Batbush? Bushbat? Bushman?
July 25, 2008 6:41 AM   Subscribe

What Bush and Batman have in common. "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."
posted by you just lost the game (79 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
> "The Dark Knight," then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year's "300," "The Dark Knight" is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.

The Bush administration can't articulate these values because they don't have any, aside from greed.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 6:46 AM on July 25, 2008 [5 favorites]

But Batman is competent.
posted by ryoshu at 6:48 AM on July 25, 2008 [15 favorites]

I'll bet the author had to reach for a tissue when he was finished writing this.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:48 AM on July 25, 2008 [4 favorites]

Obviously Batman is a conservative. He's a lawn order vigilant billionaire with relationship problems and a missing father figure.

Which is why I found Batman Begins, or whatever that recentish one was interesting. Batman's motivation in that movie was helping the little people and punishing corporations. Oh and he learned yoga. Batman turned into a liberal?
posted by DU at 6:51 AM on July 25, 2008

the wall street journal publishes movie reviews?
posted by the painkiller at 6:51 AM on July 25, 2008

What the writer of this article seems to miss is that The Dark Knight is a frickin' tragedy because every time Batman violates his moral principles to fight the Joker, it's because the Joker set up morally paradoxical situations to get Batman to violate his moral principles. It's not a paean to W, it's a lament.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:53 AM on July 25, 2008 [9 favorites]

I believe Dave Kehr was the first to bring this up. Lots of comments.
posted by muckster at 6:56 AM on July 25, 2008

You know, when I saw the Dark Knight, I just KNEW someone was going to spin it as pro-Bush, especially with the line about having to become a villain to be a hero (I can't remember it exactly off the bat).
posted by Dr-Baa at 6:57 AM on July 25, 2008

Sadly, one of them is real.
posted by ruwan at 6:59 AM on July 25, 2008

Have in common?

They both will have slipped completely out of the cultural zeitgeist by February 2009.
posted by notyou at 7:00 AM on July 25, 2008

Spoilers! Spoilers!
posted by yhbc at 7:01 AM on July 25, 2008

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.
Thomas Jefferson

Guns have little or nothing to do with juvenile violence. The causes of youth violence are working parents who put their kids into daycare, the teaching of evolution in the schools, and working mothers who take birth control pills. [on causes of the Columbine High School massacre, 1999]
Tom DeLay

And so it goes ...
posted by ElvisJesus at 7:04 AM on July 25, 2008

I haven't seen the film yet. Will see it tomorrow. Thanks for the spoilers.
posted by ericb at 7:05 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mr. Klavan has won two Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America.

He won't be winning any awards for this piece of crappy fiction.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:05 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Scooby doo ending made this editorial worthwhile. IMHGWOTO.
posted by srboisvert at 7:07 AM on July 25, 2008

ericb: "I haven't seen the film yet. Will see it tomorrow. Thanks for the spoilers."

I suck, I'll email the admins to see if they can delete my comment.
posted by octothorpe at 7:10 AM on July 25, 2008

Mod note: I have wreaked dark justice against the spoilers.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:17 AM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

Thanks octothorpe and cortex.
posted by ericb at 7:19 AM on July 25, 2008

sometimes men must kill in order to preserve life; that sometimes they must violate their values in order to maintain those values
Matthew 5:39 says differently
posted by nax at 7:19 AM on July 25, 2008

He's a lawn order vigilant billionaire...

Does this mean he's never fails to order kids off his very expensive lawn?
posted by Knappster at 7:26 AM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

Goddamnit! I was winning the game for, like, three years.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:27 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

So, I only read 300, didn't see it, but I thought 300 was about Thermopalye. Did the movie really change that much? Or should I just assume the author understood 300 as well as he did The Dark Knight?
posted by butterstick at 7:33 AM on July 25, 2008

Why is it then that left-wingers feel free to make their films direct and realistic, whereas Hollywood conservatives have to put on a mask in order to speak what they know to be the truth? Why is it, indeed, that the conservative values that power our defense -- values like morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right -- only appear in fantasy or comic-inspired films like "300," "Lord of the Rings," "Narnia," "Spiderman 3" and now "The Dark Knight"?

And now we have a clear picture of what Andrew Klavan thinks of terrorists. He has mentally subtracted from them the status of "human" and reduced them, to use his example, to Orcs.

Incidentally, does he find no nobility in mercy?
posted by ben242 at 7:38 AM on July 25, 2008

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.

Except that in the Dark Knight, Batman accepts responsibility for acts that he did not commit for the greater good of the city, instead of avoiding responsbility for acts he did commit for the greater good of his cronies.

And there's the small difference that when Batman comes to save the day, you generally end up saved. When W rides in to save the day, he beats the shit out of you for a while because he's too fucking dumb to tell the difference between you and your assailant, and then gets bored and leaves while some of his friends put up a VICTIM SAVED banner.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:49 AM on July 25, 2008 [17 favorites]

This guy wouldn't be treating 9/11 and Iraq as equivalent, would he? I'm just asking on the off chance, since I've never seen any conservatives do that before.
posted by naju at 7:50 AM on July 25, 2008

So, I only read 300, didn't see it, but I thought 300 was about Thermopalye. Did the movie really change that much? Or should I just assume the author understood 300 as well as he did The Dark Knight?

Well, they were fighting Persians.
posted by Krrrlson at 7:54 AM on July 25, 2008

If I may, I just wrote a little piece comparing The Dark Knight to Revenge of the Sith in a number of respects, and this is the paragraph on political themes:
For megabuck entertainments, both movies show a surprising interest in our contemporary political reality, spending inordinate amounts of time in the offices of supreme chancellors and district attorneys. Over three movies, Star Wars mapped out the way democracies turn to fascism ("This is how liberty dies - to thunderous applause!"), and Dark Knight references the War on Terror, interrogation methods bordering on torture, illegal wiretapping, and the power of fear. Gotham represents a barely sane allegory for post-9/11 America ("All it takes is a little push!") whose last best hope is a psychopath in a costume operating at the edges of legality. Star Wars posits the possibility of an organized resistance and return to democratic ideals.
Guess I see a similar analogy as the WSJ, but my conclusion is very different. Be warned, the article is full of spoilers and challenges the consensus on both movies.
posted by muckster at 7:56 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Batman and George W. Bush are the same in that their "righteous" actions are fictional.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:00 AM on July 25, 2008

They both will have slipped completely out of the cultural zeitgeist by February 2009.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm going to be yelling "How about a magic trick?" for the rest of my life.

The central problem with Klavan's article is that yes, the Joker is a terrorist -- but Batman isn't George Bush by any stretch of the imagination. He believes in the White Knight.
posted by spiderwire at 8:02 AM on July 25, 2008

Trying very hard not to spoil....

Obviously human nature likes the idea that vigilante justice can get rid of all the "bad people" and make a better world for the "good people." That's why movies with that idea are so enthralling - they let us live out a fantasy that doesn't work in real life.

There's one known system of government which, in theory, works out better than Democracy - that of the Wise, Benevolent Dictator. It doesn't matter, though, because such a government is untenable. Such is the same way with Batman. The world might be better if we had Batman in it, but Batman is untenable in real life, even if he were even possible: hes unnaccountable.

This asshole at the WSJ is trying to say, "Y'all like it when Batman gets rid of the evil people without having to worry about their civil rights or anything. That's all Bush wants to do. Why can't you all trust Bush to have the same unnaccountable powers of Batman? To do less would be unamerican and evil. And morally relativistic." So in response, I'm trying to say, "Fuck you, asshole from the WSJ."

Also, those who watch the movie know that any slightly engaged viewing of it gives the opposite interpretation of events, particularly where the Harvey Dent character relates to Bruce Wayne. For those who haven't seen the movie: go see it.

Just go see it. And don't let this dude ruin it for you.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:02 AM on July 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


In the end of The Dark Knight, Batman is on the run from the Gotham City police. He has to be, because he is a vigilante who operates outside the law, and therefore is breaking the law. He knows this, and Commissioner Gordon knows this as well. So he flees, and they pursue him.

You see, sometimes the law does get in the way of doing what's right. It's a dreadful moral dilemma. But in order to remain moral, if you must break the law, you must also accept the punishment or other consequences that follow from breaking the law.

That's the difference that Klavan is missing. When Batman breaks the law, he runs, and he knows that he faces doom if he's ever caught. When Bush breaks the law, he stands right there in broad daylight and expects the law to be changed around him.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:02 AM on July 25, 2008 [4 favorites]

Please note there are no spoilers. Everything here is from Batman comics in general.

I love it how republicans can take something like batman and compare him to bush. I fail to see it personally. Bush is more of a show you something with his right hand and rob you with his left if you ask me. Also there is no way that Chris Nolan sat down and said the joker represents terrorist and batman is the good, conservative, rich, defenders of truth and justice republicans.... and of course anyone that disagrees with them is the idiot citizens who can't defend themselves. That matter I could spin it this way.....

Joker = Bush admin and the rest of the republicans. They are insane, rich, powerful, not afraid to kill to get their own way.

GPD, hostages, and whatnot = Us. We want to stand up against the joker but we can't because we as individuals lack the power.

Batman = Obama. He stands up for the little guy. He is willing to do what it takes to stop the madness.


It is just a movie with a darker twist about a comic book hero:

Joker = A criminal insane master mind hell bent on causing chaos just because he can. You cannot threaten him nor buy him off because you have nothing you can take or give him.

Gotham = a city full of good people (sheep if you will )full of criminals who prey on them. Some of them try to be sheep dogs but often cannot fight off the whole pack without help.

Batman = that hero that we all wish we could become. He represents that pure good gray hatted hero that does things in the name of justice even if he is seen as an outlaw vigilanty (SP) by the people he is sworn to protect. It gives his character conflict. He is truly a hero.

Now I am sure that batman has been around longer than Bush's war on terror so this article is stupid and so is the person that wrote it and so is the real person it is wrote about. Good day to you all.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:10 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

And McCain is Iron Man?
posted by jamjam at 8:18 AM on July 25, 2008

Be warned, the article is full of spoilers and challenges the consensus on both movies.

I just finished reading your article and just had to say how immensely wrong you are. Every single person I've spoken with about The Dark Knight is still bubbling about how bloody awesome it was, but on the flip side those same people really disliked ALL of the prequels, especially Emo Annie.

Maybe Vader can be "The Dark Noooo". How many o's did Lucas put in that particular bit of idiocy? Even a comic book supervillian would be too ashamed to say that.

Finally, why so serious?
posted by Talanvor at 8:20 AM on July 25, 2008

So, I only read 300, didn't see it, but I thought 300 was about Thermopalye. Did the movie really change that much? Or should I just assume the author understood 300 as well as he did The Dark Knight?

300 includes a sympathetic character who entreats us to understand that "freedom isn't free" -- a line that neither appears in the graphic novel nor, I suspect, in any historical account -- so I would have to say its political agenda is more or less out there in blazing neon. I'm thinking Mr. Klavan is reading a wholllle lot into The Dark Knight, though.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:23 AM on July 25, 2008

Why is it, indeed, that the conservative values that power our defense -- values like morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right -- only appear in fantasy or comic-inspired films like "300,"

I think this author completely missed the point on 300. What with it being about a group of people defending their nation from a hostile invading force led by a man who believes he speaks for god.

If anything, we are the Persians in 300.

As to the Bush is like Batman suggestion? Well, Batman goes out of his way to try to ensure that people aren't killed by his actions, so I guess that analogy falls apart right there. But if you want to dig a bit deeper, *SPOILERS* Batman takes the blame for the actions of another to ensure that man's reputation is unharmed. He does this because he knows that, as a symbol, the man will inspire Gotham to act within the law, because the man proved that the law can work.

When Bush does anything even remotely like that, we can revisit this idea. Since this is nearly antithetical to everything he has done thus far, I'm going to guess that I shouldn't hold my breath.
posted by quin at 8:25 AM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

Bush failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks, and failed to punish the people behind them. Bush failed to prevent the anthrax attacks, and failed to punish the people behind them. That doesn't sound like Batman to me.

On the other hand, I'm sure we can all agree that Cheney is The Penguin.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:44 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sadly, one of them is real.

Even more sadly, it's the wrong one.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:49 AM on July 25, 2008

I'm sure we can all agree that Cheney is The Penguin.

Nah, I'm pretty sure I've read some stories where the Penguin shows traces of humanity and twinges of remorse for the consequences of his actions.

Cheney might be closer to Black Mask.

Bush is like Scarecrow: surprisingly dangerous if you underestimate him, but ultimately pretty weak when you don't let fear rule your life.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:54 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Copyright 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

That is the line at the end of the article. Need I say more?
posted by Oyéah at 8:59 AM on July 25, 2008

And McCain is Iron Man?

Yes. Tetsuo, the Iron Man.
posted by ryoshu at 8:59 AM on July 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

Oh, come on. Come on!

I really dislike Bush, and I hate many of the things he has done as president. I really like Batman, I've idolized him since I was teeny, I dressed up as him for Halloween, I see him as a standard for how one can be good and powerful in an imperfect world always on the brink of evil.

Given my opinions stated above, I guess it makes perfect sense that I think the comparison is crap. Beyond that, however, and as silly as it may be, the comparison left me feeling offended. Insulted.

It just is not a good comparison.

1. Batman isn't real. Many have pointed this out already, but it's important to understand WHY this is such a big deal. Batman, being fiction, can be a symbol. Batman was created to showcase certain moral dilemmas, to tell stories that resonate in all people's lives, to give us something that we can understand on a visceral level. Bush, being a real human being, is not a symbol. His actions are not ones meant to carry meaning for viewers. Instead, his actions are real actions.. Real people can feel pain, can hurt, can suffer, whereas fictional people do not. We cannot judge real actions -- even those that are supposedly morally upstanding though unpopular -- the same way that we can judge fictional actions. How they affect us and the world is different.

2. Batman does not represent the law. Others have pointed this out already, too. Batman works as a dark agent -- in the shadows, hidden from public scrutiny, because the world he lives in is too flawed for the actual law-makers to function properly. The cops and politicians in Batman's world couldn't do what he does, because they are required to uphold not just moral justice, but also legal justice. They must follow not just what is right, but also what is legal, sanctioned, publicly accepted. Bush, being, ya know, the most important public official, is also required to follow the rules of legality. Bush cannot get a free pass when breaking the law, the way that I'm willing to give Batman a free pass, because Batman is only a citizen. Bush has a deep, resounding obligation to follow the law, whether that makes him ineffectual at crime-fighting or not, in a way that Batman does not. To say that Batman's illegal actions being shown to be morally good somehow is meant to show that Bush's actions are morally good even if legally questionable is to just completely misunderstand the importance of Batman as a vigilante, not a law-maker, not a cop. Sheesh. [edit: I'm not saying that Bush has broken the law, nor am I saying that the article is claiming The Dark Knight gives a free pass to those who break the law. I'm just noting that the nature of illegal actions is an important part of Batman's world, and that one cannot say Batman lives with the same moral obligations or virtues as Bush, given their different statuses.]

3. Batman fights his own fights. Bush isn't a coward because he has an army fight in his wars -- it's a frikken' necessity for Bush to allow other people to die for his causes. Definitely. But, in the end, it's still that other people die for Bush's decisions. Batman? Not so much. Sure, other people can be endangered because of Batman's decisions, but his crime-fighting only endangers himself. This means that Batman does not have as much responsibility as Bush does. Again, Batman can do the things he does because he is only one man, putting his own life on the line. Bring in an army that is required to follow given orders, even at their own peril, and everything changes.

4. Batman is awesome. Enough said.
posted by Ms. Saint at 9:14 AM on July 25, 2008 [11 favorites]

Come to think of it, there is at least one similarity: Bush and Batman both have slobberingly rabid fanboys.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:15 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Holy bullshit, Batman!
I stopped reading at 'the Batman film "The Dark Knight," at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush'

Good thing, too - since I just ate.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:24 AM on July 25, 2008

If you are fearless, and you look at the situation that Bush has created, then the absolute craziness of it sets in. To look further, you have to be even more fearless.

Bush has given us to our enemies. We have enemies more than Bush is able to count, more enemies than he can get his head around, enemies he drinks with, regularly, enemies he buys his TV from, enemies that own the golf course where he still plays, enemies that sold him his fruit salad, enemies that take down his planes on Guam, enemies that put his troops to sleep in nuclear silos, enemies that create fly orders that never existed, enemies that cause rifts between the major branches of the military service, enemies that impoverish this nation, enemies that have bartered away our prosperity for a false sense of power and security, and the pleasures of obscene wealth, enemies that propose to make us a "Christian" nation, by force if necessary, enemies so huge in number, and various in their threats, that if one indulged in fear, one could just sit at a computer and post on Metafilter, for lack of gas money and volition to live or fight, for the continuation of this nation. No, waith a minute! I am not afraid, post, post, post, I am not afraid.

I am not afraid of the fact that W is so godforsakenly, absolutely without patriotism, that he let Halliburton steal so much money from the United States, and still employs them, even though they are becoming a corporation out of Dubai, rather than pay their taxes.

Such willful disregard for this nation, (and I apologize for not mentioning the death of our fine troops, the mangling, and mental mangling of our fine forces, and the untold death among the Iraqi people, the hundreds of thousands of deaths of their women, and children), is that of a man dazed by the incomprehensibly mendacious and complicated moves of thieves and murderers that are counted among his best friends.

Bush's seeding of religious fanatics at all levels of government, seeding the scientific branches of government with religious agents that have no scientific education or interest, constitutes a willful return of the ignorance that exemplifies the dark ages. His outrageous work at Guantanamo Bay, puts him in the ranks of practitioners of the Spanish Inquisition.

So where is this Batmanlike glory that the idiot in the Wall Street Journal is talking about? How dumb do they think the American Public really is? Did I miss something, was this movie made to be a propaganda piece for this administration?
posted by Oyéah at 9:24 AM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

Ahem, excuse me, I had to go rinse the foam out of my mouth.
posted by Oyéah at 9:27 AM on July 25, 2008

The beginning of The Dark Knight so neatly sets up its ending and refutes this argument, I'm amazed someone can still make it. Batman, confronted with what his actions are inspiring, must become a hunted criminal or risk the further descent of Gotham into chaos. He understands that he cannot be trusted or venerated.

Bush, on the other hand, wants to be trusted and venerated even as it becomes more and more apparent that he and his administration will hide from the consequences of their actions.
posted by never used baby shoes at 9:33 AM on July 25, 2008

First, the Batman comparison: Comparing our President, who is supposed to be the chief law enforcement officer in the nation, to a lawless vigilante is quite telling. There is a mythos in conservatism, I think, of the Rogue Cop Who Isn't Afraid To Break The Rules, and he's always lauded as a hero because he "gets things done". The problem with that, of course, is that in real life, those badass cops who are a law unto themselves tend to spend most of their time anally raping prisoners with wooden sticks than actually solving crimes and putting The Valducci Family behind bars.

Also, Batman refuses to kill people. He's not going to do whatever it takes to stop the Joker, or anyone else.

Secondly, 300: Okay, yeah its homoerotic proto-fascist agitprop. But seriously, the Iranians are the massive, unstoppable invading imperialist army and we are the scrappy partisans? Let me recover from this brain aneurysm and I'll get back to you on that.
posted by Avenger at 10:13 AM on July 25, 2008

We have enemies more than Bush is able to count

Which means at least 6, by my understanding.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:21 AM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

For those understandably unwilling to slog all the way through, here's his big thematic crescendo:

The answers to these questions seem to me to be embedded in the story of "The Dark Knight" itself: Doing what's right is hard, and speaking the truth is dangerous. Many have been abhorred for it, some killed, one crucified.

[. . .]

The true complexity arises when we must defend these values in a world that does not universally embrace them -- when we reach the place where we must be intolerant in order to defend tolerance, or unkind in order to defend kindness, or hateful in order to defend what we love.

And that is why Jesus, at the Last Supper, stabbed Judas to death a dozen times with an oyster knife. So that each of his apostles would know that in shellfish as well as war, sometimes you need to violate a principle to preserve it.

This has been a reading from the Gospel of Dubya. Go in peace, my children, to bomb your enemies back to an age before Christ besmirched the good name of vengeful gods.
posted by gompa at 10:58 AM on July 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

Who Movie Reviews the Movie Reviewers?

As viewers and readers, we collaborate with the filmmaker(s)/author in a big fantasy projection.

And when it comes to the Batman universe, we enter it knowing that Good more or less Triumphs.

There may be Twists and Turns, Thrills and Chills, crests and troughs, any X and any Y, but fundamentally, the Good Guy *is* the Good Guy.

We know who we're supposed to root for, and we know he's not going to fail us.

That's one of the nifty qualities of Art-- things and people can be as neatly delineated as you like. As a reader, you get a privileged glimpse into "reality"-- the creator can *tell you* what's true and what's false, and if you want to participate in the universe, you suspend disbelief and go along with it.

Art, unlike Real-Life, offers perfect certainty.

The problem with Real-Life is that you can sometimes predict the *intensity* of someone's reaction to an event, but it's much harder to predict the *direction* of that reaction. Will genuine trauma turn someone into a hermit? A crusader? A sadist? A nihilist? A sensualist? A conformist? A saint? A martyr? In real life, you just can't know.

And even should someone embrace the behaviors of a particular role, e.g., White Knight, sensualist, what have you, you can't fully know the complexities of the internal world that motivates those behaviors. You know what someone just did; you don't know what he or she will do next.

The WSJ reviewer thinks he knows W's heroic virtues, thinks he understands him completely, thinks he is virtuous and will always be virtuous (no matter how much power he is given), because W is, to him, an adolescent wish-fulfillment figure. To this guy, Bush already is Batman.

Which, of course, is why one shouldn't mix Art and Politics too closely. Politics, and real-life, is about limits and ambiguities and compromises; Art is about control. Bluntly, putting the artistic mindset in charge of the political firmament tends always towards fascism.

Oh, and as a side-note: Yeah, I thought the Star Wars prequels sucked. That said, I thought the conclusion of "Attack of the Clones," with the massive newly built armada silently and inexorably heading off to invade other planets (and just as the US was gearing up to invade Afghanistan), was pretty great. So, yeah, you have my confession on that score...
posted by darth_tedious at 10:58 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

What the fuck? Is this what passes for thought at the WSJ these days?

Also, I can't help but note that I initially read this thread without being logged in, and the ad at the foot of the page was this: Ultimate Colon Cleanse! Flush Away 20 lbs Of Toxic Junk!
posted by jokeefe at 11:04 AM on July 25, 2008

Somehow I have trouble mentally fitting Dick Cheney into a Robin outfit.

Interestingly, former Vice President Dan Quayle once said: "I want to be Robin to [George H. W.] Bush's Batman."

It does line up with how the right-wing nuts see the world as a big comic book, I guess.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:06 AM on July 25, 2008

A few years ago, I tried reading Atlas Shrugged but gave out after about 150 pages, because whatever political points it was trying to make were rendered completely moot by its blatant bias. If all capitalists really were nice guys who were extremely competent at all they did and all socialists were uniformly evil incompetent thugs, then, yes, Ayn Rand would be automatically right - its common sense to support the capitalists. Too bad that isn't how the world works at all... There are capitalists that act philanthropically, there are capitalists that are extremely callous and greedy, there are capitalists with short sighted and long sighted goals - and the same can be said of socialists, too. Rand created a world where there is no room for debate because its simple; but there is room for debate in our world, because for every Bill Gates thats going to retire to focus on fighting diseases in the third world, there's a robber baron who is going to fight tooth and nail to keep people from getting their basic human rights acknowledged, and for every so-called socialist that turns into a fascist dictator like Lenin, there's someone like Cesar Chavez who just wants to help people who basically don't have a voice in their society.

Which is ultimately why this article is complete gibberish. You cannot make a meaningful comparison between comic book characters and real people in a serious political debate because nine out of ten comic book characters are drawn one dimensionally with very specific motivations and real people function rather differently. The Joker kills beause he's the Joker and he's evil. The decision to fight the Joker is simple, then, because the Joker has no justifications and with someone like that there are very few avenues you can explore to contain him. The decision to go to war in Iraq, however, is quite different because there are peaceful methods, there are warlike methods, there are ways that will minimize the chances of spreading terrorism in the Middle East, there are paths that will virtually guarantee a civil war down the line... Before you understand what path is the best to take, you have to have a better understanding of the situation than "we have to stop him because he's evil", because if you don't, you virtually guarantee a failure on the back end. If you don't really understand Sunni vs. Shi'ite rivalries, then you can't make competent post-war restructuring plans, and unfortunately, Sunni vs. Shi'ite cannot be reduced to good vs. evil.

The fact that people think that you can split actual human beings into "good" and "bad" camps as if they were fictional characters, even though some of the "good" camp wants to torture people even though torture has been proven time and time again not to work and even though some of the "bad" camp just wants us to stop rounding up random civilians and then imprisoning them without trial or habeus corpus for years - well, that's what got us into the mess we're in now.
posted by Kiablokirk at 11:10 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dennis Kucinich is Spider-Man.
posted by homunculus at 11:23 AM on July 25, 2008

because for every Bill Gates thats going to retire to focus on fighting diseases in the third world, there's a robber baron who is going to fight tooth and nail to keep people from getting their basic human rights acknowledged...

Yes but in the Randian thought-matrix, it would be the Bill Gates character who is the parasite-enabling bad guy, and the "robber baron" who is the noble, omnicompetent Man of Action who refuses to suffer for the sins of the unwashed masses.
posted by Avenger at 12:19 PM on July 25, 2008

Spoilers, obviously. Okay, so let's give this comparison the benefit on the doubt, just for the hell of it. A major component of The Dark Knight was the fact that the Joker came to Gotham simply because Batman was there. The symbiotic relationship between the Joker and the Batman has been addressed numerous times in different mediums, and I think it really does apply here: the terrorists created Bush and co.'s immense power, and if the threat of terror were to decrease, so would their power. The relationship is there in all states to some extent, but the relationship is especially obvious right now, as is the comparison. Especially, ahem, Alfred telling Bruce how they rooted out the bandit in Indonesia: "We burned the forest down."
posted by Football Bat at 12:41 PM on July 25, 2008

Batman is still WAY SEXIER than Bush could ever hope to be. Can you imagine him in that deep throaty voice: "You misunderestimated me!" Or in one of those rubber suits - like the George Clooney Batman with the perky nipples? It's just ridiculous.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:06 PM on July 25, 2008

(I can't remember it exactly off the bat).

posted by davejay at 2:07 PM on July 25, 2008

Oh, I mentioned this in one of the many other Batman threads -- Senator Leahy's cameo in Dark Knight. He's the guy who yells at the Joker and gets threatened at the party:
So how did Mr. Leahy manage to find his character’s motivation? Was he thinking of Vice President Dick Cheney, who in 2004 used profanity to curse Mr. Leahy on the Senate floor?

“No, I wasn’t visualizing Dick Cheney,” Mr. Leahy said. “They can’t use that dialogue in a PG-13 movie.”
That is pure win.
posted by spiderwire at 2:11 PM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

You cannot make a meaningful comparison between comic book characters and real people in a serious political debate because nine out of ten comic book characters are drawn one dimensionally with very specific motivations and real people function rather differently.

Well, at least it's a step up from Atlas Shrugged.
posted by spiderwire at 2:14 PM on July 25, 2008

Speaking of cameos, did anyone else notice how awesome it was that the Mayor from The Dark Knight was played by Nestor Carbonell (also known as Batmanuel from The Tick.)

And having Batmanuel in a Batman movie has a beautiful symmetry to it.
posted by quin at 2:17 PM on July 25, 2008

Football Bat:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the way you're parsing the metaphor it sounds like Bush and company are the Joker.
posted by Caduceus at 3:18 PM on July 25, 2008

posted by nola at 5:13 PM on July 25, 2008

Oh. I thought this was a satire (granted, a weak imitation of the Onion, but a satire nevertheless). I was going to come into the thread and say "That wasn't very funny." Now that I realize it was meant seriously (?) it's just kind of tragic.

You know, I did remark to a friend of mine the other day about how the film reflects upon the difficulty of upholding a moral standard when dealing with an unpredictable, unprincipled "terrorist" like the Joker, whose desire is not only to "watch the world burn," as Alfred puts it, but to destroy the principles of the those whose fight against him. As far as the political allegory goes (I'm not arguing that it's explicit, but is definitely a latent element within the film), that's about as anti-Bush administration as it gets.

The one thing I did find slightly troubling about the film **SPOILER ALERT for the two remaining people who haven't seen the film yet** was the high-tech cell-phone surveillance of ALL of Gotham's citizens--a blatant violation of all existing privacy laws, I'm sure. While the film did reflect some anxiety about the use of this technology, in the end it affirmed the notion that hey, people, surveillance is a-okay as long as good people who want to protect the lives of others are using it. While I did enjoy the film and its reflections on what constitutes a moral hero, it still reminded me of my theory (doubtless not all that original) that a great deal of popular cinema works by pinpointing cultural anxiety, displacing it, and ultimately assuaging it. This, in turn, may lead to the greater--perhaps unconscious--acceptance of government activities which ought to provoke more public scrutiny. But this is, I suppose, not a summer blockbuster's concern, nor responsibility.
posted by duvatney at 6:41 PM on July 25, 2008

That's not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a "W."

And he can't have it. It's mine.
(Actually it's webcomicker Brad Guigar's, but it's Me.)
posted by wendell at 8:24 PM on July 25, 2008

I came up with a little theory about the Joker a while ago.

Along with Animal Man and Psycho-Pirate, the Joker is one of the few characters in the DC Universe who is aware that he lives in a comic book. He knows that we are watching him. Given the Joker's propensity for chaos and violence, one would expect that he would try to extend his influence into the real world. On the face of it, that doesn't seem possible. Fictional characters can't physically interact with real people.

Except... that's not quite true. There are a number of ways that fictional characters can influence us. They can emotionally move us, for instance. We can read about the ideas they express and reflect upon them. Fictional characters can even determine, to some extent, how their creators will depict them in the future. Authors will often claim that the characters write the stories themselves. Sometimes, a fictional personality is so strong that it moves us, rather than the other way around.

It's been established that in the DC Universe the Joker has such a strong personality that he is able to influence other Gothamites by his sheer existence, and there is plenty of precedence for his being willing to exploit that influence. Every other issue contains street gangs wearing Joker masks, clown-wannabe thugs, and copycat killers. These are the type of people that the Joker employs as his henchmen. Their attempts to emulate the Joker drive them into mirthful madness.

So the following premises have been established: the Joker knows that he's in a comic book, he would want to bring his reign of terror into the non-comic-book world, he has the ability to drive others mad by the sheer force of his personality, and fictional characters are able to influence real people through the expression of their personalities and their ideas. Presumably, then, the Joker is already planning a full-scale attack on all of us.

How could he go about this? Here's one way. First, be incredibly entertaining. Become so captivating and watchable that you appear in countless DC comics, and eventually even television shows and movies. Make it so that, like street thugs in Gotham, people will try to emulate you. They won't be thugs, of course, but actors. Second, be incredibly dark. Become so psychopathic and malicious the people who try to emulate you -- who try to put themselves into your mindset -- are driven to dark and inscrutable places. Make it so their minds race and they are unable to sleep well or think straight or stay calm and will have to turn to drugs -- too many drugs -- to keep the Joker's thoughts at bay.

This was all part of the Joker's plan.

The Joker killed Heath Ledger.
posted by painquale at 10:27 PM on July 25, 2008 [4 favorites]

(Apologies if that previous comment is considered tasteless. It is a little tasteless, but I thought it was kind of a neat line of thought and wanted to share.)
posted by painquale at 10:29 PM on July 25, 2008

Muckster..... I'm a big Star Wars fan.... but really... are you serious? The prequels were rubbish, poorly written, the plot was bad, dialogue just laughable, and the acting just incompetent....
posted by coust at 12:29 AM on July 26, 2008

On the other hand, I'm sure we can all agree that Cheney is The Penguin.

[I've been saying this since Day One of this administration. Bush, I dunno, the Riddler maybe?]
posted by Minus215Cee at 10:30 PM on July 26, 2008

I've tried to read Kavan's review several times, but each time my head starts to hurt -- he tries SO hard to turn his bullshit into a silk purse that I have to give-up and push away from the computer.

Batman. Bush. Liberals. Costumes. Freedom. The non-sequiturs stack-up like cord wood during the clear-cutting of Cartesian logic, as if the fantasy-world of Batman and the real world of Iraq have any real equivalency. As if any one of those nouns has fuck-all to do with another. As if Liberals were Bush's truest enemy. But it's Bush's (and Rumsfeld's, and Cheney's and Tenet's...) insanity that's the Left's enemy, *not*  Bush.

For some reason, the GOP seems to take comfort from the mistaken idea that they're on the side of The Good, when it's plain to EVERYBODY ELSE that their emperor has no clothes.
posted by vhsiv at 12:20 PM on July 29, 2008

From the article:

"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."

When... exactly... is the W administration planning on reinstating our civil rights? Bush is turning into the lamest duck that ever quacked in a matter of months, is he not? Is he going to join the ACLU after the next inauguration and help "re-establish those boundaries" by collecting signatures on the street?

"Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic. Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex. They're wrong, of course, even on their own terms."

How can Mr. Klavan think Dark Knight isn't loaded with nuanced morality? Look at how the prisoner's dilemma standoff between the two ferries is handled. This is Hollywood "nuance," so it's still telegraphed and ham-fisted, but the first character to take decisive action in that standoff is one of many who steps from one side of the GOOD/EVIL line to the other over the course of the film. There is NO character whose behavior is beyond reproach. It's the least ethically-absolute superhero movie I've ever seen, if that makes any sense. That's why it's both so good and so upsetting.
posted by cirocco at 2:19 PM on July 31, 2008

You know, I get the fact that Batman is popular, and that politicians like to associate themselves with things in popular culture to make connections with the masses. And there are obvious themes and issues in The Dark Knight that relate very directly to the current War on Terror - but I think viewed at a different time and in a different context, the themes of the film will still resonate.

Honestly, though, I'm not sure I like the idea of politicians fighting over who is more like Batman. Batman - while he has had his moments of high camp - is probably one of the most morally ambiguous superheros going. Well, I'm not up on my comics, so let me hedge that with the "most morally ambiguous widely known superhero."

Do we really want a politician who aspires to be morally ambiguous?
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:18 PM on August 7, 2008

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