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Danial Nasirullah
Dr. Rosenberg
ENGL 137H
20 October 2015
"The Dark Knight" Viral Media Campaign Rhetorical Analysis
In 2007, 42 Entertainment launched an unprecedented viral media campaign over the
span of 18 months called "Why So Serious?". The campaign was for the Dark Knight which
brought in the second highest record gross behind Titanic in the Box Office. (All Time World
Box Office Grosses) The viral media campaign was composed of a number of different elements
meant to not only engage concurrent fans, but gain the following of new ones. The campaign
consisted of a series of television advertisements, a large internet presence, scavenger hunts
across the country, public unveilings and mass demonstrations. This approach served to facilitate
a veil of realism around the events of The Dark Knight and employed ethos, pathos, logos, and
kairos to effectively convince people to come see the movie, garner a large audience, and
increase the number of Batman fans.
The pretense of the Dark Knight movie allowed for an elaborate setup for the viral media
campaign. In the film, there are three main characters at conflict: Harvey Dent who is running for
District Attorney in the fictional Gotham City; Bruce Wayne or Batman who is the vigilante
protector of the city; and Joker, the antagonist and harbinger of chaos to Gotham. Dent and
Wayne are both cleaning the city of crime in their own ways when they are pitted against the
Joker in a fight over the city and the lives of its inhabitants while the Joker has his own agenda
against them. The Gotham City of the movie is commonly considered parallel to the real-world
New York City. This is not the only commonplace that exists between the movie and our world

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and since the viral media campaign is for a Batman story, any commonplace that applies to the
storyline extends to the campaign as a piece of rhetoric. The realism of the story also matches up
with our world. Crime, gangs, the law, politics, and human beings with normal abilities are all in
common with what normal people know and are familiar with. The technology and other aspects
are also contemporary with the actual time period of the film. Batman is a masked vigilante, but
as mentioned before, he has the same physical limits as a normal man, regardless of his
impressive strength which is still within average human limits. He also is the underdog, and as a
nation, the United States adores the underdog which represents another commonplace. To pit him
as an underdog, I am taking general background information and making the comparison
between him and other known superheroes with excessive power. He is depicted as being able to
take a hit, but not necessarily invincible. This adoration for the underdog can stem from the
American Dream and our patriotic mission to succeed in the face of opposition. These
commonplaces are effectively used to appeal to the audience, the people viewing the campaign.
A political campaign is something that Americans know all too well. Not only that, but it
is something we as a people wholly believe in. Showing support in beliefs and the candidate who
represents them is what governs politics in our country. This plays the same role in the Batman
universe, except in this case, the campaign was run in our universe. Via cards given out in comic
book shops and Comic-cons, people around the world became supporters of Harvey Dent
running for District Attorney. They showed their support in public gatherings of supporters
holding signs of "Harvey Dent for District Attorney" with the classic red & blue electoral colors.
A campaign website went live and portrayed the progress of Dent's run for office and people
were encouraged to spread the word on social media by whatever means they could manage.
(WHY SO SERIOUS?) They did. The campaign spread like wildfire and gained real press

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coverage. Dent grew in power as a fictional political figure with an actual following and thus
played into ethos. Dent's political agenda, though purely imaginary, was one that many people
honestly supported. He promised to clean the streets of Gotham of criminals and underworld
activity. For people of either universe, those who were not of the criminal sort, would feel much
inclined to support his war on villainy, and thus established a basis for a pathetic appeal. These
events unfolding in the streets of real cities like New York City and Chicago made the whole
thing seem more real than not. This immersion into the Batman world in turn plays into logos. It
follows the logic that if it can happen in the real world, then it is more likely to be real and thus
all the more convincing.
Dent's campaign was only the first step in this mastermind plot. Soon things began to
take on an air of mystery as the website was vandalized, presumably by the Joker, with his iconic
white face, blackened eyes, and distorted scarred red mouth plastered onto Dent's portrait. The
pixels of the picture on the website could be erased to reveal the Joker's real face behind the
image. This is the first public image of the Joker and thus produced a large amount of interest
from the fans. From there, things became only more involved as Joker began to grow his
following. Newspapers were sent out, a fake election was held, and news and gossip websites
were made to follow the events and give out clues to the story. A "Clown Travel Agency" was
made that sent fans to find a Joker package from bowling alleys around the world. From there
they were sent to find cakes from select bakeries around the world and get more packages from
within the cakes. A Citizens for Batman direct-action group was made online to gain support for
Batman and to keep him out of jail. People could order pizzas from the Gotham City Pizzeria and
not only get their pizza, but more goodies related to the movie. The weekend before the launch,
the "citizens" of Gotham were gathered in Chicago and New York City to view the iconic Bat

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Signal on the city skyline. (Why So Serious?) This game of finding clues and having people
participate in the fight between Batman, Dent, and the Joker makes the whole story all that much
more realistic. The producers literally brought Batman to life in our world. Not only that, they
pitted people against each other. Generally speaking, when there are opposing viewpoints on a
matter, belief in one's own viewpoint is strengthened by opposition. Whether the fans were on
Dent's side, Batman's or the Joker's, they were all convincing themselves and those around them
to further support the movie.
Advertising for a movie is all about getting people to come watch the movie, but in
essence, that is making the people not only interested but essentially on edge for the movie. By
definition, this is kairos. The whole campaign exemplifies kairos as it builds itself a most
opportune moment for the film to take place. The Harvey Dent campaign, the Joker's sabotage
and errands, the unveiling of the bat signal and everything else all built tension and excitement
for the movie. By incorporating all of these elements at once, using ethos, pathos, and logos
through appeals based upon commonplaces like New York City, and doing so effectively while
crafting a story/path for the audience, 42 Entertainment created the perfect kairotic moment for
the Dark Knight to come out in theaters.

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Works Cited
"All Time Worldwide Box Office Grosses." Box Office Mojo. IMDB, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
<http://www.boxofficemojo.com/alltime/world/>.
Rosen, Gary. "Why So Serious?" Gary Rosen. Gary Rosen, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
<http://cargocollective.com/GaryRosen/The-Dark-Knight-Known-as-the-best-viralmovie-marketing-campaign-in>.
"WHY SO SERIOUS?" 42 Entertainment. 42 Entertainment, LLC, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
<http://www.42entertainment.com/work/whysoserious>.