Harvey Dent’s Other Face: Why Gotham Needs the Truth More Than Heroes

Promotional image from The Dark Knight.

Gotham City is one of those fictional locations I don’t want to visit. The mob has people under its control in every institution, supervillains regularly hatch deadly plots, and a kid can’t be sure his parents will make it home safe from the opera late at night.

Trying to clean up the city is like trying to cure it of cancer—corruption and deception just keep popping up in new places, regardless of attempts to wipe it out. In The Dark Knight, Batman and Detective Gordon employ vigilantism and work with tainted cops to make a difference. Nobody talks about it, but everyone knows they’re fighting fire with fire.

Into this chaos, Harvey Dent enters as the white knight. He’s fearless in the courtroom, ingenious in carting bad guys off the streets, and charming enough to win the heart of Rachel Dawes. Even Bruce Wayne is convinced that Dent’s methods are effective. Batman would rather see true law and order prevail in Gotham than his behind-the-scenes crimefighting. “Gotham needs a hero with a face,” he says.

But Dent has two faces.

“Fair’s fair,” he teases before betting on a cheater’s coin. His deception lets him trick Rachel into dating him and later enables him to terrorize one of the Joker’s minions after kidnapping him for information. He relies on a legal technicality to arrest dozens of the mob’s men at once, knowing most of them will be freed soon. Lying about being the Batman to set a trap for the Joker comes pretty easily for someone whose job is seeking the truth. And his nickname among Gotham’s cops could refer to his shady dealings or the way he suddenly lashes out in anger when something doesn’t go as he expects.

We’re tired of hiding, ignoring, or putting up with our idols’ immoralities.

Batman, Gordon, and the mayor, however, don’t expose Dent when they see his darker side at work. Batman lectures him for his poor interrogation strategy but doesn’t tell anyone that he saw the DA threaten a man at gunpoint. Gordon can’t judge him since his own department isn’t clean. The mayor plays along with Dent’s legal long con because it could make him look good and maybe benefit Gotham in the long run.

Ignoring the abuses of someone in power doesn’t sit well with us or with the world’s recent demands for accountability from those in power. We’re tired of hiding, ignoring, or putting up with our idols’ immoralities. Women mistreated by producer Harvey Weinstein are speaking out about their experiences. Bill Cosby, once known as “America’s Dad,” was found guilty of assault. The #MeToo hashtag shows just how many people have experienced abuse or harassment and calls for accountability.

Sometimes these accusations are hard to stomach. It’s tough watching our heroes fall. But it’s encouraging to see victims telling their stories, old wrongs being righted, and systems being put in place to prevent future abuses of power.

We can never seek to battle injustice if we hide the truth.

I work at a newspaper, where revealing the truth and sharing people’s stories are top priorities. One of my co-workers has a sign-off on his email that includes a quote from Jesus: “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” (Luke 12:2). I like this idea of everything eventually coming to light, even if it makes us uncomfortable, because true justice can only be based in fact.

Gotham doesn’t need one person to catch all the bad guys and put them in jail. It needs its people who are living in fear—the dirty cops, the crooked politicians, those who abuse, those who deceive—to come clean and live by the truth. It needs people to listen to the stories of those on both sides so they can show compassion and not repeat others’ mistakes. Then they can be heroes, and there’s no need for a man with two faces.

Alex Mellen

Alex Mellen

Staff Writer at Area of Effect
Alex Mellen likes a little bit of everything, including movies, books, sports, music, crafts, and especially Star Wars. She works as a copyeditor for a small-town newspaper while freelance writing and editing on the side.
Alex Mellen