By MARC McDONALD
One of the most heavily-hyped and highly rated films in years, The Dark Knight is more than just a mere movie: it's an industry unto itself. This juggernaut, which cost an eye-popping $180 million to produce, opened to rapturous response, and massive crowds on Friday. As of Saturday afternoon, it had already raked in a one-day box office record $66 million and is (at least at the moment) the all-time No. 1 highest rated film on IMDB.com, just ahead of The Godfather.
The back-story of The Dark Knight is causing a media frenzy, led by the tragic death earlier this year of Heath Ledger, who plays The Joker.
The film itself is being hailed for its dark, menacing atmosphere, as well as the sheer amount of graphic bloodiness (unusual for a comic book movie). But overall, everyone seems to be happy: from comic book fanboys to Time Warner shareholders.
However, I can't help but think that there's something horribly wrong about the whole Dark Knight phenomenon that is symbolic of what's wrong with our nation as a whole these days. And it goes well beyond the dumbing-down of our culture, which is so easily entertained by a movie based on a comic book (a mediocre comic book at that----I can think of dozens of manga and underground comics that are vastly superior to "Batman").
For a start, there is the matter of misplaced priorities. Between The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger's death, our national media has once again devoted acres of column space to a movie, during a time in which the ongoing Iraq War has all but disappeared from our nation's media radar.
The long-suffering people of Iraq have no need to go a movie to see bloody shootouts and spectacular explosions: they see them all the time in real life, every day.
In fact, while the people of America are idly distracting themselves with comic book movies, the people of Iraq are still suffering a horrible ongoing nightmare.
Despite the proclamations by the GOP and the corporate media that Iraq is "getting better," the Iraqi people still have to contend with daily shootings and bombings on a mind-numbing scale.
Take Tuesday, for example. Just on that one day, guerrillas killed around 40 people and wounded dozens in several attacks in northern Iraq.
Did you hear about this story? Of course not. The U.S. media had more important priorities, such as gearing up the Great Hype Machine for The Dark Knight.
Tuesday's attacks were the sort of horrific violence that would dominate the news for years if it happened here. But since it happened in Iraq, it barely even gets reported in the U.S. these days. Our politicians are too busy proclaiming the "success" of our operations in Iraq.
I'm sure some readers will complain that I'm being a spoilsport. "Americans are weary of the war," they'll say. "We need an occasional break from reality with escapist fare like The Dark Knight."
Therein lies the problem. America is responsible for the horrific mess in Iraq. The disaster there may no longer interest Americans, with our short, MTV attention spans. But Iraq is OUR disaster and it ought to be relentlessly rubbed in our faces every single day until we demand and scream that this disastrous, illegal, immoral war be brought to an end now.