What is up with all of these leftist reviews of the new Batman movie? I could be remembering things wrong, but I cannot recall the previous two Christopher Nolan Batman films generating as much fascination amongst lefty film critics as The Dark Knight Rises. It seems like there has been a new critical review of this movie every week since its release. First there were all those reviews that complained that it was an attack on the #occupy movement. Then, perhaps realizing that the screenplay was completed and the movie entered pre-production before #occupy, some reviewers soberly decided (and I felt that this, at least, was correct and interesting) the movie was more of a general representation of ruling class angst over possible revolutionary sentiments amongst the masses.
The reviews did not stop here, however, because every internet leftist wanted to write about Batman––more than we even wanted to write about Avatar it seems––and soon lefty websites and blogs were cluttered with nearly identical analyses of the previous two interpretations, or an amalgamation between the two, many of which did not say anything that hadn't been said already, and this was all within a week of the movie's release! Next, perhaps to outdo all of these similar-sounding interpretations of The Dark Knight Rises, there suddenly appeared a review, attacking the other reviews, claiming the movie was a defence of monarchism rather than capitalism due to the fact that: a) parts of the screenplay were heavily influenced by the depiction of the French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities; b) the fact that Bruce Wayne was more like an aristocrat than a "proper" bourgeois; c) the author apparently did not understand the ideological instance of capitalism that has already transformed the previous two categories and that, really, there is a long history of people claiming there are good/proper capitalists (and their philanthropy will save us all), as opposed to bad/greedy capitalists, just as there are capitalists who have inherited their wealth. But hey, if you're going to set yourself apart from those reviews talking about the pro-capitalist message of Batman, then going with the monarchy angle is a good way to get noticed: "you think you are saying Batman is reactionary? My review proves that he's even more retrograde than yours!"
Whatever the case, the Batman reviews keep coming and I've heard that even Zizek has written one that, I am sure, will be the review-of-reviews, upping the proverbial ante by saying something that will either be utterly unfounded (i.e. Batman is really a progressive movie!) or an eccentric mishmash of the other reviews (i.e. Batman is about #occupy and it is also pro-monarchy and this only makes sense because of Lacan). Clearly lefties are obsessed with naming the politics of the new Batman film––a fact that is also interesting on the aesthetic level since many of these same people will also say that the previous Batman movie, which starred Heath Ledger as the Joker, was a better movie… but if this was the case, why didn't it generate so much leftwing angst-analysis? If The Dark Knight Rises represents ruling class angst over the masses dissatisfaction with capitalism in the midst of the current crisis, as most reviews have claimed ad infinitum, then what is the meaning of the angst demonstrated by this widespread and neurotic desire to keep writing reviews about the movie's shitty politics?
I mean, really, we should all know that Batman is politically retrograde before we even sit down to watch a Batman movie. This is a billionaire (originally millionaire in the early days of the comics) who beats up poor people, specifically the mentally ill… So why is it so surprising that The Dark Knight Rises would demonstrate some form of reactionary politics? The previous Batman movies, after all, justified brown-shirt political action and fascist order, and the first was wildly orientalist (a theme, yes I know, that reemerged in this most recent movie)… all themes, though, that shouldn't be surprising when it comes to anything that has to do with Batman. Unless, we're talking about Adam West's portrayal of Batman which, because it was so campy, kind of made the whole plutocrat-who-fights-crime bullshit a parody of itself.
|"Holy reactionary politics, Batman!"|
Sure I found the ruling class angst demonstrated in the movie interesting, but not interesting enough to write a review of what was little more than a piece of culture industry brain candy promoting the same ideology as other films that I enjoy, on the level of mindless entertainment, watching in the theatres. As a whole, contradictions notwithstanding, Hollywood produces a general ideological defence of the current order and the Batman film isn't anymore or less interesting than, say, any other superhero film. (Seriously, although Tony Stark is also a billionaire superhero––who even talks about "privatizing world peace"––the Ironman films did not seem to generate as much lefty fascination and lefty reviews.) Indeed, I would be fascinated if the recent Batman film was not politically backwards. Thus, while I do find the film's counter-revolutionary ethos interesting (and others have written on this so there is no more to be said here without slipping into the swamp where infinite Dark Knight Rises reviews are currently festering), I am more interested in why leftist movie reviewers and bloggers find this specific Batman so fascinating.
Perhaps us leftists at the centres of capitalism are terrified of a revolutionary movement that is more revolutionary than what movementism has to offer and so are simultaneously attracted to and repelled by the figure of Bane. Or perhaps, since those of us writing these reviews live at the centres of capitalism, we also share the ruling class angst demonstrated by the filmmakers and our reviews are a sublimated therapeutic exercise helping us cope with said angst. I mean, why the hell is a film that was little more than your average action film based on a retrograde comic book character suddenly elevated to star review status amongst the left? This could mean, then, that we do possess a certain level of angst that we are obsessively working out in a review of what was something of a mediocre piece of brain candy, fun to watch on the big screen with awesome special effects, but not that remarkable.
Or perhaps it's as simple as the fact that Batman is just way cool, way cooler than Iron Man or Spiderman, and so we want to write about the way coolness of Batman through the lens of our politics. Hell, I've even managed to do so by talking about Batman reviews in general––and I've even done so, consummate former comic book geek that I am, way before all of these reviews out of nerdy boredom… Damn this Batman fascination!