What The Movies Taught Me – Part I

Posted: September 11, 2017 by moifightclub in cinema
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“Endure, Master Wayne.”

Let me begin with a bit of context. While movies remain a source of entertainment, for most of us, I find them to be a remarkably accessible medium to distribute and inspire through a more pop version of philosophy. I hope to begin a series and perhaps someday a publication on Medium dedicated to it. I hope to do a slightly more detailed take than the average BuzzFeed article without getting into the academic or theoretical bits of it.

(Let me know if you guys like the idea in the comments)

While The Dark Knight remains one of the best films of our time, I found within it, a human lesson that has served me quite well and I thought I’ll just point it out for the rest. One of the key scenes in the movie is when this particular sequence of dialogues take place:


“Bruce Wayne: People are dying, Alfred. What would you have me do?

Alfred: Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They’ll hate you for it, but that’s the point of Batman. He can be the outcast. He can make the choice that no one else can make, the right choice.”


The Joker is busy executing people till the Batman gives himself up, public opinion has turned against him. The man that has protected them for years is given up in an instant by the police and the public at large. Rather than rant or be bitter about this quite obvious treachery and cowardice on the part of the general population of Gotham, Batman is all set to give himself just to save the innocent from being slaughtered.

He turns to Alfred for validation of his own decision, and, Alfred – the man tasked with raising the billionaire orphan, utters but a single word of advice,

ENDURE !

It’s a rather stoic line of thinking that Alfred presents, he is unmoved by the emotion of the public, indifferent to short term cost of people being sacrificed, he is only guided by the long term view of the Batman as an institution that can protect the people in the future. The odds of the potential good Batman can accomplish in the future weighed calmly against the short term term consequence of a few murders. The logic behind the move is unembellished by personal emotion or by any kind of motive of revenge on the betrayal of the public. I found that to be such a striking diversion from common human behaviour. I know that if any of us were Alfred in the moment we’d be going, “fuck the people, this is how they repay us for years of keeping the peace, they deserve this” and yet there is not a single selfish thought in either Batman or Alfred.

Which is another key point that is reflected by the Stoics, accepting the moment as it presents itself. The development of self-control and fortitude as a means of overcoming destructive emotions; the philosophy holds that becoming a clear and unbiased thinker allows one to understand universal reason. I cannot imagine the amount of self control it would have taken in that moment for both Batman and Alfred to think as calmly as they do. I know most of you must at this point be going, “It’s a movie and that’s not how it happens in reality.” But if the characters hold us to a higher standard of behaviour and a better state of functioning, then why shouldn’t they be emulated?

Even in the subsequent moment when Batman rejects Alfred’s advice and gives himself up, observe the interrelationship between them, there is no attempt to negotiate, there is no attempt to convince. There is no Alfred going, “WTF Bruh! I was doling out advice, when you was still in diapers, listen to me, you idiot!” Nope, none of that. This is Batman deciding to give himself up, expressing his desire to do so, to the very father figure who raised him and loves him more than anyone else in the world! It broke me, that Alfred doesn’t plead, there are no tears, there is only absolute support. Again the principle of self control and overcoming destructive emotion is applied to their relationship, there is no fear, anger, or control sought. There is but a calm in the whole scene, the calm that brings to the moment a kind of gravitas that could not have been afforded by any measure of emoting.


I often play this scene in my head, especially of late, where in the past few months, there have been regular ups and downs. Many doors have been shut, with a fierce regularity. Often I find myself drowning in a maelstrom of my own making, where the tides of regret pull me to the bottom of the ocean. I know I do not suffer alone. But in those moments the Stoic way has been of immeasurable help to me. It has been an anchor that has always succeeded in pulling me back from these depths. That very anchor that I offer to you today, a single word, a single resounding word that needs to be repeated to the self again and again,

ENDURE !

Percy Bharucha

(The author has been previously published in eFiction and eFiction India, Eastlit, Reading Hour, Gratis, The Madras Mag, The Ascent, The Creative Cafe, Invisible Illness, The Writing Cooperative, Bigger Picture, Hundred Naked Words, Be Yourself, Fit Yourself Club, Hopes and Dreams for the Future, Written Tales, Poets Unlimited and The Haven. He writes regularly on Medium and runs a bi-weekly comic strip called The Adult Manual. He also tweets infrequently at  @Sab_Bakwaas_Hai)

Comments
  1. This piece of writing is so real and true
    Thank you for bringing it to us

  2. Vivek says:

    //It’s a rather stoic line of thinking that Alfred presents, he is unmoved by the emotion of the public, indifferent to short term cost of people being sacrificed, he is only guided by the long term view of the Batman as an institution that can protect the people in the future.//

    Pretty much what Modi & Amit Shah said during & after Note Ban. The whole write up is as valid as their claims.

    Need more inquiry – moral, cultural, cinematic & artistic – to get to the philosophical core of a pop culture work. One can’t just take a line of dialogue or instance from a film and expand on their own interests/lines of thought and claim it to be the philosophical musings of a film. And that too, from a self-contradictory film as The Dark Knight.

    For starters, read Armond White’s piece on the film: http://www.nypress.com/knight-to-remember/
    It took me years to fully understand it. But it is something I read every once in a while to remind myself of what I shouldn’t do.

  3. Being a film-maker myself, I too like to analyze movies for subtle meanings behind seemingly usual scenes. They often make me ponder upon the thought process of the writer/director, its relevance to the real world, etc. This post exactly points out one of such examples. Beautifully written!

  4. Swami says:

    Endure.. Well written.
    Yes, each one experiences movie differently. There are some scenes which connects with you deeply by reinforcing your own internal beliefs.
    There are others which disturbs you by challenging your convictions.
    Either way the movie affects you..

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