George W. Bush Is Totally Batman, For Realz!

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .

Oh, wait a minute. That’s not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a “W.”

There seems to me no question that the Batman film “The Dark Knight,” currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

No, it’s not April Fools Day, and I’m not just kidding around and posting an Onion article. This is your Mainstream Media at work again with Teh Awesum Jernalizm!!! I’m telling ya’, the deranged fucking wackaloon right-wing is losing it completely.

43 comments for “George W. Bush Is Totally Batman, For Realz!

  1. July 25, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    No, no, no.

    Batman fights real bad guys.
    W invents bad guys to fight.

    And I don’t think Batman was ever particularly concerned about re-establishing the boundaries of civil rights once he violated them. (Wait, wait… that’s actually a point in support of this analogy…)

    It would be an intriguing exercise to see how many movies one could make into a “paean of praise” of the administration in power at the time of their release. For example, uh, Sex in the City is a paean of praise of — uh — Dick Cheney. And Wall-E is TOTALLY about George Bush’s love for, uh, robots. Er somethin’

  2. July 25, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I have to admit, PP, that was a meta-commentary I saw, too. I just interpreted this as a Bad Thing – either on behalf of the movie for making it, or behalf of my brain for coming up with it.

    Of course, I also didn’t like the movie, nor the message of “some people have to be bad in order for good things to happen”.

  3. July 25, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    There is no God.

  4. Red
    July 25, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Jesse Taylor at pandagon looked at Batman and found similar themes:
    http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/bamboo_review_the_dark_knight/

    “As Atrios and Alterman put it, it’s a movie that endorses a libertarian fascism. … you realize ultimately that these people [Harvey Dent, the Joker, and Batman] are all concerned with the functioning of a system as a thing in and of itself, largely unbothered with the people their actions affect under the presumption that they are, of course, doing the right thing.”

    Fascinating discussion in the comments over Gotham as an analogue for Iraq – the WSJ piece seems to assume that because Batman is the hero, the movie is an endorsement of some of his Bush-like actions. But as the Pandagon commenters point out, his vigilantism and “enhanced interrogation” efforts are ineffective at several points in the movie. It’s an open question over whether he has done anything but slow the descent of the city into an anarchy which he unleashed in the first place.

    (There are major spoilers at the Pandagon thread.)

  5. Travis
    July 25, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    So in a fight between Obi-won Kenobi from Star Wars III and Batman from Dark Knight…who would win?

  6. preying mantis
    July 25, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    “So in a fight between Obi-won Kenobi from Star Wars III and Batman from Dark Knight…who would win?”

    Does Batman have time to prepare?

  7. Thomas
    July 25, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    (1) So they admit that this is a comic-book administration?
    (2) Feminists have been making this criticism of Frank Miller for some time now.
    (3) Batman is not Presidential timber. He is deeply pananoid and damaged. If I need a superhero President, I want Captain America. Steve Rodgers had a moral compass that worked, and didn’t go all screwey when things when tough. Unfortunately, he died for our sins.

  8. Kai
    July 25, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Well, there are indie filmmakers among us who have similar takes. Except that Nezua posted his review several days earlier.

  9. July 25, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    No no, the W is undue influence by Cubs fans (the film was shot in Chicago, after all). The city is crying out to Batman to keep Wrigley Field from being given a new corporate name to replace its traditional robber-baron name.

  10. July 25, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    yes, i did mine on tuesday or so…

  11. July 25, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Wait, Batman was in that movie?

    Oh yeah, I remember him running around in a couple scenes, but he didn’t really seem like a major character. I was too busy watching the optimistic liberal reformist (Harvey Dent) getting increasingly disillusioned and frustrated by the radical nihilist revolutionary (the Joker) but even more so by institutional corruption. Did Batman even do much in the movie besides flail around trying to maintain the status quo fruitlessly? I mean, if this is the best the right can do for finding heroes to compare Bush to, it’s pretty sad. This is a very dark, dark movie, a war of attrition where the hero is brutal but pretty much ineffectual (as previously noted). If anyone felt like a hero in the film, it’s probably the ordinary folks who are just trying to get by without pretending that they’re larger-than-life saviors, who try to avoid being blown up while also not blowing anyone else up.

    Personally I sympathized a lot with the Joker.

  12. Manju
    July 25, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    What is it with Batman? I remember when the first Batman was interpreted as anti-semitic. And it made perfect sense: penguin as a jew, eats herring, was found on the water like moses, bruce wayne as WASP, etc.

    Well, it just goes to show how literary theory is a problematic framework for political analysis. postcolonial studies, deconstruction, critical race theoris…now conservatives are getting into the act.

  13. July 25, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Feminists have been making this criticism of Frank Miller for some time now.

    In the Dark Knight Returns the dumb American President is explicitly Reagan. So I find claims that Miller is some sort of fascist or a worshipper of authoratarian power more than a little absurd.

    It’s similar to people claiming that Dirty Harry was a right-wing authoritarian. He bucked the system, worked outside the rules and in the end completely divorced himself from the dominant power structure, yet somehow he’s read as fascist. (Disclosure: I love Dirty Harry and use his picture as my image on my blog)

    I think what people miss is that while figures like Batman and Dirty Harry are vigilante types who ignore civil rights they also ignore the existing power structure. That makes them totally different from Bush and Reagan, who is the head of the power structure.

    Claiming that Batman and Bush are similar is only viewing one side of the equation.

    On point to the movie itself, in interviews Nolan has said that the overall theme of the movie is escalation, how Batman’s actions in turn spur the enemies of Gotham to become that much more ruthless. In the end Batman’s actions only make things more volatile and dangerous. That’s hardly praise for Batman or for Bush.

  14. Thomas
    July 25, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Holly, could I borrow a cup of awesome? You seem to have plenty.

  15. July 25, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    holy crap, that is total garbage…

  16. Manju
    July 25, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Am i the only one who can’t hyperlink or quote anymore?

  17. Sarah
    July 25, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    I saw similar themes, actually, but in the end it was determined that W’s brand of at-any-cost crime fighting was ultimately harmful to Gotham City, which is why he became the villain and let postmortem Harvey Dent’s “within the system” justice become the hero. For one, it spawned a breed of imitators (*cough* Pakistan, China *cough*)

  18. puggins
    July 25, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Trying to find neocon thinking in the movie is really reading way, WAY too much into it- but hey, I’m really biased here, practically having been born holding a comic book in my hands. So maybe I’m just not impartial enough.

    As for the movie:

    (1) Gotham is a city in which government is completely ineffective and corrupt. In other words, it represents a situation that conservatives LOVE to read into any governmental situation, and one which simply doesn’t exist. But Gotham has been this way since the Batman’s debut, 50+ years ago. It owes its roots to film noire and pulp detective novels, not to some political vision of the future. Nolan didn’t modify it in any way.

    (2) Nezua, your review claims that portraying the Joker as a murdering maniac promotes the idea that “Terrorists have no reasoning, nor any actual complaint. They simply want to see the world burn.” Well, in this case, it’s true- the Joker really doesn’t have any (known) reason to pillage, terrorize and burn the city- he’s simply (ahem) batshit nuts. Again, this is nothing new about the joker. If Nolan had modified the source material, maybe the criticism would be mroe warranted, but we’re talking about an insane mass murderer who has been insane since he was introduced in literature.

    (3) Batman’s somewhat shady methods constantly let him down throughout the movie. He spends most of it trying to use fear and threats to get to the joker, and it simply doesn’t work…

    (4) Except for the wiretapping incident, which I will concede was uncomfortable for me.

    (5) Ultimately, the Joker fails primarily because the public is too decent to go along with his awful plans- batman really doesn’t have all that much to do with it. Hell, the Joker even intimates that without the Batman, he wouldn’t even have a reason to exist. I wouldn’t call that a ringing endorsement of the Neocon world view if they really want to think they’re Batman, eh?

    There are PLENTY of movies featuring two-dimensional conservative fantasy heroes knocking down brow-skinned strawmen- True Lies, The Lion King, Rambo… the list is long. I don’t see The Dark Knight as being anywhere near that league.

  19. Cedar
    July 25, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Baroo…? something tells me Klavan hasn’t read the GN. or anything else written by Miller, who clearly misses the good old days under Regan.

    wait… DUDE DID NOT JUST COMPARE BUSH AND BATMAN? shit… maybe it was supposed to be published in The Onion…?

  20. Heather
    July 25, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Uh, no.

    Batman did not run for the highest public office in Gotham (even though he has a lot of money and connections). Batman did not send an entire army over to another country on no evidence that there were any ‘weapons of mass destruction.’

    W, you are not Batman. You are not *smart* enough to be Batman. W is probably closer to the corrupt government Batman would be fighting.

  21. Phrone
    July 25, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    I tried to post earlier, but comments weren’t working, so I’ll try again:

    I don’t think the author is COMPLETELY off-base, but I do think quite a bit of his thinking is flawed. For one, I can understand how one would get a very conservative message out of the film’s treatment of issues of authority. (Although, I think it would still be an incomplete analysis at best — for one, it is always emphasized that Batman is not an elected official, and that elected officials should be held to higher standards. Think of Harvey Dent interrogating the suspect after the debacle with the mayor.) As has been pointed out, Batman is also pretty ineffective too. (Although perhaps that might strengthen the argument, as I spent most of that movie wishing Batman were smarter…)

    However, such an analysis depends on your perspective. My conservative friend saw a lot of parallels with 9/11, which I honestly did not. The reason? She considered the Joker a terrorist, I did not. We both saw the Joker in the same way, we just had a different reason about what terrorism constituted.

    That being said, the author’s analysis becomes mighty problematic when he starts to consider why movies with a conservative outlook on war (aka a battle between good and evil — like Batman, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, whatever) are always under the guise of fantasy. He says that’s because conservatives are not welcomed in Hollywood, and urges them to throw off the mask. I, however, would argue that this view of war is never portrayed realistically because the view itself is a fantasy. People like the movies because they crave the certainty of moral absolutes and because it functions as an escape. But that doesn’t mean they reflect reality.

    The author attempts to address this point by conflating this view with moral relativism. One can still believe that “freedom is better than slavery, that love is better than hate, kindness better than cruelty, tolerance better than bigotry” and still think that the reality of war is more complex than good v. evil. All you have to do is acknowledge that your side does not have a monopoly on the good, nor the other side have a monopoly on evil.

    Which, to be quite frank, I thought we have acknowledged as a society or, at the very least, that most people acknowledge when they grow up. But evidently I was wrong.

  22. Torri
    July 25, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    yeah I too was far too wrapped up in the batman mythology to connect messages to politics (that and being in Australia adds some thought distance) the main thing I noticed

    SPOILERS

    were things like Batman’s love interests being doomed to either be put on a bus or stuffed in the fridge and how stupid the bridge crew of the ships were to not just lock the detonators in the cabins with them where none of the passengers of any ship could get at them. Then it just would have been up to the bridge crew.

  23. July 25, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    W, you are not Batman. You are not *smart* enough to be Batman. W is probably closer to the corrupt government Batman would be fighting.

    Very true. However Dubya is definitely the sort of man-child that would put on a *Halloween costume and prance about as an oh so serious and “heroic” big-man, and petulantly demand that everyone stand and behold him, as the second coming of Reagan–I mean, uh– a macho version of Jesus (*fighter-pilot’s suit, complete with cod-piece).

  24. Peter
    July 25, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    Jesus, can the rightwing male dominated media be any more explicit about their closet homoerotic fantasies about their hero, George Bush? Hey to each their own when it comes to sexual fantasies. But, the party that brought you Larry Craig and Tom Foley need to come out of the closet, and profess their undying love for Dubya.

  25. July 25, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Wow, psychic bunch, those 1940’s comic book writers. Predicting the methods of the Bush regime and all.

    *sigh* I love comic book superhero movies but it almost does them a disservice when they become popular because most people don’t understand what the character is and when the writer is just doing whatever they damn well please. Unfortunately most Batman experiences a majority of people have been subjected to have been of the latter kind. I’m starting to feel downright sorry for Nolan, having to deal with this kind of ridiculous “in-depth” analysis because he created an expression of Batman that is actually true to the history of the character.

  26. July 25, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Very true. However Dubya is definitely the sort of man-child that would put on a *Halloween costume and prance about as an oh so serious and “heroic” big-man, and petulantly demand that everyone stand and behold him, as the second coming of Reagan–I mean, uh– a macho version of Jesus (*fighter-pilot’s suit, complete with cod-piece).

    EXACTLY.

  27. Esra
    July 25, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    Speaking of Frank Miller, the blank look on the American Apparel model on the front page of Feministe reminds me of some of his art. It’s like her stare is boring into my soul: “Please… can I have some pants now?”

  28. July 25, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    What Holly said.

    Also, notice that Batman didn’t exactly win, or if he did, that it was a pretty hollow victory.

  29. Karinna A.
    July 26, 2008 at 12:58 am

    (Spoilers) Hmph, if Batman is Bush in this movie, it’s not like it’s exactly a ringing endorsement. The only thing Batman seems to do right is tackle Joker at the right time so Joker doesn’t blow up the ferries. I mean, Batman’s pretty ineffective through the entire movie, with the Joker and the mob always one step ahead of him. His, ahem, “enhanced interrogation” of Joker is pointless, since the Joker has to tell about Rachel & Harvey for his little plan to go on.

    Even his final victory isn’t really, as Batman’s mistakes contribute to the downfall of Harvey Dent. In the end, the only real heroes are the people on the ferries. (BTW, can I express how much I loved the giant, tough-looking convict who demanded the detonator, then threw it into the ocean?)

    Sure, Bush say “I am the Bat” all he wants, but it’s neither accurate nor a compliment with this movie.

  30. Karinna A.
    July 26, 2008 at 1:22 am

    (okay, okay, Bush isn’t claiming it, his sycophantic followers are. But it’s still funny inserting him into that sketch from the Venture Brothers)

  31. July 26, 2008 at 6:06 am

    That comparison of Bush and Batman in the WSJ is absolutely hilarious. It’s really hard to believe it wasn’t a total spoof like you see in The Onion. Here’s my favorite part:

    “(The Dark Knight) is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war.”

  32. Rosie
    July 26, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Hypatia, excellent point (and excellent name!). If people want to get into an in-depth discussion, they should probably not just look at the current context, but the context in which this material was created. That’s what Nolan was trying to resurrect with his Batman movies, and I for one think he did it very well, lending a lot of depth to what could have been an explosion-fest of a summer movie. Yes, people are going to look for parallels with the present, but that’s probably more a reflection of the viewer than of the director.

    And the dwindling percentage of Bush supporters (employed at the WSJ and elsewhere) can show themselves to be deluded and childish by equating Dubya with Batman. It’s the most ridiculous last ditch attempt/ grabbing at straws to justify a stolen and bungled presidency.

  33. apoptotic
    July 26, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    I think Klavan’s analogy is a legitimate one, just not for the reason he thinks.

    The main difference between Batman and the Joker (as I see it) is that the former still maintains his sense of personal ethics and adherence to society at large. However, because Batman has no serious ties to society (Batman because he’s an outcast/criminal, Wayne because he’s too busy being superfluous), he’s at risk of becoming a true vigilante; attacking criminals, yes, but for his own aggrandizement rather than as any sort of civil service. That loss of external connection seems to me the crest of a very slippery slope towards the sort of isolated nihilism evinced by the Joker.

    Bush, then, would be that intermediary stage between the two. He (Bush) probably still views himself as bettering the country, but the country itself has ceased to be relevant. In other words, he no longer recognizes any distinction between personal gain and Presidential authority.

  34. July 26, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    I wish George W. Bush were more like Batman. And by that, I mean I wish George W. Bush was the figment of DC Comics’ imagination.

  35. natmusk
    July 26, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    I just saw this movie with my partner and I had shown him the wsj article previously. As we were leaving the theatre I asked if he felt batman was GWB. His response “dont ever bring down batman by putting those two names in the same sentence ever again.” I tried to see the connection/metaphor but I still failed to see it.

  36. Badger3k
    July 26, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    I threw up in my mouth when I read this elsewhere, as well. The writer is obviously lacking a few screws, although we can hope that W is like Batman in one respect. Once the film is done we can leave the theater and go back to the real world. Unfortunately, W has locked the doors and if we want to see daylight we’ll have to work at it.

    Other than that, the W strutting around in costume saying how bad he is fits him to a T. I wonder if he has batman footie-pajamas?

  37. some person
    July 26, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    I didn’t know there were weapons of mass destruction in Gotham City.

  38. MaryC
    July 27, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    There is nothing wrong with a film advocating social order over chaotic anarchy… there is something VERY wrong with drawing a comparison to the Bush administration, which profits off of the latter while pretending to represent the former.

    I’ll take Harvey Two-Face over THOSE two-faces any day of the week. Random coin flips probably would lead to better policies than the ones Bush & Co. currently have going.

  39. Bitter Scribe
    July 27, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Batman? Gee, I would have thought Sgt. Rock, seeing as how Dubya is so keen on military things and all.

    Oh, wait a minute. Sgt. Rock is a character who fights in a war against an armed enemy. Whoops.

  40. lizvelrene
    July 27, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    [more spoilers]

    Did they totally miss the parts about torture? When Joker/terrorist was in police custody, torture by Batman resulted in a lie that only furthered the Joker’s plans. Further torture by Bullock resulted in Joker escaping and creating even more chaos. (Which you could interpret as more terrorists being breeded.)

    [end spoilers]

    So, if there’s any merit to the comparison, it’s certainly not a complimentary one.

  41. Lucy
    July 28, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    “Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.”

    They have to be kidding here. Leaders throughout history are famous for NOT getting rid of the powers they gave themselves to deal with some sort of “emergency.” I forget who said it, but “war is the health of the state.” The total grasp of history and politics and everything sensible just makes me cringe.

  42. July 31, 2008 at 4:02 am

    I just saw the movie, and I think it might be the greatest thing ever made.

    SPOILERS

    But Jesus, Batman knows enough not to trust himself with the surveillance system — he hands it over to someone he trusts to do the right thing with it. Like the Judiciary wing, or something.

    But honestly, I don’t think this is a political movie. It’s a psychological movie at least, but more properly a movie about transcendant spirituality. Every character in that movie is in a hell of their own creation. Except for The Joker. He’s a force of nature that destroys every other character’s ego constructions. He is a Wrathful Buddha. Harvey Dent’s shadow kills him and a handful of other, Batman’s shadow (The Joker) wreaks destruction over Gotham, and al of the “good guys” striving to make bad go away makes more bad happen. Christopher Nolan said it’s a movie about escalation. He’s right, but not necessarily in the way he means it. It’s a movie about how the escalation of our ego attachments, our persona, creates what we perceive as our own hell.

    It may be the best movie ever made. Fuck No Country For Old Men.

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