put. that laptop. down.
"You know what second prize is in the dipshit political-economy-of-The-Dark-Knight posts is? Setta steak knives."
Because Handsome Andrew's fave summer movie has achieved a wild and insane popularity reserved for pop bands, new Popes, and...ah, well, insanely popular summer movies, it of course falls on obscure political and cultural writers to reflect upon the deep-seated politics and/or neurosis that girds said film.
Getting a lot of play elsewheres - even Glenn Beck's repugnant show - is thisWSJ piece.
A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .
Oh, wait a minute. That’s not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a “W.”
There seems to me no question that the Batman film “The Dark Knight,” currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. [emphasis Dex's] Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.
"No question," indeed. I wonder how Bats' poll numbers are.
Or, whatever. This other one is a little more bothersome, courtesy Dissident Voice, which is generally only read by angry lefties like myself. While the WSJ thingy is way more profane because of the wide distribution and seriousness an establishment news outlet buys, it's straight gibberish, propaganda fresh n' hot from a college Republican listserv: this piece merits some mention not only for the sheer number of lefty-grad-student-essay cliches ("That is, a text like this film presents a menu of choices from which it then invites the viewer to select, and we can locate the trace of pernicious ideology not in the choices themselves but rather in what the authors choose to leave off the menu."), but mostly for the fact that he fails to tap decent primary sources for the piece. I'm always down for some po-mo deconstruction, but where's the Robin Wood? You know - the left-leaning film critics whose writing might help you build the foundation for a solid critique?
The critics are evidently bowled over by the film’s “ambivalent” portrayals of high-tech adumbrations of warrantless wiretapping (when Batman rigs up a super spying system based on sonar readings from Gotham citizens’ cell phones to stop the Joker), superheroic enhanced interrogations (when Batman threatens to beat the life out of the hostage-holding Joker) and debates about the advisability of democracy itself when the barbarians are at the gates, to quote a speech from Dent recalling the Romans’ dictatorial practices. And indeed, as a tribute to the film’s supposed complexity, some critics believe the film to be advocating the suspension of democracy in a time of terror, while others see it as endorsing a liberal skepticism about leaders’ claims to free reign during a “state of emergency” which is often those very leaders’ own creation.
What’s on the menu in The Dark Knight? The same thing that’s on the two-party American political menu, year in and year out.
First we have Batman and Dent representing opposite poles of so-called democratic politics. Batman, operating outside the law to protect the defenseless people, represents a kind of Bush/Cheney figure, doing what he has to do for the good of the homeland. Dent, on the other hand, along with Rachel Dawes, who chooses to be with Dent in the end, is an idealistic but by-the-book type who is nevertheless pragmatic enough to collaborate with a vigilante like Batman if it’s necessary to get the bad guys. In other words, a post-political Barack star.
But what of the Joker himself, with his advocacy of terrorism and chaos, his speeches lifted from the adolescent repertoire of might-is-right conservative anarchism à la Sade, Nietzsche, Marinetti et al.? As liberal-hawk ideologue Paul Berman showed in his 2002 Terror and Liberalism, a figure such as this can very easily stand in propagandistically for “America’s enemies,” hence Berman’s insistence, for example, that Palestinians constitute not an oppressed and exploited, diverse and divided group trying to resist its enemies in various ways, some more defensible or ethical than others, but rather that they are a fundamentally irrational, chaotic and lawless cult of death. Thus, the Joker offers only the wild, amoral, killing life beyond the protective (and expansionist) borders of “democracy,” aka corporatist imperialism.
The moral is as old, and as conservative, as Hobbes: we can live in a wild, murderous wasteland or a lawless, authoritarian police state. It doesn’t matter which of these options the film presents as more appealing or fun; all that matters is that no other options—e.g., left-wing anarchism, participatory democracy, decentralized communism, democratic socialism etc.—present themselves.
The writer allows that he may be just a "left-wing critic [who] is rigidly ideological and tone-deaf to the visionary powers of art," and spends a couple of sentences examining the pure anarchist heart beating at the center of Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy II. The choices for good lefties become clear, then: avoid Batman and the two-party system, vote McKinney, and go see the new Hellboy (and you should probably check The Shock Doctrine out from the library again if you go see that Clone Wars thing).
Let it not be said that people don't work through August.
I remember similar turds being dropped when Raimi's first Spidey movie came out; alas, Tobey Maguire failed to inspire the military to catch Osama bin Laden (though they may have been thinking forward to Spiderman 3 when they invaded Iraq), and though it may not have been the patriarchy's gyno-phobia made manifest in Peter Parker that made things hard between him and Mary Jane, Hilliary Clinton's hardcore supporters may wish to revisit that argument for their own purposes.
Films always say a lot, don't get me wrong. But when it comes to how loudly, and the truthfulness of what's being said, a sense of perspective helps, especially when it comes to really popular media, which, because of all the things that go into making summertime entertainment, tends to have a narrower range of ideas to express. And some audiences, even ones who don't show up to work at the Wall Street Journal, are pretty good about rendering unto the Justice League what is the Justice League's; sometimes a guy in a batsuit is just a guy in a batsuit.
Go see Roy for more.