The Mixed Politics of “The Dark Knight”: Anti-Occupy Critique or Attack on the 1%?

The Mixed Politics of "The Dark Knight": Anti-Occupy Critique or Attack on the 1%?
The Mixed Politics of "The Dark Knight": Anti-Occupy Critique or Attack on the 1%?

The reviews are in, and just as I suspected, the politics of “The Dark Knight Rises” are all over the map, with Christopher Nolan’s morally ambiguous, maverick perspective bringing a mixed bag of ideologies that are difficult to parse. On one end of the spectrum, the Dark Knight is a caper crusader out to restore the order of the markets, the existing hegemonies of the capitalist world and a harsh critique of the anarchist collectives that drove the spirit of the Occupy Movement; on the other, it is a direct attack on the privileged, corrupt and ineffectual 1%.

As Newsweek’s Will Broker notes, “Batman’s new nemesis, Bane (Tom Hardy), is literally a mass of muscle, a one-man mob, but his real threat is that he’s the charismatic leader of a collective. He leads a crowd; he inspires and commands followers.”

In Variety’s review of the film, Justin Change adds that Bane’s men create mass chaos — not unlike the way Fox News has depicted the mission of Occupy: “Social structures collapsing; anarchy ensues as prisoners are released en masse, and various legal, political and financial chieftains are made to answer for their alleged crimes against the underclass.”

On the other hand, even if this sounds like a demonization of those seeking corrections to the current corrupt capitalist system, the film also conveys just the opposite. As Chang writes, “All in all, the picture impressively conveys a seething vision of urban anxiety that speaks to such issues as the greed and complacency of the 1% [and] the criminal neglect of the poor and oppressed.”

Broker suggest the same: “Batman/Bruce Wayne starts to look like a privileged 1 percenter, a bourgeois capitalist facing an angry city. There’s a storm coming, Selina Kyle warns him,’“and when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.’”

So which is it: Is the film out to critique Occupiers or the Oppressors? Anarchist collectives or the privileged elite? Is the CEO of Wayne Enterprises just another one-percenter out of touch with the people, or is he, in fact, part of his own gang of psychopaths and outsiders, in tune with the needs of the under-class?

Like most Hollywood products, the answer is probably both at the same time.

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