America's great enemies of the past—Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, or Mao's China—were evil, but at least they were evil with a point (however twisted). But these days, evil has changed, and from Timothy McVeigh to 9/11, the anthrax killer, and now James Holmes, the "world-burners, meticulous madmen, terrorists without a cause" are more like villains straight out of one of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, writes Ross Douthat in the New York Times. The "contemporary iconography of evil" is now much more about "destruction for destruction’s sake," writes Douthat, "more anti-civilizational than political."
In Nolan's films, the villains are "inscrutable, protean, appearing from nowhere to terrorize." Similarly, the heroes no longer fight, Superman-style, for truth, justice, and the American way, but rather for civilization itself—society, whether Gotham or America, is "decadent and corrupt in many ways, but he also knows that the alternatives are almost infinitely worse." But unlike an action movie, real heroes are not costume-clad vigilantes that save the day, but ordinary people "who carry one another through the valley of the shadow of death, and by their conduct ensure that the Jokers and James Holmeses of the world win only temporary victories," writes Douthat. Click for his full column.