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!
It's a question as to why people don't interpret Spider-Man politically. Those films had an interesting bent. He is a proletarian working odd jobs, also a student, his aunt is having trouble holding on to her house and facing foreclosure, trying to also use his power in a responsible way (but not in a directly political way!) -- and getting shat on by cops and by the media and the state in general for doing so. However the masses come to trust him as they see he is acting sincerely for their interests, and often he has to rely on the working masses to help him in accomplishing his mission (in the latest film, it's literally the construction unions that come to his help). And on and on.ReplyDelete
I haven't seen the recent Spiderman but it sounds as if it hasn't departed from the previous Spiderman films regarding Spiderman's relationship with the people. The second film, as I recall, focuses primarily on the same odd jobs, paying for school and trying to go to school, paying for rent, while his aunt is being forced to move... The unions coming to help him, though, seems to be only in the new film.Delete
Honestly, Michael and I decided to write our review (http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/4557) pretty much after we saw the trailer several months ago with catwoman "there's a storm coming". Also my teenage brothers are TOTALLY OBSESSED with batman which may have played a factor.ReplyDelete
I don't know why more leftists don't pay attention and write about pop culture (like, why such a derth of serious leftist articles on the olympics? everyone else was talking about them and largely we didn't) . Seriously this Batman movie is way more important to the world than the latest french communist theoretical book, and more people will care about it if you review it. I think if you want to reach larger groups of people you should talk about something more people find interesting, and people find batman interesting. There's that, and also the fact that this Batman movie was openly counter-revolutionary- it actually took revolution seriously enough to engage with it. That in itself is really interesting and worthy of comment.
Hey, I didn't know you wrote a review but I shall read it soon. My point is not that leftists shouldn't engage with pop culture (otherwise, considering my nerdy pop culture obsessions, I would be a bloody hypocrite) only that within two weeks of the first batman movie it was significantly over-reviewed to the point that people were even writing reviews attacking other reviews for not being theoretically accurate––which I found pretty bizarre. Your point about the olympics, then, becomes even more apt: why was everyone still writing about Batman instead of the olympics, hahahaha.Delete
Yes, the Batman movie was openly counter-revolutionary but the first several reviews (and yours, it would seem, was one of the early ones) already pointed this out; the overproduction of the same reviews that are still going (and this post was encouraged by reading yet another one, a day before I wrote it, that said the same things as all the others) was something I found rather interesting. So yes, it's worthy of comment but when the same comments are being made over and over again by multiple leftist blogs and websites who all read the other ones but then feel the need to say the same thing, or to try to point out how their reviews are the most accurate, has reached a point of extreme saturation. Hell, there were three separate strings on /r/communism about Batman posted by people who didn't bother to read the previous strings or thought that their way of posing the debate was unique when it was just the same as before.
I agree with the over-saturation. Also, its really annoying to read meta-reviews that reference all the other reviews, its become a leftist blogosphere thing. And then it becomes difficult to say anything original so you have to make less and less substantiated points. I certainly wouldn't release a review right now, I think movie reviews should attempt to be timely. (although I'm still mulling over that Hunger Games review I was going to write and never got around too...)Delete
Funny story: I was going through old issues of Rethinking Marxism the other day and found an article about the ORIGINAL Batman movie (ie. Michael Keaton). I guess leftists just really love writing about Batman!ReplyDelete
That said, superhero movies are becoming so vacuous that it's not surprising we're jumping at Batman simply because there is something to say. The new Spiderman movie is actually far more terrifying, because it is so devoid of anything meaningful, so utterly lazy and vapid, that there's nothing much for us to even critique.
PS. Zizek's review is out now too!
I think the source of all this is because it's so *overt* in the latest "batman". I don't remember if there were as many reviews of "300", because I think that was the only other mass-appeal hollywood movie in recent years that was so explicitly ruling-class fascist propaganda, but there should have been, anyway. Analyzing the capitalist propaganda is important, and it's important to attack it at its sources. You should struggle against someone who professes to be a teacher and yet speaks utter crap, you shouldn't attack the students but patiently explain why the teacher is wrong. Of course i'd prefer if we could all spend our time improving our revolutionary consciousness and organizing the masses, and reading history and whatnot, but 2 things: first, not everybody is at this level, and being exposed to the propaganda nature of the culture i was being injected with as a young man actually radicalized me in part, and secondly, i would prefer that these movie reviewers, if all they're going to do anyway is sift through the cultural waste heap, at least did something productive like deconstruct propaganda.ReplyDelete
I never said that we should spend all our time improving our revolutionary consciousness and organizing the masses, or that there shouldn't be reviews, this was merely a rant complaining about the fact (as I pointed out to Megan above and as I maintained over and over in the post itself) that the reviews of Batman have hit such a ridiculous point of over-saturation that it has become ludicrous. This post was the result of reading yet another Batman review that said the same thing twenty Batman reviews said before it, as well as having read one review that spent most of its time attacking the positions of other reviews as if there is a proper "review line" that marxists must take––in other words, a reflection of the sectarian squabbles one can read in the Workers Vanguard but suddenly about a movie. Once this point of saturation is reached, there is no more information being generated but utter redundancy where every review becomes banal.Delete