A few people have noted the amusing coincidence that Bane
-- the villain in the new Batman movie -- is a homonym for Mitt Romney's old company. Some internet wags will no doubt construe this coincidence as a Hollywood conspiracy. The very idea is absurd: The character "Bane" has been around for decades, and the script for The Dark Knight Rises
was written years ago -- long before the Republicans decided upon their candidate.
Still, The Dark Knight Rises
may offer an interesting insight into our current political situation. Although the film has not opened at this writing, some reviews have come in. (If you want to remain completely
spoiler-free, stop reading now. I trust our critics not to give away any major twists.) The most informative piece comes from Todd Gilchrist
Looking piecemeal at “The Dark Knight Rises,” it feels like a movie of profound disillusionment about America that could only be objectively told by someone who’s not a native: Nolan dissects our current financial woes, our clash of cultures, even one-percent-versus-99-percent-style class warfare with a scalpel, assigning culpability to all involved and condemning the whole system as a sort of demagogue-exchange program. From the corporate fat cats to the mouth breathers scraping by on pennies, everyone aspires to change their situation, to triumph over the forces of (sometimes rightful) opposition, or to wipe the slate clean and start again, and their motives are almost unilaterally unclean – either in origin or execution. The film should have its own Faustian bargain counter in the corner of the screen, ticking off bad decisions and foolhardy expectations.
Moreover, Bane more or less distills the status quo of America into a few depressingly succinct ideas, which form the basis of his plans: fuel his followers with a sense of fear, incite them to anger by suggesting betrayal, allow them the pretense of hope, and they will become believers. He leads with a combination of ruthless control and facetious empowerment, keeping his minions under his thumb and turning Gotham into a battleground for revolution – but only for his nefarious purposes. The concept of turning the citizenship against its own interests is nothing new, but Nolan makes it frighteningly palpable in this fictional setting without undermining the real-world implications of this sort of manipulation.
In other words, Bane is a tea party leader -- one with a hidden agenda. The same, I suspect, could be said of certain real-life tea party leaders.
Conservative commentators may prefer to believe that the film's version of Bane embodies the Occupy Wall Street movement. That idea has some truth in it: The young people involved with that movement were (are?) very easy to mislead. More OWSers favored Rick Perry's flat tax proposal than favored a New Deal-ish restructuring of finance capitalism. Alex Jones once said that OWS should not be opposed; instead, he
counseled infiltration, with an eye toward converting the kids to
In the new film, Bane seeks the same outcome that Ra's al Ghul tried to achieve in the first of Christopher Nolan's Batman stories: Wiping out Gotham City. Ending corruption by ending the game. Starting a new
Both Bane and Bain personify creative destruction
. The coincidence of names is merely cute. The coincidence of goals carries a deeper interest.
Romney's defenders trot out "creative destruction" as their all-purpose excuse for ghastly behavior. That phrase has become a mantra -- an induction method for libertarian hypnosis. We are continually told that "creative destruction" justifies leveraged buyouts, justifies the financial vampirism of those who profit from the ruination of healthy American companies. Oddly, the people who promulgate this concept never address the question of whether creative destruction has driven the economic life of Germany or Canada or any of the other countries that have weathered the present crisis better than we have. Of course, history rarely matters much to those dazzled by ideology.
For a long time, I have wondered if there are people who seek to apply the concept of creative destruction to the United States of America as a whole. A frightening number of southerners speak of secession as a real possiblity. Romney and his cronies could stand to make a lot of money if a "fall of the USSR" scenario were to occur -- that is, if this country were broken down into its constituent parts and its assets sold off.
Those who idealize creative destruction presume that if some
destruction can be creative, then all
destruction must be so. That's a fallacy. But it's a useful fallacy if you want to justify predatory behavior -- or even a return to feudalism.