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A Dark Knight for All Occasions

Stew Shearer | 24 Oct 2013 22:00
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Batman doesn't embrace the left or the right. He doesn't cozy up with either side. No matter what beliefs or politics Bruce Wayne might maintain as an individual, the second he dons the cape and cowl he abandons them and dedicates himself to justice and order no matter where it's being threatened. It's not to say that Batman can't be in stories of a political bent. While I would suggest that The Dark Knight Rises isn't altogether kind to the wealthy, the film as a whole does take a bit of a conservative view of things, casting Gotham's social revolution in a fairly negative light. Likewise, its predecessor The Dark Knight embraced the "by any means necessary" attitude that many on the right-wing have adopted when it comes to stopping terrorism.

We live in a world where everyone has an agenda and corruption exists as a rule.

The difference for me comes from the motivations of Batman himself. While Batman, especially in the Nolan films, is definitely an "ends justify the means" sort of guy, I tend to see him lacking any real personal politics. The revolution in The Dark Knight Rises might have drawn on and, to an extent, mocked the populist rage of the 99 Percent and Occupy Wall Street movements, but Batman's involvement was more of a reaction to Bane and his goal of nuking Gotham than anything else. Looking over the breadth of his long career, you'll find countless other examples of Batman entering into conflict with forces from almost every corner of society. He battles politicians, businessmen, other vigilantes and, at one point, even rock and roll. His issue is less with any particular cause or movement, and more with the actions of the people involved.

Batman's lack of bias, his "incorruptibility," to paraphrase Heath Ledger's Joker is why I think so many people love Batman. We live in a world where everyone has an agenda and corruption exists as a rule. Politicians are crooked and pandering and businessmen lie. How refreshing is it, in turn, to be presented with a hero who can't be bought? A champion who saves the day and unflinchingly does the right thing with no consideration for his image or the personal costs? Put shortly, Batman is our ideal of what justice should be.

His enemies, in turn, are a reflection of what society wants crime to be. We enjoy watching him battle gangsters, thieves and psychopaths because it allows us to escape to a reality where crime is limited to simple, tangible threats that our civilization knows how to respond to. Having Batman focus in on black and white villains like the Joker and Bane allows us to escape the anxiety of living in a world filled with shades of gray that can be equally, if not more, dangerous.

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