Friday, June 20, 2014

Shoulda Did

“You don’t want to die, but you don’t know how to take a life. Give it to me; these men would kill you, and take it anyway. Give it to me. You can tell ‘em I took it by force. Give it to me, and I’ll do what you shoulda did ten minutes ago.”

He doesn’t even get a name. The “tattooed prisoner.”

via Adam Bailey on Flickr
I don’t remember the first time I watched The Dark Knight, but this scene has always given me chills. The Joker sets up a “social experiment,” two boats crowded with people: one full of convicted prisoners, the other innocent civilians. They each have the detonator to explode the other boat. The boat that explodes the other will be allowed to live. If neither boat is detonated, then Joker will do it for them.

No small distress for the passengers onboard.

The civilians decide to take a vote, the majority ruling to kill the prisoners. The prisoners are restrained from any complaints—and still neither party knows what to do. The civilian boat feels strongly that they should live and the others should die: “They made their choices!” “Why should we die, too?” But no one wants to turn the key.

The tattooed prisoner takes it. He decides to do what they “shoulda did ten minutes ago.” And he tosses the detonator out the window.


I never got why I loved this scene so much, and then while in the idea sanctum (aka “the bathroom”) it occurred to me: I know this story.

There was a woman, caught with a guy who was not her husband and dragged naked to the temple courts. She was made to stand in front of Pharisees and teachers and a rabbi they intended to trap. “In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

And Jesus, for he was the rabbi, wrote in the dirt. And they continued to question him. And finally he said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And then he wrote on the ground again.

Two boats. Filled with “innocent” men and women who kept the laws, who prided themselves on not wearing orange jumpsuits but rather pantsuits and pinstripe suits and other tokens of their righteousness. Filled with condemned men, stripped of their rights and respect, doomed to shame and punishment and possibly death.

Batman (who I occasionally think of as a Christ figure) was too far away to write in the dirt for them, but he was still there, watching. Those middle class civilians weren’t as “innocent” as they seemed. And even though he was “condemned” the tattooed prisoner still made the right choice.

John 8: 1–11.

Not a perfect match, I grant you. And yet.

He didn’t get a name. His role was small. But somehow, I think that tattooed prisoner is one of my favorite characters in the series. He got it.

He refused to throw the first stone.

What do you think? Am I crazy? Am I right? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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