Friday, 15 January 2010

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The Dark Knight is, without question, a meditation about dogs. Humans do not run in packs. They form social circles and erect strict hierarchies, but the desire to live in a pack is either openly denigrated (witness every teen film), contextualized into a culturally acceptable substitute (witness every team film), or mocked as pure atavism (witness Buffy). But as Cesar Millan never tires of telling us, dogs are pack animals by instinct and acculturation: they are born into a litter and socialized into a pack. That being the case, their relationship to merely social animals (like humans) is necessarily vexed because the typical human family lacks the structure and numbers of a pack. The position of "pack leader" in a household featuring one or two dogs and a number of humans must (according to Millan) be created artificially. Whether this canine psychology is accurate or not is beside the point: its history is firmly embedded in the naturalist narratives and their various scions (literary and visual) that Millan unwittingly draws from. All of which only prefaces my actual argument here: Christopher Nolan thought the character of the Joker in The Dark Knight spoke to 1) the uneasiness of the human-canine détente and 2) the assumed applicability of canine cultural formations to human social hierarchies. Trying to process this, I run into the problem of excessive familiarity with both the film and the near-infinite iterations of man-animal sociobiological binaries such that I cannot, pace Beckett, find a form to accommodate the mess. Here's what I have so far: The Dark Knight opens with images that indicate membership in either a pack or a family. Each of the bank robbers in the opening sequence wears a mask bearing a grotesque version of one of the seven dwarfs (as indicated in what I believe is an officially sanctioned script): That would be the Joker carrying his Bozo mask ... and Bozo is not one of the seven dwarfs. The other criminals are all given names of canonical dwarfs (Dopey, Sleepy, Grumpy, etc.), but the Joker is a clown outsider who might (but given his subsequent actions, clearly does not) fit in. The Joker belongs to the correct clan (clowns), but the wrong family (seven dwarfs). Only "family" may be precisely the wrong term: I'm not sure (and research refuses to relinquish) whether the seven dwarfs were kin or clan. Their analogues' willingness to slaughter each other at the Joker's behest would seem to indicate that their bonds were of the "You like crime? I like crime too!" variety, but given the tired convention that "the loyalty of a crew is inversely proportional to the size of the score," I have reservations. Either way, the film opens with an image of organized disloyalty by a coordinated group that ideally works in unison (i.e. a pack). This would be a dysfunctional pack. Nolan then introduces us to a functional one: This is the human-canine (or pack-to-pack-leader) relation we have come to expect: that Chechen criminal may be sadistic psychopath, but he's also a beloved pack...
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My exclusive interview with former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin... ...can be read here or found below the fold. SEK: Welcome, folks, to my first (and most certainly last) interview with former Vice Presidential-candidate, Sarah Palin. Before we start, Sarah, I want to read what I wrote last night in my journal—I'm only kidding. That wouldn't be professional. How about we start with an easy one? I know how much you love circles, Sarah, so how about you talk in one for me? PALIN: The political system is what creates this disenchantment with the people looking at the political system. SEK: You are a marvel. Now, say something that reveals yourself to be even dumber than your haters think you are about, say, the results of the last election. PALIN: That is not a representative form of government that our country was founded upon. SEK: It certainly isn't. I mean, it can't be. Governments are only representative when they represent the perspective of— PALIN: Common sense conservatives. SEK: With— PALIN: Common sense conservative values. That's why you see pressure from the tea party movement, from others, wanting to—wanting those common sense conservative values back in. SEK: Such as? PALIN: Common sense solutions that sometimes we're made to feel stupid because we believe in these common sense solutions. SEK: Exactly. Do you think things will change? PALIN: I think things are going to change, too. And if you look back in history, you see that it is about—every 200 years, something drastically changes in a society, in a culture, in a governmental system. We're due for that change—just on a historical perspective, it shows us that yes, something is coming. SEK: You really believe that? PALIN: I do believe it, because again, we can't be so stupid as to see these common sense solutions. SEK: Speaking of the future, is it here today? PALIN: Already the change is creating this unrecognizable system that we're a part of. SEK: In the past, could the French see into the future, and if so, how would they feel about the French today? PALIN: Even the French recognized, too, the potential in this free country. And the French gifted the Statue of Liberty to us, in partnership, this international symbol of liberty and freedom—the French hoping that we wouldn't lose that and we won't evolve into something more along their lines. SEK: Precisely. One last thing: can you prove that the copy-editors at Fox are out to get you? PALIN: Well, let me tell you one thing in that vain. SEK: Thank you, Governor Palin, it's been a pleasure. PALIN: And the people are going to decide and I think he is going go and it is time. SEK: Thank you, Governor, the interview's over. You— PALIN: My favorite. That would be great. SEK: Your favorite? Favorite what? Seriously, Madame Governor, you— PALIN: Gems. Gems representing the natural resources in our nation. SEK: Gems? PALIN: Yes. I thought, oh, no, he's going to do a gotcha and that's why I google—I had Track google real...

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