ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

Now, while movies have the capacity to do a whole lot of great things — from raising awareness of vitally important yet overlooked issues, all the way through to making a progressive stand for social change — they are, in the face of a world troubled by genocide, war, and terrorism, often sidelined by the enormity of suffering, hatred, and pain. Movies can do great things, but asking them to stop the war in Syria, to eliminate police brutality, or to put an end to racism, sexism or homophobia is perhaps too much to ask.

Sometimes, though, they sure can help explain them.

For instance...

President Barack Obama Apparently Uses Heath Ledger's Joker In 'The Dark Knight' To Explain ISIS

Warner Brothers
Warner Brothers

Yup, that's right. President Obama has, according to a recent article by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, been known to use Heath Ledger's Joker as a means of explaining the rise of the now infamous militant group ISIS. As Goldberg puts it:

Advisers recall that Obama would cite a pivotal moment in The Dark Knight, the 2008 Batman movie, to help explain not only how he understood the role of ISIS, but how he understood the larger ecosystem in which it grew. 'There’s a scene in the beginning in which the gang leaders of Gotham are meeting,' the president would say. 'These are men who had the city divided up. They were thugs, but there was a kind of order. Everyone had his turf. And then the Joker comes in and lights the whole city on fire. ISIL is the Joker. It has the capacity to set the whole region on fire. That’s why we have to fight it.'

Which, with ISIS (also commonly referred to as ISIL, Islamic State, Daesh and IS, with many governments and news outlets opting to undermine the group's chosen name, and its claims of a global caliphate, by translating it in their own fashion) being strikingly similar to The Joker in many ways, is actually a pretty darned apt analogy.

After all, ISIS — a group known for beheading civilians, destroying ancient heritage sites and ethnic cleansing — is, despite its expressed aim of quite literally taking over the world, a close adherent to the Joker's particular brand of destructive, apocalyptic anarchy. After all, as countless Islamic scholars and religious leaders the world over have pointed out, ISIS has very little relationship to the actual Islamic religion, or to the beliefs of the vast majority of Muslims around the world. Indeed, as Alfred would likely point out:

As Iyad Ameen Madani, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, put it back in 2014, ISIS's actions "have nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence," much as The Joker's anarchic violence in The Dark Knight is as a horrifying counterpoint to Batman's attempts — however flawed — to make Gotham a better place.

In other words? In Obama's analogy, ISIS is The Joker, actively destabilizing all around it for the sake of a twisted, hateful ideology, and the pre-existing strife in the Middle East is Gotham City, run by a competing set of (sometimes criminal) organizations. The unmentioned third part of that analogy, though?

Islam as a whole — a religion that played a huge part in creating the modern society we now live in, and that represents more than a billion people who reject the extremism of ISIS — is Batman. Alongside secular societies the world over, and billions of other reasonable, hopeful believers from every religion, Islam represents — whether or not you agree with its methods or ideology — the ideas of trying to do the right thing, of preserving order, and of — as Iyad Ameen Madani said above — "justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence."

Just like Gotham's Dark Knight.

What do you think, though?


Just how much do you think movies can change the world?

via The Atlantic


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