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Batman Begins is a film by Christopher Nolan that deals majorly with the question of ethics, morality and the principle of utilitarianism. The utilitarianism principle has its origin from Greek philosophers who proposed the idea that human beings in general are motivated to seek pleasure rather than pain. This pleasure principle therefore pushes people into making choices that will maximize on their levels of happiness. The main character in The Batman Begins by Nolan, Batman the main character, is faced with a dilemma. He has to make a choice to save either his love Rachael, or Harvey Dent, the district attorney, who is up against crime in the City of Gotham. When faced with such a situation, as human beings, our emotions would overrule our reason and we would therefore choose to save Rachael. However, Batman saves the life of the district attorney Harvey Dent. He does this because he considers it an honorable thing to do and also because by saving Dent’s life, the lives of the people of the city of Gotham, in the present and in the future would be saved. According to Batman, saving Rachael would be out of a selfish motive as only he and a few others would benefit from it.
Marcus Cicero in his essay “the defense of injustice” proposes the idea that justice is the main element of the nature of human beings. According to him, the best moment at which justice can be manifest in people is when they are left alone especially because it is a component that people are born with. “Human nature includes reason, which can be used o discover justice, which is the basis of law”. However, the term justice cannot be defined; neither can it be set in a certain manner because what one person defines justice as may not be another person’s view of the same term. The decision of whether an act is right or wrong can only be judged by the people involved. People who have been brought up in cultures that support human sacrifice will justify such an act but to others, this equals murder.
The ethics of Batman Begins
Cicero out of the dialogue between the two characters in his work “the defense of injustice” points out the importance of justice in society. Justice changes constantly and it really becomes hard for us to define and act as just because everyone has a different perception of justice. In connection with justice in the film Batman Begins, we can say that Batman’s actions were just. The fact that he chose to save the life of the district attorney over his lover’s was sacrifice enough because the motive behind his actions was for the good for all. Cicero distinguishes between justice and wisdom. If Batman was to operate under wisdom, then he would definitely save Rachael’s life. This is because with wisdom, we are impelled to increase our wealth, resources and riches. He would be acting unjustly if he were operating under wisdom. However, does he really make the right choice? This is the question that we ask ourselves because after Dent is saved he starts killing the people he believes are against him. In the end therefore, the plans that Batman had, that lives would be saved backfires as Dent’s actions bring more suffering.
How vigilantism operates in the Batman Begins
Vigilantism is very evident in Batman Begins in the roles that most of the characters play. Vigilantism refers to the advocating for or taking of the law into one’s own hands. We start with Batman. Batman himself is a vigilante. His parents are murdered right before his eyes and he behaves as if nothing has happened. However, on the inside the fire to avenge for these murders is still burning. After years have passed, Batman operates in his alter ego and hits back at crime by being a vigilante. He takes justice into his own hands. Deep within his heart sits the ambivalence for the use of violence to achieve justice. It is as if justice according to him cannot be achieved without both vengeance and vigilantism. He does this to avenge the murder of his parents as well as to rid the city of Gotham of organized criminal groups and their acts.
The Joker, the master mind behind the criminal acts in Gotham city, is a psychopathic vigilante. He is happy when he sees people literally begging for their lives. He even goes further and tortures his accomplice Rachael to the point of death. He is psychopathic vigilante because he murders masses without feeling anything. He is also schizophrenic and feels no empathy for the people that he tortures and murders.
Harvey Dent is another vigilante in this film. He teams up with Batman and others to see that crime in Gotham city goes down. In his effort to do this, he earns a two-face. He also goes around killing corrupt police, criminals and the whole lot of them.in addition; he goes killing those he perceives as his enemies especially after Rachael’s death. Batman has to cover him in the end.
With regard to the ethics that operate in Batman Begins, we could say that the end justifies the means, Batman acts outside the law to preserve the lives of the citizens of Gotham city even if it means killing others in order to restore sanity and peace. He is therefore justified because the motive behind his actions is to protect Gotham city citizens. His motive is what differentiates him and other common vigilantes like The Joker. He does not benefit from helping other people and this makes him be altruistic. The vigilante actions in Batman Begins rely a lot on the use of violence and is what the moral characters use, to rid this city of the likes of The Joker.
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