Politics & Policy

Batman and Romney

Bane and Batman (Warner Bros.)
The politicization of The Dark Knight Rises

‘What’s in a name? That which we call Bain / By any other name would still be evil.”

Or, if you prefer the logic of Democrats and the political punditry to Shakespeare, a name means much more: It binds all those who share it. They say that Bane, the villain in the upcoming Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, is Mitt Romney, the former CEO of Bain Capital.

The trope of Mitt Romney as Bane emerged from the strange blogosphere intersection of popular culture and politics. It was first clearly expressed in the mainstream press in a quote from Democratic strategist Christopher Lehane in the Washington Examiner:

It has been observed that movies can reflect the national mood. Whether it is spelled Bain and being put out by the Obama campaign or Bane and being put out by Hollywood, the narratives are similar: A highly intelligent villain with offshore interests and a past . . . who had a powerful father and is set on pillaging society.

Jon Stewart and other members of the media have taken up this theme — but in fact, the idea of a similarity between Romney and Bane is quite foolish: If Romney is anyone in The Dark Knight Rises, he is Bruce Wayne.

Who is Bane? In comic-book mythology, he is the villain who breaks Batman. Bane is a hardened master criminal who arrives in Gotham intent on destroying it. According to the filmmakers, “Bane’s not really to be reasoned with. . . . Some people want to watch the world burn; well, Bane’s come to pull the pin on the grenade.” Bane, the first villain who is physically superior to Batman, is “Gotham’s reckoning”: He destroys all of the bridges in Gotham as a prelude to threatening the entire populace with thermonuclear annihilation.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane appears to have much more in common with the violent anarchists associated with Occupy Wall Street than with Governor Romney. He leads a major assault on Gotham’s financial district and stock exchange — in scenes that were filmed in their analogous Manhattan locations to further emphasize the theme of class warfare. Bane then announces that he is handing the city over to the 99 percent. Do these appear to be the actions of a former private-equity CEO?

Bruce Wayne is a more plausible stand-in for Mitt Romney. Both men succeeded in the private sector. Bruce Wayne is supported in his endeavors by his controlling stake in Wayne Enterprises, a multinational conglomerate, while Mitt Romney’s success at Bain Capital helped him achieve financial independence. The death of Bruce Wayne’s parents drives him to become Batman, while some speculate that the untimely end of George Romney’s political career propels Mitt Romney. Furthermore, the biggest supporters of both Bruce Wayne and Mitt Romney often say that no one knows who these men truly are. (There are even small echoes: In Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, the Batmobile is based on the “Tumbler,” a military-prototype vehicle. Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, achieved his greatest success in the automotive industry with the sturdy, compact “Rambler.”)

The Dark Knight Rises is not an overtly political film, and partisan overtones should not be forced upon it. Christopher Nolan, who co-wrote the film in addition to directing it, describes it as an “elemental conflict between good and evil.” This is the final chapter in Bruce Wayne’s story, at least as told by Nolan, and it is the classic tale of the hero returning from retirement to save the world one last time.

In the first Nolan film, Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne is asked, “What are you?” His response: “I’m Batman.” That is all he and the other characters in these films are: just characters, not political statements.

— Nathaniel Botwinick is an Agostinelli Fellow at National Review Online.


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