Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bruce W. Wayne

The Dark Knight got my money on Friday night. Like the rest of the free world, I felt the need to brave the crowds on opening weekend, the first time I've done that since - well, since, Live Free or Die Hard last year. Before that, though, it had been years since - ugh, never mind, Superman Returns. And Revenge of the Sith the year before. So basically, I do the opening weekend thing annually, and only for overblown sequels.

At least The Dark Knight was worth it, though. A couple of perceived plot holes aside (gotta see it again), I was more than impressed, and for the first time felt a palpable sense of loss at Heath Ledger's death - I mean, shit, how good was he? And how good would he have been?

One of the most interesting things about the film, however, was something that was (barely) under the surface. Something that it didn't exactly jibe with current Hollywood politics. Walking out of the theater, the thought occurred to me: "Wow, that was the most pro-George W. Bush film that's ever going to be made."

Ok, here's where you stop reading if you haven't seen the film. Or here's where you stop reading if the previous paragraph made you break out in hives. It's not worth your health, man. But I'm definitely not the first person to notice this. While I was giving this post a little thought, Hollywood Elsewhere commenter K. Bowen did my work for me.

Here's his list of the similarities between Bats and Bush:

  • Batman and Bush are both the rebellious sons of wealthy, prominent families who turn into self-styled terrorism-fighters.
  • The Joker is attracted to attack Gotham because of its newfound virtue.
  • The rising death toll results in the unpopularity of the person defending Gotham rather than the terrorist attacking it and causing the deaths. While there are calls for Batman to give into the demands of The Joker, he ultimately decides to continue fighting, because giving in won't stop The Joker.
  • Cell phone monitoring is presented as a distasteful practice but necessary to defeat The Joker.
  • Batman's final choice - to accept and absorb public contempt from the public that he's trying to defend - is very George Bush. That's probably exactly how George Bush has viewed himself.
  • So while liberals see the ending as dark, as heroes being "corrupted" by coming so close to evil, conservatives see it as cheating on principle to pragmiatically defend principle. It might be unlikable, but the job gets done.

Later in the thread, I added: "In Oldman's final speech, you could practically replace 'Batman' with 'George W. Bush' or even 'America.' And that speech is meant to be rousing, not critical..." Bush has refused to change his principles to fit the popular line, and he seems to have accepted - even embraced - the fact he's a bad guy to many. He certainly views himself to be a dark knight of sorts, willing to sacrifice his popularity for what he perceives as the greater good.

Was this intended by the filmmakers? No, I don't think director Christopher Nolan is a neocon. (He even cast Democrat senator Patrick Leahy in a small role.) Perhaps it's just that any stark good-vs.-evil story will tend to be painted with a more conservative brush. This film, however, seems to take it further than most. How else are we supposed to interpret the wiretapping storyline, especially? Use it when it is necessary, even if you're not thrilled about it - straight out of Bush's playbook. Lucius Fox's objections, basically "I'll go against my principles, but only this once," seem fairly spineless.

Oh, and I also love the Harvey Dent-Barack Obama parallels, but I'll leave that for you to mull over.

The entire thread can be found here, and there is some good (and silly) discussion throughout.


Anonymous said...

Great article. I saw some of that, but I didn't put all of it together. Great analysis. I agree with your sentiments about Heath Ledger. Best individual performance I have seen in a long time.

scott case's ghost said...

Batman is Glanville and Glanville is all knowin'

Dent is June Junes a real big two face.

Work it out.

Where is the local angle on this?

Furman Bisher would have a bone to pick with you my son. Munson? Forget about it sonnny!

Krista said...

Now I want to see this. Even if it's over my 2 hour (max) time limit.

Riley said...

Someone has a two-hour max time limit for movies? Wow. I assume most movies are over two hours these days.

No great movie is too long, no bad movie is too short.

Doug said...

Son of an extremely powerful individual; blamed for causing mass disturbance and uproar; called upon to renounce his calling; bound and determined to do the right thing even when it's unpopular; has a small but devoted following who understand why he does what he does; life's work involves absorbing the pain of the rest of society's sins?

I don't understand why nobody's pointed out the obvious yet, that Batman (in this movie even more so than the last one) is a Christlike figure. But leave it to the Wall Street Journal to put George W. Bush before Jesus, I guess.