The Dark Knight has been heralded as one of the best movies of all time for a reason: not only does it have an amazing plot, it has deep character development and complexity that makes the world of one of the most popular superheroes of all time seem incredibly realistic. One of the most impactful scenes in the movie starts off light-hearted: a boisterous Bruce Wayne puts tables together at a restaurant he owns, joining the two parties of himself and his date (a beautiful Russian ballerina) and the dynamic district attorney, Harvey Dent, and Rachel Dawes (also one of Bruce’s exes). They begin to discuss city politics and eventually Batman, and they get into the topic of whether or not the Batman is welcome, or even needed. Bruce, forever shrouded in mystery, seems to put down the notion of a hero in a city that needs law and order, but Dent sticks up for the Batman who he doesn’t know is sitting right in front of him, saying that the Batman is simply performing a service that the city clearly needs. Rachel points out that the Batman might overstay his welcome if he continues to have as much power as he has without anyone to check him, to which Dent replies,
“...ok fine, you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
This is one of the most important lines in the film, for more reasons than I care to get into right now, but for one reason in particular. It holds so much philosophical significance because it speaks to the nature of humanity, and of great men and women, as a whole. The quote basically means that no matter how good one’s intentions are, given enough time and power, their legacy will eventually become one that turns love and adoration into hate and scorn. We see this concept acted out in the real world more often than we realize: Steve Jobs created Apple and led a computing revolution which created effects that we still feel today, but at one point he was ousted from his own company for the same strong, innovative nature that turned the company into what it is. Even Jesus, a perfect human, had fate take a turn for the worst, spending his entire life caring for and ministering to others only to have those same people turn against him in his final hour and heap false accusations upon him which led to his death. No matter how good we are, time makes fools of us all. But the truth is that this is just the circle of life, and for us to have new role models, we must expose the holes in our old ones. To build, we must tear down. And most importantly, we shouldn’t fear this transition, but we should do everything in our power to make sure that when it is our time to be the heroes, we make our actions and our characters worthy of that title.