July 23, 2012


A Dark Knight for Romney? (TOM CARSON JULY 20, 2012, American Prospect)

The real joke, as Rush might have learned if he'd crammed his posterior into a theater seat before venting, is that The Dark Knight Rises is one of the most deeply conservative movies to come out of Hollywood in years.

Understand, I mean "conservative" in the traditional, more or less honorable sense that Rush and his fellow napalm-eaters have done their best to make obsolete. To a large extent, that's built right into the source material. To much grimmer effect than his rival, Superman--all that sunshine palaver about "the American way," feh--Batman has always been the guardian of a social order against chaos, with a pretty dour view of unbridled license and plenty of pessimism about humanity's prospects for improvement. That may be why the 1960s TV version boomers loved had to be campy, since presenting Batman with his dignity intact would have left Dragnet's Jack Webb looking like some damned hippie-lover. But Christopher Nolan, the director of TDKR and its two predecessors--2005's Batman Begins and 2008's mega-smash The Dark Knight--has hardly been shy about bringing out the saga's implicit political philosophy.

If The Dark Knight ended up as the ultimate pop-culture reflection of George W. Bush's Global War on Terror--and it did, from the way audiences couldn't help seeing Heath Ledger's destruction-bent Joker as Osama bin Laden to Batman's harsh "the ends justify the means" moral ambiguity--the new movie ups the ante, in a way. Lacking even the Joker's twisted charisma, Tom Hardy's Bane is about as far from a Romney stand-in as could be imagined; he's a sullen, lower-depths menace, with a musculature seldom encountered outside Soviet-era sculpture gardens. Though his ultimate plan is to blow up Gotham--c'mon, they all want to blow up Gotham--he means to torment a captive Batman first by turning the city into a stew of every conservative's worst nightmares.

It's not exactly an accident that the first place Bane wreaks havoc is the Stock Exchange. Declaring war on privilege with a rabble-rousing slogan of "Equality!," he incites mobs to throw the rich out of their fancy homes and take over. Moscow-style show trials are held to condemn anyone who objects. It's a pastiche of the French Revolution, the Paris Commune, urban rioters, Bolshevik terror, and punk nihilism, incidentally letting Nolan eat his cake and have it too: In practice, anarchy and totalitarianism haven't been known to mix well. The point is that we're seeing all of Batman's fears--not to mention those of his investment-capitalist millionaire alter ego--mashed up to demonic (and demotic) effect.

In other words, those who ought to be most offended by the movie are Occupy Wall Street's 99 percenters and their sympathizers. 

Posted by at July 23, 2012 6:49 PM

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