Jesus, Che and Liberalism: The Politics of Batman

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Early in the film, Selina whispers to Wayne as they are dancing at an exclusive, upper-class gala: “A storm is coming, Mr Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches. Because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” Nolan, like any good liberal, is “worried” about the disparity and has said that this worry permeates the film: “The notion of economic fairness creeps into the film . . . I don’t feel there’s a left or right perspective in the film. What is there is just an honest assessment or honest exploration of the world we live in – things that worry us.”

Although viewers know Wayne is mega-rich, they often forget where his wealth comes from: arms manufacturing plus stock-market speculation, which is why Bane’s games on the stock exchange can destroy his empire. Arms dealer and speculator – this is the secret beneath the Batman mask. How does the film deal with it? By resuscitating the archetypal Dickensian theme of a good capitalist who finances orphanages (Wayne) versus a bad, greedy capitalist (Stryver, as in Dickens). As Nolan’s brother, Jonathan, who co-wrote the screenplay, has said: “A Tale of Two Cities, to me, was the most . . . harrowing portrait of a relatable, recognisable civilisation that had completely fallen to pieces. You look at the Terror in Paris, in France in that period, and it’s hard to imagine that things could go that bad and wrong.” The scenes of the vengeful populist uprising in the film (a mob that thirsts for the blood of the rich who have neglected and exploited them) evoke Dickens’s description of the Reign of Terror, so that, although the film has nothing to do with politics, it follows Dickens’s novel in “honestly” portraying revolutionaries as possessed fanatics.

The good terrorist

An interesting thing about Bane is that the source of his revolutionary hardness is unconditional love. In one touching scene, he tells Wayne how, in an act of love amid terrible suffering, he saved the child Talia, not caring about the consequences and paying a terrible price for it (Bane was beaten to within an inch of his life while defending her).

Another critic, R M Karthick, locates The Dark Knight Rises in a long tradition stretching from Christ to Che Guevara which extols violence as a “work of love”, as Che does in his diary:

"Let me say, with the risk of appearing ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love. It is impossible to think of an authentic revolutionary without this quality."​

What we encounter here is not so much the “christification of Che” but rather a “che*isation” of Christ – the Christ whose “scandalous” words from Luke (“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and his mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple”) point in the same direction as these ones from Che: “You may have to be tough but do not lose your tenderness.” The statement that “the true revolutionary is guided by a strong feeling of love” should be read together with Guevara’s much more problematic description of revolutionaries as “killing machines”:

"Hatred is an element of struggle; relentless hatred of the enemy that impels us over and beyond the natural limitations of man and transforms us into effective, violent, selective and cold killing machines. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy."​

Guevara here is paraphrasing Christ’s declarations on the unity of love and the sword – in both cases, the underlying paradox is that what makes love angelic, what elevates it over mere sentimentality, is its cruelty, its link with violence. And it is this link that places love beyond the natural limitations of man and thus transforms it into an unconditional drive. This is why, to turn back to The Dark Knight Rises, the only authentic love portrayed in the film is Bane’s, the terrorist’s, in clear contrast to Batman’s.žižek-politics-batman
Bane is not a good terrorist, he is using leftist rhetoric to manipulate people. He is very much like Robespierre. Leftist rhetoric by characters in the movie is always a deceitful lie. Catwoman comes closest to being sincere, and she's a con-artist. Also, what constitutes neglect and exploitation?