With four years of Donald Trump the President of the United States on the horizon, we are all going to have to find some ways to cope. My way is certainly just about the least productive possible. I will be searching for movies that provide some sort of catharsis for myself. It’s self-indulgent to the last degree, but we all need a little something.
When The Dark Knight Rises was released in 2012, it was met with a mix of derision and confusion. One of the more interesting and alarming aspects of the film was the right-wing propaganda components of the story.
The film was released the summer after Occupy Wall Street started and seemingly presented anti-Wall Street rhetoric in the worst manner possible. The words and spirit were co-opted by Bane and presented as complete bullshit that could be easily spun into the most meaningless “movement” possible.
When you combine that with the police saving Gotham in the end along with the general fascist ideas that are a part of the foundation of any Batman story, you have yourself a questionable use of the Batman character.
Watching it back in the wake of Donald Trump successfully becoming President of the United States gave me a new perspective in which to view the rise of Bane though.
(No, Donald Trump is not Bane. Yes, comparing pop culture to the rise of a politician which will result in the oppression of millions in and out of the country is inherently stupid and lazy. Stop reading this article.)
The key to the connection is actually in how the current state of Gotham is established. Gotham was on the brink of destruction due to corruption poisoning the city. Gotham managed to seemingly save itself though, and it seemed like everything was okay.
However, just like whenever a city/state/country is saved from the brink of the destruction, the first people to recover or to be protected in the first place are the wealthiest classes.
Then you combine that with the typical strategy for fighting criminal activity of just jailing as many people as possible and a recipe for disaster is created. This doubles down on the punishment of the lower classes as crime is often, first and foremost, a poverty issue. Now, these poor or working class families are losing loved ones to the prison industrial complex. Recent American history in particular has proved how that can ravage communities.
While all of that is happening, the wealthiest classes are celebrating and acting like everything is back to normal. Thus, all it takes is for a charismatic strongman leader to show up and point out the hypocrisy to push the city/state/country into a state of chaos. That undeniable truth that the top classes are screwing over the bottom overrides anything else this strongman leader is saying or doing.
You may be thinking that I am reading far too much into The Dark Knight Rises or at least feel like I’m giving the film too much credit. Far from it.
In fact, I think the film deserves little credit for telling that story since it invests so little time into it and doesn’t in any way earn the satisfaction that could come from telling such a story.
It was nonetheless comforting (or at least cathartic) to watch the film through the Trump-colored lenses. It’s not completely rational that I was made to feel this way. The Dark Knight Rises offers no practical advice for dealing with such a situation. It offers no solutions for the root issues that allowed for Bane’s “revolution.”
The film though was a reminder to never fully trust in our institutions. To never stop pushing for more progress and for a restorative justice system to replace the prison industrial complex. We can never be comfortable. We can never think a “recovery” has truly hit everyone. The moment we take our eye off the ball, someone could swoop in and burn down the foundation that holds this house of cards of a country up. We must never forget that the fire rises.