Spoilers abound for all three Nolan Batman Movies.
I’m currently listening to the Dark Knight Rises soundtrack here and reading the hilarious @god_damn_batman twitter feed here and thinking about the movies. After seeing Rises in theaters I wrote this on an IGN forum, responding to a video discussion of the latest movie:
Sort of amazed that there was no mention of the obvious anti-Occupy, or really, anti-nihilist message in the film. All of the films hint at this (and it’s not a coincidence that Ledger’s Joker is such a popular character with Occupiers), but this film barely hid it’s all out attack on leftist populism and class warfare. Given Obama’s campaign decision to make this election all about class warfare, I was amazed at how relevant this film’s message is.
Nolan knows that Bane’s Gotham is the natural outcome Occupy’s philosophy. He presents it with no half-measures: kangaroo courts, the “victim” class destroying both the affluent AND their accomplishments (the city itself), even Kyle’s blond friend saying “It’s everyone’s home now”.
1984, Animal Farm, Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead, Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. Amazing.
I was going to write a longer blog post about it, detailing all the various ways in which Batman could be considered an Objectivist. I’ll still probably do that after I get my hands on the DKR DVD and go through it with a fine-toothed comb. But something on that twitter feed jumped out at me. God_Damn_Batman often jokes about how he cripples and maims drug dealers. And it’s true, in the comics and non-Nolan movies and such, Batman does indeed go after drug dealers. Why, then, does Batman not do this in the Nolan movies? Oh sure, he goes after people handling Crane’s weaponized hallucinogen, which could be argued to represent all drugs. But I’m talking about things like heroine and cocain and all of the real life drugs.
It’s not for lack of realism. Nolan’s movies are dripping with realism. It’s not for lack of grit. One look at Harvey’s burned off face tells you that Nolan isn’t shy about showing the dirty side of life. I believe that Nolan chose, specifically, for Batman to battle immorality, not illegality. Drug use, while never smart and always deplorable, is not a moral issue, at least not in the sense that we need protection from it. Except in rare (conceptually rare, not chronologically rare) cases such as intoxicated drivers, drug use only harms innocents when it is illegal. Indeed, if Batman fought drug dealers, and that battle hurt an innocent, Batman would be in a very sticky moral situation. He would have to justify hurting someone innocent in order to save people from willingly choosing to harm themselves. Not even a dude wearing a bat getup can justify that (though governments are crazy enough to).
Similarly, Nolan’s Batman doesn’t choose to fight for or against national interests or even government laws (he’s actually usually breaking tons of laws). He doesn’t care about police badges in the slightest. He didn’t try to make his case to Chief Loeb in Batman Begins, he went to Gordon. Why? Because those artificial facades that government and society establish are meaningless. What made Gordon the right man for the job wasn’t his rank or past achievements or accolades, it was his morality. The only thing Nolan’s Batman cares about is morality. Hunting down drug dealers isn’t moral. It would be playing hall monitor, enforcing whatever whims the tyrannical majority chose to enact. If the majority of Gotham residents made it illegal to speak negatively of the Gotham police, do you think Batman would be breaking limbs of people protesting the police? No way.
So if Nolan’s Batman only fights what is immoral, where does that leave him? What does he battle? The answer is an Objectivist one: he battles nihilism. He fights against immoral ideas. And while some would do this via politics using words or with money by building a successful business, Batman, like Ragnar Danneskjold in Atlas Shrugged, chooses to meet those in forceful battle who reside on the extremes of that philosophy. As people like Barak Obama and Rick Santorum, the sophist proponents of nihilistic philosophy, must be battled in their own arena, Batman deals with the other end of that equation, the end product: the random, mindless savage that has been raised on those ideas since birth. The Occupy Wallstreet looter that decides that because he wants what the rich have, he can simply take it. The murderer of abortion doctors that decides that because his imaginary deity tell him that zygotes are human beings, he can kill wantonly. These aren’t monsters or psychopaths. These are the living embodiments, the natural outcomes of corrupt philosophies.
Now, of course, the stakes were always much higher in the movies than Batman stopping a lone murder or looter (nuclear weapons and microwave emmitters and such). But Bane, Joker, Dent, Crane, Ra’s Al Ghul, the League of Shadows…these are all larger-than-life representation of nihilism. They are people that understand values, they understand morality, they understand beauty and productivity. They understand those concepts and they want to destroy them, not because of psychosis or ignorance or any other easily dismissed triviality. They want to destroy values because they are values. And so then, what is Batman? He is the guardian of values, of beauty, of productivity, of values, of humanity and living.
Even if he isn’t a pure Objectivist, Nolan’s Batman is undoubtedly an anti-nihilist. And in this current, darkening world of ours, the popularity of these movies shows a glimmer of hope.