Thursday, July 31, 2008

subject echo: "who has the detonator?"

like several other Americans, i went to see Batman: The Dark Knight on opening night. a gray-area girl at heart, i admit that the theme of good vs. evil often elicits a bit of a yawn. so the Joker is a refreshing terrorist to me—preferring, as he does, chaos to evil.

the Dark Knight's refrain of "Who has the detonator?"—and especially the scene above, where the Joker holds a remote detonator in his right hand as he shuffles away from Gotham General hospital—reminded me very strongly of a few of Diane Arbus's most famous shades of gray: Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park (1962).

forty-six years later the tensions on display in this photograph are just as relevant—between childhood and adulthood, playfulness and violence, tensing up and letting loose, even the city and nature. (and i love a photograph with its own Wikipedia page.)

so, who has the detonator?

a child, a joker? (a privileged portrayer of freaks and outsiders, a big Hollywood director trying to aim a lens at our anxieties and desires?) or perhaps it's me, you, or some other? maybe that is the fear.

Arbus wrote:
"I have this funny thing which is that I'm never afraid when I'm looking in the ground glass. This person could be approaching with a gun or something like that and I'd have my eyes glued to the finder and it wasn't like I was really vulnerable. It just seemed terrific what was happening. I mean I'm sure there are limits. God knows, when the troops start advancing on me, you do approach that stricken feeling where you perfectly well can get killed. But there's a kind of power thing about the camera. I mean everyone knows you've got some edge. You're carrying some slight magic which does something to them.

It fixes them in a way."


bakingwithplath said...

This post is so perfect. I completely agree; that scene reminded me a lot of that photograph as well. By the way, I absolutely love your blog! It's wonderful.

Mike Wood said...

Very cool post. I really like the parallels you made.