My very deepest condolences to victims and families of the terrible shootings in Aurora, CO: I had a cousin murdered in the Northern Illinois University shooting, and know these tragedies are incomprehensible; it is not only terrible for the families, and for Aurora, but for all America as well and all my thoughts and prayers are with the victims.
|This post contains spoilers, as always, so please do not continue reading if you have not watched the film; if you insist on reading anyway, then please read this excellent synopsis of the plot with spoilers so you will have an idea of what is being discussed. Please note in this power how the sign of the bat is in relief against the skyscrapers of Gotham; who built the skyscrapers? The upper-classes, of which Bruce Wayne is a member and this is the whole point of the film. In spite of the speech President Obama gave telling business owners they didn't make it on their own, Christopher Nolan prophetically knew to tell us all, yes, you did do it and don't let the socialist government take it away from you.|
I had been extremely concerned that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) would be a socialist/pro-Obama film (mainly because of rumors that Batman/billionaire Bruce Wayne would die) but The Dark Knight Rises has proven through and through that it is pro-capitalist and anti-socialist; other films professing capitalism have been extremely pro-capitalism, but have shied away from attacking socialism except Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (which focused on being anti-socialist instead of pro-capitalist). Nolan, however, very carefully weaves the two stances together (pro-capitalist and anti-socialist) providing the most cathartic answer possible to the changes and destruction being wrought in America today by President Obama.
|Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark (Iron Man) are nearly identical fellow billionaires. Filmmakers know we are educated audiences: we have seen films and we remember what we have seen and filmmakers use this to their and our advantage (Reader Response Theory). For example, Alfred (Michael Caine) finds Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in the Bat Cave, where he hasn’t been in years, and confronts Wayne about getting his life back and Wayne tells Alfred, “There’s nothing out there for me,” invoking another Robert Downey Jr. film, Sherlock Holmes of 2009 when Holmes tells Watson (Jude Law) the same thing just before the execution of Lord Blackwood. In America, the land of wealth and opportunity, it’s fitting that two of our most beloved heroes would be billionaires, but they are not self-made, they are heirs to fortunes and industries built by others. Why? How does that substantiate the American dream today for us? If we look at it symbolically, we—like Stark and Wayne—have inherited a great legacy in America, and we have to protect it. Both billionaire super-heroes lose everything (Stark is left with nothing when he’s kidnapped in the first Iron Man and Wayne is framed for crashing the stock market and loses everything). Both men have physical impairments (Tony loses his heart and has to have the generator put in, Wayne has seriously damaged his joints and muscles to the point of being nearly crippled). Both billionaires invest heavily in “green energy” and both find it turned against them to end the world. Both billionaires risk their lives to carry bombs away from the financial capital of the world, New York City. But there is another similarity as well: both are capable of “fixing” the engine of the economy. As discussed in my post The Avengers @ War, it’s Tony Stark who starts up the “engine of the state” again after the SHIELD ship is attacked; Bruce Wayne fixes the “auto pilot,” in The Bat (the new helicopter/military plane Batman flies) and an auto pilot references the “invisible hand” guiding the economy which Adam Smith theorized in The Wealth Of Nations. The importance The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises places on the “mis-investment” in green energy is two-fold: first, it reminds Americans about the government’s bankrupt alternative energy programs that has cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and how, unlike the free market and free enterprise, the government (known as a command economy in socialism because the government decides what will be produced instead of the market via consumers) failed to understand the economic forces which could have made the alternative energy program a success. The second point is: capital. Socialism considers capital to be the root of all evil (excess wealth which private individuals/enterprise can invest in ventures they hope will prove profitable) is mis-handled when the government gets involved in directing the economy (the heavy, clumsy hand vs. Adam Smith’s invisible hand) and everyone loses.|
The Dark Knight Rises utilizes a surprising, old-school weapon as American and impressive as Captain America’s stars and stripes uniform: dichotomies. Starting in about the 1960’s, international politics and academics argued against the use of dichotomies such as man and woman, white and black, capitalist and socialist, rich and poor, elite and bums, because structuring society that way meant that a fraction of those falling into the “less desirable” category (such as “women” in the dichotomy of man and woman) would be politically, socially, sexually, financially and psychologically stigmatized by a society structuring itself to honor some (such as white men) and, the argument went, keep others in society down “in their rightful place” such as women or other political minorities. Nolan, however, brings this back and uses it to amazing efficiency realizing that such a bedrock of American ideology had been intentionally undermined by those wanting to take down our defense of social discourse against socialist agents such as Bane and Miranda.By doing this, enemies of America were slowly but surely chipping away at the “bedrock” of American values and morality (just like Bane’s army chipping away at the underground structures of the city to cause it to collapse) so the demolition of dichotomies demolished American morality and, ultimately, our greatest weapon for fighting against socialism and communism was socially outlawed decades ago, leaving an open door for political dissidents to enter and be protected by the Constitution. (I AM NOT talking about superficial dichotomies like man and woman, rather, those such as good and evil, productive and lazy, success and failure, ideas which have been condemned wholesale by liberals because they want everyone on an artificially leveled playing field; please see the football picture caption below for more).
If certain dichotomies permitted enemies of America (and yes, we can call them enemies of America, that’s part of Nolan’s agenda, to free up the conservative vocabulary so we who are afraid of what’s happening can talk about it freely) to bury American ideals we now need to resuscitate, we can accept Nolan’s invitation and see Selina (Anne Hathaway) as a thief and not someone “under privileged,” and Marion Cotillard’s character Natalia as an import of foreign animosity intent upon American destruction and not her ulterior identity “Miranda” who stands up for rights of prisoners (the “Miranda” rights read to someone being arrested [prisoners are the first released as the “oppressed” later in the film]) just a political “other” in the sanitized language of liberalism.Yet The Dark Knight Rises presents dichotomies within ideals, namely the capitalist hope and the socialist hope, capitalist change and socialist change, capitalist death and socialist death, capitalist freedom and socialist freedom. Why is this important? Because when someone starts talking about “freedom” today, the traditional understanding was freedom from government tyranny and freedom to make your own choices; today, socialists have changed freedom to mean freedom from responsibility, work, and not having to make decisions but letting the government do that for you and provide everything for you; freedom for socialists is freedom not to be an American. Nolan employs two strongly contrasting images to compare the capitalist ideals with the socialist agendas: the Pit and the ice field. Miranda and Wayne are the strongest sets of dichotomies within the film: she is female, he is male; she was born into a prison of poverty, he was born into a mansion of wealth; her masked identity is being used to destroy the world and his masked identity is being used to save it. We are used to seeing Wayne Manor (where Wayne was born) but not The Pit, the prison where Miranda (Natalia) was born and escaped. At the point of juncture in the film, Miranda and Wayne switch positions and she is the controller of Wayne Manor (through Bane) and he is locked up in The Pit. What Wayne has to learn is how to climb out of the hell on earth that the prison is (because this prison is exactly what socialists see as a capitalist society).
Like all films advocating capitalism, it starts by first showing the problems dishonest people have perpetuated even if their intentions were good. The first image of the film is of ice cracking, symbolizing the cracking of the facade that led to the breakdown of society, but this is juxtaposed against the second image of capitalism Nolan presents to us: the ice field. In the mock court mirroring the proceedings of the French Revolution, everyone is all ready guilty, they only have to be sentenced to death or exile. One character, claiming he is on the side of the revolutionists (I will talk more about him later) chooses exile and is led to a pond with thin ice that he must walk across; he does and of course falls into the icy water below, drowning. Why this? Because to socialists, this is what a capitalist "opportunity" is but it's better understood in relationship to what Wayne endures in The Pit. (When Gordon and his fellow officers are forced to cross the ice, they are spread out enough that their weight distributes the pressure, thereby not cracking the ice. What is Nolan saying? No one in a capitalist society is on their own, they weigh their risks and everyone is taking the same calculated risk; the socialists, on the other hand, want you to believe you are all alone and you can't possibly make it in a capitalist society and you are going to sink and drown all on your own unless the government is there to take care of you).
Bruce Wayne has to crawl out of the open-air prison (it's supposed to be hell on earth because all the prisoners can see the sky above them and nothing holds them back from scaling the walls and escaping, except that it can't be done; only one person has escaped and that was a child, Miranda/Natalia) and twice he fails. One of the other prisoners tells him two things: one, you have to be afraid of death and, two, you have to do it as the child did, without the rope (they have a rope which they tie around them so if they fall they don't fall to their deaths). Why are these the two secrets to getting out? First, this is the notion of capitalist death, that you do or die, you don't die in the prison, but you lift yourself out of it (and this in turn inspires others to be able to lift themselves out of it, too) but that fear of death means that you will give it everything you have. Secondly, not climbing with the rope is the second rope image used in the film (at least): ropes (high-tech ones) are used to hold back the airplane Bane escapes from in the start of the film (because the government has been artificially holding back the "engine" of the economy which the plane symbolizes) and the second image is the rope prisoners tie around them to keep them from falling to rock bottom when they fail to climb out of The Pit. Nolan makes the argument--as all capitalists do and up to this time in history, nearly all Americans did--that the rope is the artificial means of government regulations and bail outs. If you don't have the artificial support of the government, you can make the leap you need to in your business/dreams, but if you are being artificially supported from failing, you can't successfully make that leap.
When Natalia escapes and Bane is "consumed" by the other prisoners, that moment invokes The Day Of the Locust when Homer (Donald Sutherland) dies by being consumed into a mob after he stomped to death an annoying child. The Dark Knight Rises does the exact opposite with Bane saving a child and being consumed by the mob. The scene is important because it’s part of the inner-story of the story The Dark Knight Rises which, just like us now, decoding and working with the major elements of the film, we try to “identify” who is who and what is what, so Wayne tries to identify the major players of the story he is told in the Pit and in accurately identifying who is who, he solves the mystery of motivation. Like Dark Shadows, Americans tend to see two faces of socialist revolutions: a noble idea (Natalia/Miranda) and the brutality (Bane and the other prisoners). Bane being crushed by the mob suggests the fall of the Soviet Union and all the countries in the commonwealth abandoning the socialist system (the beating up of Bane and taking revenge on the brutal Soviet state). Natalia escaping would symbolize the "noble ideas" of socialism some are still attracted to today, parading around in the upper-classes and hiding in "save the world projects" intentionally bankrupting investors.
Why do people in the city start leaving the mark of the Batman in chalk around the city? It plays into Jacques Derrida’s idea of erasure: chalk is easily erased, but what Batman did for the city, and who he is and what he can do, “can’t be erased” from the city and the hearts of the people. Likewise, please note places where the "chalk bat" are left: buildings, streets, bridges, the infrastructure of the city, verifying that the upper-classes built up the city, not the government, rather, private enterprise. That’s why, after Commissioner Gordon has to walk across the ice, Batman gives him a flare which lights up a Batman mark on a tower in fire, because the “fire of love” for Gotham has been lit and people and Batman are willing to fight and die for it. So there are some things that can’t be erased, and there are some things that should be erased, like Selina’s record, which Batman/Bruce Wayne willingly erases each time she betrays him and he still keeps giving her another chance and gives her the program to erase her criminal past for the “clean slate” (like a clean chalkboard) she wants to write her own story the way she wants. Isn’t that what many people coming to America wanted, after all? This is juxtaposed, even violently, against the “mock court” system which Bane constructs to put on trial all those Bane wants executed. Those being tried don’t have the benefit of innocent until proven guilty, they are all ready guilty and have only to be sentenced to death or death by exile.
The way Bane gets the mask he wears appears to have been changed from an earlier trailer I saw of that snippet of the film was left out (where Bane is given an injection of some kind and he gains super strength and some madness as well). The general story Wayne is told by a fellow prisoner runs: there was a mercenary who fell in love with a leader’s daughter whom he married and he was sentenced to the Pit but was allowed to leave because his wife took his place but was pregnant; dying after the baby was born, the child grew in the Pit and was able to climb the wall to escape, the only person who had ever done so. Wayne identifies that child as Bane himself, but realizes too late that the mercenary was Ra's Al Ghul (Liam Neeson) and his daughter, Natalia, has been posing as Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and she was the one, not Bane, who escaped. So who is Ra's Al Ghul?
There is a pyramid relationship Nolan constructs: with Bane at the top, the radical socialist is supported by the mid-section, Miranda/Natalia, the daughter and avenger and, supporting both of them, is Ra's al Ghul, the leader of the League Of Shadows. Christopher Nolan does not have to be a Christian or a Republican to invoke traditional, 2,000 year-old iconography to communicate to his audience he knows we also know what these ideas and symbols mean, especially when we have all ready seen them employed in John Carter. "Ra's al Ghul means "head of the demon" in Arabic, there is no getting around it, and Nolan employs this to let us know that's exactly where socialism comes from. Because The Pit is likened to hell, and Ra's al Ghul appears to Wayne in “hell” and talks about his immortality, we can and probably should liken the leader of the League of Shadows to the devil, especially when his daughter Miranda/Natalia tells Batman about her detonating the atomic bomb, “I completed my father’s work,” inverting what Jesus told Mary in the Temple when He was twelve and Jesus did on the Cross. Which leads us to the question, why does Wayne sleep with Miranda?
Three important narrative devices are revealed in the scene of Wayne and Miranda being together: first, Wayne reveals that he thought Miranda had come from money and been rich all her life; secondly, we learn that Miranda knows how to “stoke the fire” because she will “stoke the fire” Bane starts with his people’s revolution in Gotham and, thirdly, that Miranda is “marked” (she has a insignia of scar tissue on her back in the form that looked like an upside-down “U” or “V”). These last two instances alerts the audience that Wayne and Miranda are mirror opposites: Wayne sleeps with Miranda-symbolically-because he sees his own motivations and identity in her (his desire to do good for the world with what he has been given) but she desires to turn what others have been given (the knowledge of making the fusion energy source) into the destruction of the world. Wayne sees "Miranda" as the "miranda rights" for the poor of the world, not the "miranda rights" of criminals who seek only their own power.
|It helps to be able to identify other films The Dark Knight Rises sites or shares similarities with (one film doesn’t always know what is going to be used in another film so that strengthens the cultural ties when the same motifs and themes appear in more than one film). For example, when we first see Bane, it’s on a crashing plane, which we also saw in The Grey (symbolizing in that film the crashing vehicle of the economy; the tie between the two films are strengthened in that Liam Neeson appears in both. Two other films, Flight and another film about a flight to Tokyo film are also due out shortly utilizing planes, perhaps referencing 9/11). The symbol of the crashing plane being related to the economy is especially poignant in The Dark Knight Rises because ropes are used to “hold the plane back” from accelerating, suggesting, as in other places in the film, that the economic recovery of the country has been intentionally “held back” or weakened so the Obama administration’s policies would be accepted by the increasing number of unemployed and those having gas and groceries take out an ever increasing portion of their paychecks. The flood towards the end is mirrored by a flood in Moonrise Kingdom (and the upcoming Darren Aronofsky film Noah due out next year). There is also a very clear reference to the 195* sci-fi film Them! Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds a male teenager male at one of the many tunnels, which leads to where Bane’s army is working underground, much as the giant-killer ants were in Them! While my interpretation is far different than the main stream, it would make sense for Nolan to cite the film because the ants, as “workers,” are usually understood to be communists (the proletariat) working “underground” (in secrecy) to undermine America.|
For example, there are at least three different meanings of the word “rise” utilized in TDKR: one, Bruce Wayne “rising” out of his personal darkness; two, prisoners “rising” out of The Pit and three, the lower-classes “rising” against the upper-class. Bruce finally letting go of Rachel to eventually embrace Selina is nothing short of Nolan proposing a new agenda for the upper-classes by not tending so much to the middle, professional class (Rachel was a lawyer but by no means rich) and instead investing in the lower and struggling class (Selina trying to rise up from her past). (There is far more to discuss on these points, however, we don’t have the time here).
|The wrecking of Wall Street probably is not an accusation that it was staged by socialists and blamed on the upper-classes, but the scene certainly makes a statement: that it's possible that is what happened.|
Thirdly, just as Bane calls upon the prisoners and lower-classes to rise against the upper-classes, so President Obama calls upon a rising against the upper-classes today. Is this pure self-interestedness on Nolan’s part? If we recall Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and Dark Shadows, both films had characters who were “helping” the lower-classes to revolt against their vampire overlords (as the socialists call the upper-classes) and one of Bane's inside henchman working for Daggett can't believe the Revolution is going to turn against him because "he's one of them" and expects to be saved, just as those millionaires and billionaires supporting socialism think the revolution will take the other guys' money, but not theirs because they looked kindly upon the proletariats and sided with them. Nolan is issuing a warning that's not what's going to happen because that's never what happens.
When we think of masks, we think of what covers up our identity, however, Nolan makes a dramatic point about the different types of masks we willingly (and out of necessity) wear and of those forced upon us. For example, when Officer Blake meets with Bruce Wayne, he talks about the mask he had to learn how to wear after the death of his parents, and he learned to recognize that Wayne was wearing a mask when he went out in public (being an orphan, too) and that’s how Blake realized Bruce Wayne was also wearing the mask of Batman. The masks Bruce Wayne wears, however, are still a testimony to his genuine identity instead of the nameless and anonymous thugs surrounding Bane and working in the “underground army” as Commissioner Gordon calls them. This is one of the cases Nolan makes against socialism: the loss of our genuine identity. There is a great deal of individuation which comes from that which we do on our own, instead of being commanded by the government to do; making decisions on our own, instead of being told and regulated by the government to do or not to do.
Does the end give us a socialist agenda, anyway? With the possessions of Wayne Manor being divided and passed out, and Bruce Wayne appearing to be broke, it’s very similar to what we saw earlier in the film with Bane inciting people to “take what is rightfully yours” in robbing the rich. However, the end scene is that counter-balance to robbing the rich we see earlier in the film, and it’s Wayne leaving the legacy of the Manor to the orphans and hence, to the city which establishes the re-discovery of the purpose and distinction between "Robber Barons" and "Captains Of Industry" which fueled the early economy of America. Why an Italian café?
Wayne and Selina being seen by Alfred in the café is meant to communicate that Europe isn’t bad or unsafe, (because that's where socialism has thrived in the past) it’s not meant to create a xenophobia or suggest that Americans don’t belong in Europe, but the dark sunglasses hanging from Wayne’s shirt in the café suggests one, that he has taken off the mask and is living the life we all want to live, a life free of our masks that we do wear but it also suggests that he is keeping his mask close in case he needs to wear it again. It’s comparable to three other films. First, Safe House and Mission Impossible 4 both end with the men looking at their loved ones from afar. Alfred, looking at Wayne and Selene could be said to be in that position, or we could look at it is Wayne has overcome the distance and sits with Selene. The third film invoked is The Avengers in the post-credits scene when they sit in a diner eating. The Avengers aren’t out on a private cruise ship partying, or in an elite club enjoying a big, fancy spread, they have gone where most of us would probably go, and that break-down between what the billionaire would want (junk food that would make Michelle Obama picket in protest) is what many of us would choose, too. Likewise, to just sit in a café with the one we love and enjoy life, hoping for a real relationship to develop and a family is part of the American Dream that even the richest among us desire and no amount of money can buy. Hence, the distribution of Wayne’s estate…
The film is so decidedly pro-capitalist it would be exceedingly difficult to squeeze a pro-socialist reading from it, so the breaking up of Wayne’s vast enterprises can only be taken the way it should: we are not our possessions. Bruce Wayne is not his family’s fortune, his company, his cars, Wayne Manor, his assets, or any other material object. While most of us hope to attain to a comfortable life and realize our destiny, a very realistic and common vice of capitalism is the pursuit of wealth for the sake of possessions so that will fill the needs within us instead of looking to God and our fellow humans (meaningful relationships) to fill our inner needs; Bruce Wayne transcends that in turning his back on his possessions and he creates a standard of leadership for the “dark knights” of the upper-classes in what he does with Wayne Manor. Bruce Wayne leaves Wayne Manor to the city of Gotham for the sake of a refuge for the orphaned. It’s not just that Wayne is taking care of those who have a struggle similar to his own, but it operates on a more idealistic level as well: those orphaned from the “motherland” and “founding fathers,” because the orphans attracted to the socialism of Bane, politically have no love of country or love of inalienable rights. Wayne’s providing that for them establishes that bond the future generations need in order to love America and our unique identity as a democracy with our singular history. That’s why, towards the end, the children are all loaded on the school buses, so they will have the “education” of not only seeing the traditional dichotomy of capitalism and socialism and what it means to this country, but the education of what Americans do to protect their country and loved ones: lay down their own lives. Why does Batman take the bomb into the Bay? In The Avengers, Tony Stark took the bomb into outer space, perhaps for two reasons. One, because the invading army was still there and he was going to use the bomb—a symbol of American genius and innovation (and that holds because of those who fled Nazi Germany and came to America and donated their talents to the Allied victory)—is what would destroy the aliens (the socialists) and, secondly, because it was in the Space Race that America again proved itself a super power (the first time was in World War II) and, like Men In Black III, The Avengers wanted to make the point that it was capitalist superiority overcoming communist/socialist inferiority propelling America—and the world—into the technological and data success we have become.Bruce Wayne does something differently, however. A logistic argument can be made that Batman can’t get into outer space like Iron Man, so Batman couldn’t place the bomb in orbit, yet all these things are well planned out and very conscious decisions in the minds of film makers: in other words, if they had wanted Batman to take the bomb into space, they would have found a way to do it. Taking it out into the Bay creates three statements: first, it’s taking the bomb of socialism “back to Europe” (over the Atlantic) where it belongs, not here on American shores and, secondly, it reminds us of why those early settlers came to these shores: freedom from oppression, religious freedom and class mobility to accomplish what could be accomplished. Thirdly, the “mushroom cloud” so obviously reminding us of World War II and the international leadership position which was won by the real and genuine sacrifice of men and women, not only for love of their country, but for the sake of world peace everywhere, and socialists, in wanting to end “America” spit in the face of those who died for the Freedom Of Speech they use now to bring America to ruin.
In conclusion, Christopher Nolan uses The Dark Knight Rises to call upon all the “dark knights” in America—the millionaires and billionaires, the geniuses and inventors, the capitalists and patriots—to wage war on a revolution being led by terrorists, to wage war on those wanting to stage a French Revolution upon all of us, and Nolan warns that even those who think they are part of the “revolution” aren’t likely to escape, but for us who love our country, a second Civil War has begun, and we have no choice but to wage war against this foreign revolution meant for the few, not the many.
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