show promise and he was promoted in this arena? Like, did he have a special relationship with Bruce's dad? I don't really want to know. I'm glad that I don't know. But if I had to learn more about anybody, I'd want to know about this guy in particular. He's the only person also who has any charisma.
Sarah: Alfred's charming.
Alex: Alfred is charming, but like it’s just Alfred.
Sarah: He's toning it down. Yeah.
Alex: My impression of Alfred is the impression of Alfred from the trip over time. It's just become a caricature of itself. So I'll take Lucius, I agree.
Sarah: So to maybe connect this, I feel like superhero movies are often an excuse for men to have relationships with each other, which is also why I love heist movies. Like, you get to watch people do teamwork, which is amazing. And also, I think war. Like these movies where typically men, there's a large group of them they have to do something together and have a shared goal. And it's often like, you know, war or killing. Can we take a leaf from like the British comedy playbook and just have like a movie about Bruce Wayne and Alfred, like on a long road trip together? Like what if they had to go to Arizona and it got that plane?
Alex: That would be so good. I would love that so much.
Can you just tell us how you would like people to find you when they're done listening?
Aubrey: Sure! You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @YrFatFriend. You can find me at yourfatfriend.com. You can read my book, What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat, which is out now. And you can listen to Maintenance Phase, if you want to hear about Dr. Oz being a real story of some squandered talent.
Alex: A real wicked witch, if you will, of the West.
Aubrey: That's right.
Sarah: But he actually came and when the wicked witch of the East got crushed under that house, he came and he gave her some green coffee extract and she perked right up.
Alex: That's it for this episode of Why Are Dads? Thank you so much to Aubrey Gordon, of course, of Maintenance Phase and the author of, What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat. It was truly, truly a delight to talk about this movie with Aubrey. We had the very, very best time. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you to Carolyn Kendrick, who produces the show and makes the show sound great and produces music for the show. Is also our music director. You can hear Carolyn's EP, Tear Things Apart, by looking up Carolyn Kendrick. She's at carolynkendrick.com and on Twitter and Instagram and the places that people who make music typically are.
We are on Twitter and Instagram as well. Also at Patreon. In the coming weeks we have Clueless. We have The Lord of the Rings movies. We have The Shining. What else is coming up here? We have Muriels’s Wedding. So you're in for some treats and we look forward to sharing them with you soon. All right. That's it for now.Thank you.