[Spoilers abound, obviously.]
Gavin Mueller has a fun piece up at Jacobin, looking at the politics of The Dark Knight Rises and the Nolans’ Batman trilogy in general. He skips over what I agree is a rather ho-hum bit of analysis — the Batman conceit is somewhat fascist; but so are all superhero narratives — in favor of boring-down on a more provocative claim. Despite his Enterprises and his billions, Mueller writes, Bruce Wayne is much more Louis XIV than Forbes 500:
This Batman-as-financier stuff is a trick played by casting the actor whose greatest role was a psychopathic i-banker. Yes, Wayne is rich, but that’s not the same as being a capitalist. The guy running the bodega down the street is more of a capitalist than Bruce Wayne. Wayne has no interest in profit, in accumulation, in investing his wealth to produce more wealth. If you don’t see M-C-M’ you don’t have capitalism. Now, the character of Bruce Wayne has always been imbued with noblesse oblige, but let’s not get that confused with what a capitalist does. Wayne funds orphanages and renewable energy in distinction to the actual capitalist, Daggett, who is trying to pillage Wayne Enterprises, Bain-Capital-style. Daggett is pointedly dissed at a party full of rich people because he’s only interested in money. Those silly noveau-riche, so gauche, am I right?
So this is a class struggle all right, but it’s not between Bane’s pseudo-proles and Gotham’s elite with their cop army. That’s a sideshow. The struggle is within the ruling class itself, between the capitalist Daggett and the aristocratic Wayne. Wayne is far more feudalism than finance: heir to a manor complete with fawning manservant, unconcerned with business or money-making, bound by duty and honor even if it makes him a recluse.
I’ve enjoyed all of the Nolan Batman movies, for what it’s worth. But at the same time I struggle to
deny describe much of Mueller’s criticism as without merit. It certainly bugs me, too, how inept the Nolans seem to be at injecting pathos into their films in some manner other than through dead or dying female love interests. However, with the recent Rotten Tomatoes incidences fresh in my mind, I think I’ll stop typing now and hope Mueller takes the heat in my stead.