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Nolan's The Dark Knight & The Jungian Shadow


Joel Clements

on 21 May 2018

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Transcript of Nolan's The Dark Knight & The Jungian Shadow

Let's Look at the Deeper Implications
In our myths, villains either usurp the future, or instill chaos.
"The Villain"
Batman Begins:

Ra's al Ghul—Justice
The Joker—Pure Chaos
Two Face/Harvey Dent
—Chance: Being "fair."
The Blurring of Good and Evil
Discussion question:
Batman vs. Harvey Dent
The Shadow
The Shadow of Bruce Wayne
Allie's Slide
Allie's Slide
Question 4: What is the definition of good?
What is the definition of evil?
What characteristics define a villain?
"It's about sending a message"
Antonio del Drago, "5 Characteristics of an Epic Villain"
What message do these villains send to modern society?
The Villain Archetype Today
What is Ra's al Ghul's ideology?
Justice at all costs
Destroy crime no matter what the cost
Determine what is right and enforce that belief
(Leader of the League of Shadows)
Question 2:
Where will Ra's al Ghul's broken ideology lead?

What is Joker's ideology? His motives?
Wounded: Troubled past
Determined: "Agent of Chaos"
No identity: Nothing hidden behind the mask
Joker's Speech to Harvey
"Do I really look like a guy with a plan, Harvey? I don't have a plan . . .

I just do things... Maroni has plans. Gordon has plans.
Schemers trying to control their worlds.
I'm not a schemer,
I show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are
. . . ."
"You had plans. Look where it got you. I just did what I do best—
I took your little plan, and I turned it on itself

Introduce a little anarchy; upset the established order and everything becomes chaos.
And you know the thing about chaos, Harvey?

"It's fair."
Characteristics Of Harvey Dent
The "White Knight" of Gotham

Unable to accept possibility of loss

True believer in Justice; optimistic
From Harvey to Two-Face
Joker (
) corrupts
Dent (
Two-Face (Justice perverted into Meaningless,

Random Chance
Harvey Dent / Two-Face's Ideologies

Question 5:
How is Dent's ideology broken, even before he becomes a villain?

What are his motives or ideologies?
What is his message?
Where will this ideology lead?
New governments of chaos, chance, extreme justice, extreme democracy?
Law Enforcement/Government
Can't Solve Our Problems
Jung: "The sum of all personal and collective psychic elements which, because of their
incompatibility with the chosen conscious attitude
, are denied expression in life and therefore
coalesce into a relatively autonomous "splinter personality
." (MDR 399).
"The Shadow personifies
everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself
and yet is always thrusting itself upon him directly or indirectly" (MDR 399).
"His shadow,
does not [just] consist only of morally reprehensible tendencies, but also displays a number of good qualities
, such as normal instincts, appropriate reactions, realistic insights, creative impulses, etc." (MDR 399).
Fear of Bats =
Fear of Becoming Like the Enemy
What is Bruce's shadow?
Does he face it? If so how?
"The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can
become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort.
To become conscious of it
involves recognizing the dark aspects of the
as present and real."
Joins the League of Shadows
Becomes the Dark Knight
Dear Bruce. I need to be honest and clear. I'm going to marry Harvey Dent. I love him, and I want to spend the rest of my life with him. When I told you that if Gotham no longer needed Batman we could be together, I meant it. But now I'm sure the day won't come when *you* no longer need Batman. I hope it does; and if it does I will be there, but as your friend. I'm sorry to let you down. If you lose your faith in me, please keep your faith in people. Love, now and always, Rachel.
But does Bruce fully individuate?
Last Scene....
Dark Knight Rises?
What is the shadow of Harvey Dent the White Knight?

Does he face his shadow?

What are the consequences?
The Shadow of Harvey Dent
"Dent can so quickly take up this attitude because his heroism has no place for loss. When it occurs, the heroism becomes completely undone."
"The demand for purity always anticipates its own failure. The pure hero quickly becomes the criminal when an experience of loss disrupts this purity"
("The Exceptional Darkness of the Dark Knight" by Todd McGowan)
"Dent, the hero who wants to appear heroic, descends into murderous evil. But Batman, the hero who accepts evil as his form of appearance, sustains the only possible path for heroic exceptionality."
Question 5: What is the message the Joker is trying to give Gotham?
What does his his message tell us about Gotham?
The Joker: the Shadow of Gotham and of Us All
What is the result?
Question 6: Does Gotham face its shadow in the Ferry scene?
"authentic heroism necessarily appears in the form of evil" (McGowan).
"Consequentialism is an ethics that sees value only in the end -- obedience -- and it disregards whatever evil means that the subject uses to arrive at obedience" (McGowan).
"Ultimately the Joker himself acts as the source for the display of ethics that we see at the end of the film. By setting up an abhorrent ethical situation where he expects people to act in a calculating fashion, the Joker provides an opportunity for them to break out of calculation"(McGowan).
If they still believe in the White Knight have they really faced their shadow? Part of it?
The Joker is the ethical center of The Dark Knight because he manages to challenge the hegemony of calculation that controls Gotham and to show that another world, a world where ethical acts are not part of scheming calculation, is possible" (McGowan).
Have we faced our collective shadow?
Often (And Nolan's films frequently are centered around this), a character may respond to trying to defeat his Shadow by going to extremes the other way. They may be trying to do "good", but resort to "evil" to achieve it.
What is Batman's one rule?
What is its purpose?
If he is already breaking other laws to enforce order and justice, why does he insist on keeping this rule?
“The human being (even the best) is
only because
he reverses the moral order of his incentives
in incorporating them into his maxims... he realizes that the two cannot stand on an equal footing, but one must be subordinated to the other.”[12]
> Is it determined by

or ultimate

Wayne: "How did you finally catch the bandit?"
Alfred: "We burned the forest down."
Question 2: What is the ultimate good in this scenario? Is it better that some should die so that some can live? Or is it better that all die?
"Their morals, their code . . .it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. You'll see - I'll show you . . when the chips are down, these civilized people . . .they'll eat each other."
- Joker
"You have these rules. And you think they'll save you." - Joker
Why does Dent fall into evil while Batman does not?
“People who claim that they're evil are usually no worse than the rest of us... It's people who claim that they're good, or in any way better than the rest of us, that you have to be wary of.” - Gregory Macguire
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.
the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being
And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
Batman is the product of a man who recognizes his capacity for evil.
The Ferry Scene
You know the basic story...
It is about...
The Dark Knight
expands on these themes
End of Part 1
Question 3: Many people thought the scene would be more effective with two boats of "good" citizens. Considering the central "message" and themes of the film, why might the writers have chosen to have one ferry full of Gotham's "Scumbag collection"?
Classic Game Theory Scenario

Carl Jung's Duality:


"the unknown ‘‘dark side’’ of our personality
–-dark both because it
tends to consist predominantly of the primitive, negative, socially or religiously [repressed] human emotions
and impulses like sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage... completely obscured from consciousness."
Everyone has two selves: the conscious self (the person we tell ourselves we are, and strive to be), and a second, unconscious self. This unconscious self is called the
Shadow Self
The shadow
The shadow is not necessarily evil
, or bad. It is
the part of ourselves we deny or ignore
for whatever reason - upbringing, fear of what it means about us, etc.
Jung believed people had two options:
Deny the shadow:

Fight against it
crusade against the things about yourself you fear. Because it is half of you, denying it will ultimately damage or ruin you.

The shadow self will grow in intensity
and "explode."
Confront the shadow:

This is the more frightening option. By
facing our shadow self
, and understanding it, Jung said, we eliminate it, and become a whole person.
We become stronger
In our stories, the hero's Shadow Self is represented through someone - a darker version of themselves -
they must confront and defeat
. It's the symbolic version of facing one's own dark side
So, on your notes:
Question 1:
If someone's Shadow Self was
, how might they...
(hall side of the room)
Treat others
(window side of the room)
Question 4
: Batman is a vigilante - he operates outside the system with "only one rule." The danger at one extreme is that he enforce brutal order under his rule.
What is the danger at the other extreme of his ideology?
He shadows Wayne's/Batman's desire to enforce justice on his own, and his fear of becoming a destroyer - a tyrant.

Ra's Al-Ghul is what Batman could easily become if he abuses his power over others.
Question 3:
In what ways is Ra's Al-Ghul young Bruce Wayne's shadow? How is he a darker version of Wayne/Batman?
The Shadow in a story follows an
(a guiding system of ideals) similar to the hero's, but
without restraint
, or nobility. It represents what the hero fears he may become, or is tempted to become.
A hero who hasn't confronted his shadow, or a shadow itself, are both

They follow a

broken ideology
that will result in
- their own, or of others. They will go to one of the two
extremes of their ideology

A hero who hasn't confronted his shadow...
Cannot withstand challenges to his ideology, and when it's threatened, shatters.
A Shadow's ideology...
Has no control or restraint, and follows its ideals at the expense of themselves.
The Dark Knight
A Thematic Analysis Of The Shadow Archetype
Get a
- you will be discussing questions & concepts as they arise.
One of you
will be submitting your responses on
Question 6:
How would someone over-respond to a fear of becoming "Chaos"?
Get a
- you will be discussing questions & concepts as they arise.
One of you
will be submitting your responses on
Get a
- you will be discussing questions & concepts as they arise.
One of you
will be submitting your responses on
Period 5
Period 6
Bonus Question: would this scene ave been more effective if it mentioned that I sat next to this actor on a plane once?
In other words...
Respect > Greed = Good

Greed > Respect = Evil
Gotham's Shadow: The selfish convenience of being "good"
Start of Film:
Support The Batman because he confronts the problems and keeps them safe.
Good = supporting justice

Press Conference:
Their safety is threatened, and suddenly label Batman as "a criminal", saying he's made things "worse than ever"
Redefining justice to still be "good"
The Hospital
Advocating murder of one to protect many
Redefining "Good" based on the quantity served
The Ferry Scene
Gotham is forced to confront itself

Question 1: During the first part of the film, in what ways has Gotham reversed its moral incentives? What is the "shadow" it isn't facing?
So is he.
Is he better than the others? Of course not. But he recognizes evil, rather than trying to dress it up as good.
"The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort.
To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the

as present and real."
If Batman hides the truth of Harvey Dent, allowing the people of Gotham to still believe in the "White Knight", has he kept them from the ultimate test of their shadow? Or was the Ferry enough?
Batman Begins
- descent in to fear/loss of innocence
Dark Knight Rises
- Confrontation of weaknesses and freedom from fear
Going back to Archetypes...
The Shadow:
typically a character who mirrors the protagonist in skill and experience, but lacks their moral compass. They are what the hero could become if they aren't careful
This archetype is rooted in Carl Jung's concepts of duality and the Shadow Self
Okay, here comes the
A shadow villain - one that is the Jungian split of the protagonist...
Isn't just a good villain, it's a villain perfectly suited to this particular hero. This villain is the twisted potential of the hero, and therefore poses the greatest possible threat to them.


This villain also makes the hero stronger. Without this villain, the hero is incomplete.
Sherlock Holmes
Someone who forces him to think further, and accept that he's needed by people

Lex Luthor
(pure greed)
Someone who forces him to confront his own power and protect others

His ideology is broken, even before his fall - how so?
A good shadow villain...
Is "exceptionally good at attacking the hero's greatest weakness."
Forces the protagonist to make (increasingly) difficult choices that reveal their true nature
Competes for the same goal

And ultimately...

Shapes the hero into their true self
Full transcript