To examine how public servants are depicted in film, I discuss the changes over time of Batmanʼs Commissioner Gordon, particularly his character arc in the contemporary The Dark Knight trilogy. An important aspect of Gordonʼs evolution is in contrast to the filmsʼ other prominent public servant, District Attorney Harvey Dent. The Gordon-Dent contrast illustrates aspects of the Friedrich-Finer debate over administrative discretion, a classic debate in public administration. The trilogyʼs verdict on public service is mixed: the flawed, rule-bending, expedient public servant survives while the fabricated hero is a sham. Commissioner Gordon is far more interesting than he had been for decades, but is he just an expedient bureaucrat ultimately pursuing self preservation? In contrast, the (pre-villain) Harvey Dent, who refuses to compromise his principles, is ultimately undone by his absolutism. For the complexity of his character and its centrality to the plot, I judge the depiction of Commissioner Gordon-warts and all-to be better than simplistic caricatures of bureaucrats and promising for future public servants in film.
Mastracci, S. (2017), "Public service in popular culture: the administrative discretion of commissioner gordon and harvey dent", International Journal of Organization Theory & Behavior, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 367-388. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOTB-17-03-2014-B005Download as .RIS
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