EVENING THE LEDGER

BATTERSBY EATS SOME HUMBLE PIE

Yes, yes, okay: so we saw The Dark Knight during the week. And yes, even though Heath Ledger has been firmly ensconced, high on my Kurt Rusell Memorial List of What The Fuck’s The Fuss All About Over This Two Rate Hack? for several years, I admit, in public:

He’s pretty bloody amazing in this one.

Truth is, as a superhero movie, TDK isn’t all that good. That’s not to say it isn’t a good movie– it is. It’s a fascinating, multi-layered, quite literary examination of duality, of what it means to wear a mask in both public and private roles, and how the assumption of moral sets defines the way we interact with the society around us. Batbruce is a person playing two roles, both false, both dependant upon the other. The Joker is not only the antithesis of everything Old Pointy Ears stands for, he is the antithesis of all that Wayne holds dear as well– eschewing money, eschewing position, and power, setting his stock not on the preservation of social hierarchies but on their destruction. (Could Batman exists without Wayne’s priviledged place in life? I doubt it.)

Ledger is hypnotic, by far the edgiest and sanest character in the movie, a twitching, self-destructive Tyler Durden figure that almost, almost seduces you into his nihilistic point of view. Indeed, it would have been very easy for the creators to paint him as the good guy of the piece– a few less pointless killings, a better choice of targets (swap hospitals for missile sites, clean-cut District Attorneys for slum lords……). The Joker has an advantage that villians in comic books always possess: he is proactive, whereas Wayne, Dent, and Gordon, (the status quo-reinforcing elements) must wait, and can only act in a reactive capacity. The Joker sets the agenda, creates the milieu, and has the greater capacity to alter the perceptions of the viewer– if what he does works, then the status quo is damaged irreparably– Tyler Durden wins in the end, after all, and despite the carnage along the way, creates a world without debt burden, leading the viewer to accept his message as a positive one. The Joker wipes out millions of dollars of illegal assets, destroys several powerful crime families, and almost ruins a dangerous vigilante with enough power and influence to break international judicial agreements and suffer not even a raised eyebrow in consequence. It’s only because he chooses civilian targets, and because the law enforcement system considers Batman too powerful to abandon (not too right, mind, just too effective), that he must be sacrificed in order to preserve the current balance of power.

And Ledger nails it. I’ll admit it: he absolutely nails it. This is no laughing looney, no Clown Prince of Crime. He ain’t Jack Nicholson’s cringingly awful fatboy clown. He’s an urban terrorist: intelligent, amoral, aware of the street value accorded those who don’t blink. He’s Anarky, stripped down and painted black, and Ledger is brilliant.

It’s the role that will define him, in the same way Brandon Lee will always be The Crow, and James Dean will always be the Rebel Without a Cause. Because, for the first and last time in his truncated career, he stripped away the staginess and uncomfortable posings of his performance and spoke directly to the truth of his character. It’s ugly, and distrubing, and utterly mesmerising.

KATHARINE SUSANNAH PRICHARD WRITER’S CENTRE– SF EVENTS

This Sunday, 17th August, at 3pm, the Chairperson of KSP, the CEO of the Shire of Mundaring and the Competition Judge – that would be me – will present the awards to the winners of the KSP Speculative Fiction Competition. Prize winners will read excerpts from their entries. Light refreshments will be available.

Come on down to the Centre, at 11 Old York Road, Greenmount, meet the winner, hear some damn good SF, and enjoy the historic grounds.

And on Sunday 21st September, starting at 11am, the KSP SF Mini-conference will be happening. The first mini-con, held in 2006, was an outstanding success, with several score people attending. The panels, readings and inexpensive lunch all contributed to the day’s success, and we hope to do even better this year.

There will be timeslots for six panels with readings in between. There will also be readings over lunch time. Once again, our friends at Fantastic Planet will be setting up shop at KSP for the day. There will also be opportunities for signings throughout the day. Lyn and I will be attending, as will many of the leading lights of Western Australian SF. More information will be posted to this humble blog as we get closer to the day.

Pencil it in, SF fans.